Tag Archives: Numbers 13

The Bewitchment of “Group Think”

 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”
Numbers 13:31 (NIV)

In today’s chapter Moses sends out twelve men, one from each tribe, to spy out the land of Canaan. Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, come back with a report that the Hebrew tribes should press forward and conquer the land. The other ten spies reported exaggerated claims of giants living in the land whom the Hebrews could not defeat. Their report stoked fear in the hearts of the people.

It’s fascinating how susceptible the majority can be to “group think.” It happens to be the morning of All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, as I write this. Perhaps that’s why the ten spies swaying the nation of Hebrews with their exaggerated claims reminds me of a handful of schoolgirls convincing the people of their village that they saw upstanding members of the community in cahoots with the devil. Nineteen people were eventually hanged as a result of the Salem witch trials. It’s amazing how bewitching “group think” can be (pun absolutely intended).

The social psychologist Gustave Le Bon theorized that there were three stages of crowd think. A group of people submerge themselves in the collective whole, losing a sense of individual thought and responsibility. Individuals are then susceptible accept, without question, the contagion of popular thought within the group, opening themselves up to suggestion of different kinds. Even in a nation and culture that celebrates freedom of thought and speech we are prone to follow the crowd in all sorts of ways.

As an enneagram Type 4 I tend to be a fierce individualist. Nevertheless, this morning I’m reflecting back along my journey. It’s funny to think about fads, social trends, and popular thoughts I’ve observed and even found myself a part. The further I get in my journey the more desirous I am to think and act independently, rather than allow myself to be submerged in the bewitching trends of the group think of the moment. It’s hard to do. The unconscious draw of group think is often subtle and subconscious as it was for the ancient Hebrews, the puritans of Salem and still is today.

I’m preparing to deliver a message on Sunday morning and one of the key verses on which I’ve been meditating is this: “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

God, grant me open eyes, open ears, perceptive spirit, and a mind increasingly renewed by Divine Truth and Lady Wisdom.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 13

These are the names of the men Moses sent to scout out the land. Moses gave Hoshea (Salvation) son of Nun a new name—Joshua (God-Saves). Numbers 13:16 (MSG)

Oneo of the over-arching themes I’ve discovered in my journey through God’s Message is that God is a God of transformation. We grow and we change. I am not exactly the same person I was 30 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even last year. I am not perfect, but with life experience and God’s never ending work in my soul, I am growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Another over-arching theme in God’s Message that points to this work of transformation is the giving of new names. Moses gave Hoshea a new name, Joshua. God gave Abram and new name, Abraham. Jacob was given the new name Israel. Jesus gave Simon a new name, Peter. Saul was given a new name Paul.

In God’s Message, the giving of a new name always pointed to a life transformation. You were this, now you are this.

Today, I’m asking myself many questions:

How am I growing?
How am I different today than this time last year?
Is God doing anything in my heart and life? If so, what?
How has my life transformed over time?
If God were to give me a new name, what would I want it to be?