The people complete the building of the Tabernacle – the Tent of Meeting, their portable place of worship which they take with them everywhere as they journey back to Israel. When they reach the border of Israel, Moses sends twelve spies to find out what has happened to the land in the 400 years that God's people have been gone. Frightened by the report of the spies, the people decide not to go in. God tells Moses that because the people have ignored him they will wander in the desert for 40 years and he will give the land of Israel to the next Generation.
“Excuse us, coming through, mind out the way, please!”
Dan and Asher squeezed their way through the crowd until they made it to the front and could see what everyone had come to look at.
“Now that,” said Dan, “is what I call a big tent!”
It was a big tent, the biggest in the whole camp. It was made from beautiful cloth of blue and purple and red and it was decorated with gold and silver and bronze.
“It's called the Tent of Meeting,” Asher told him.
“The tent of eating?,” said Dan, “Mmm!”
“No, not eating, meeting!”
“Meeting? Meeting who?”
“It's for Moses and Aaron to meet with God.”
“Why can't they go up the mountain like before?”
“Because we're going back to Israel.”
“Well we're not actually planning to take Mount Sinai with us.”
“Oh yeah. Asher, what are all these people doing here?”
“Moses is about to finish the tent; look.”
Dan looked where Asher was pointing and there was Moses putting up the very last piece of the tent, the curtain that covered the entrance.
“Look,” Asher gasped as Moses closed the curtain, “there's a sort of mist over the tent.”
As everyone watched the mist grew thicker and thicker until it became a cloud billowing around the Tent of Meeting. All day long the cloud stayed there, floating over the tent and as the sun set the cloud began to glow.
“It's like there's a fire inside it,” said Asher.
“But why's it there?” Dan wanted to know.
“Moses says God is watching over us. He says that when the cloud lifts up from the tent it'll be time for us to go.”
And that was how it was. Everyone waited until the cloud lifted up from the tent and then they packed up the camp and set off, following the cloud through the desert. Whenever the cloud came down they would set up camp and when it lifted up again they would carry on with their journey. They travelled that way right across the wilderness until they reached the edge of the land of Israel, the land that God had promised them.
“About time,” grumbled Dan, “I'm sick of sleeping in a tent. I can't wait to live in a house again.”
“Well you're going to have to wait a bit longer,” Asher warned him.
“What?” spluttered Dan, “Why?”
“Because Moses says that we can't just go wandering back into Israel. Our people haven't lived there for over 400 years, someone else is bound to have moved in and they're not going to give us the land just because we say God promised it to us.”
“Well I'll fight them for it!” said Dan.
“You might have to. Moses is sending twelve spies to find out what the land is like and what kind of people are living there.”
“How long's that going to take?”
“Forty days! I've got to sleep in a tent for another forty days? It had better be worth it!”
Well when the twelve spies came back and told everyone what they'd seen it sounded at first like it had been worth the wait.
“This land is wonderful,” the spies reported, “we found grapes and pomegranates and figs. There's enough grass for our goats so we'll have plenty of milk and there are date trees with fruit that's sweet and sticky like honey.”
But then some of the spies began to shake their heads.
“Yes,” they said, “but the people who live there are strong and their cities are large with great big thick walls. We'd never get in.”
“That's right,” agreed some of the others, “the people in this land are giants. We look like grasshoppers next to them. We've got no chance.”
When they head this the people began to moan and grumble. “Let's choose a new leader,” they said to each other, “Let's go back to Egypt.”
“Hold it right there!”
Everyone turned to look. Two of the spies were standing away from the rest. Their names were Joshua and Caleb.
“Listen!” they thundered, “With God's help we can do anything. Remember how he rescued us from Egypt? How he helped us to cross the Red Sea? Led us to Mount Sinai and then brought us here safely? God will give us this land. There's no need to be afraid of the people who live there because God is with us.”
But the people refused to listen.
“What's wrong with them?” wailed Dan.
“They just don't trust God,” Asher replied, “even after all he's done for us.”
Then suddenly they heard another voice. It came from the cloud that was surrounding the Tent of Meeting. It was the voice of God.
“Moses,” said God, “How long will these people ignore me? Tell them I have heard their grumbling and complaining and I won't stand for it any longer. I will not give them this land. Instead you will all wander through the desert for forty years, until every adult here today who complained about me has grown old and died. Then I will give this land to your children.”
“Asher,” Dan murmured, “Did God just say we're going to wander round the desert?”
“For forty years?”
“That's what I heard.”
“So by the time we get to live in Israel we're going to be ... old.”
“Yes, brother, but at least we will get to live in Israel.”
And that's just what happened. For forty years God's people wandered around and around the desert, travelling whenever the cloud lifted up from the Tent of Meeting and resting when the cloud came down, until eventually all of the adults had grown old and died, all except Moses and the two spies, Joshua and Caleb, who had trusted God.
Then one day God led Moses to the top of a mountain and from there he could see the whole of the land that God had promised to his people.
“I will give this land to your children,” God told him, “I wanted you to see it, but you will not go in.”
And then, then Moses died and all of God's people cried for a month.
And what about Dan and Asher? Well after forty years of wandering in the desert they were grown up with children of their own and Dan was so fed up of sleeping in a tent that when God told his people to pack up and prepare to enter the land of Israel, he was the first to be ready. As the two brothers stood side-by-side waiting for the order to move, they both felt a hand on their shoulder. It was Joshua, the new leader of God's people. “Come with me,” he said with a smile, “I've got a job for you!”