Sometimes the minority vote is correct.

Heroes of the Faith –

Caleb and Joshua

Numbers 13:1-24, Caleb & Joshua spy out the land.
Numbers 13:25-33, Caleb presents a minority report.
Numbers 14:1-9, Caleb & Joshua encourage the people.
Numbers 14:10-19, The LORD is insulted.
Numbers 14:20-38, The LORD approves of Caleb & Joshua.

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Numbers 13:1-24, Caleb & Joshua spy out the land. (1/25/2010)

This week we’re going to read about having enough faith in God to support an unpopular opinion.  At the time our story opens, the children of Israel have been out in the desert with Moses for a couple months.  They stopped off at Sinai for a little while – just long enough to make an idol and get into trouble – and now they are at the southern fringe of the Promised Land.  The whole of the Middle East is about the size of New Mexico. We’ll see in a few days why it took them another 40 years to travel such a short distance.

Numbers 13:25-33, Caleb presents a minority report. (1/26/2010)

When the 12 spies first returned from the Promised Land, ten of them had a mixed report.  On the one hand, they said, it was rich and fruitful.  On the other hand, the cities were walled and well-defended by some guys that looked pretty big and tough.  Overall, maybe it wasn’t worth the effort.  Then Caleb got up and said, “Wait a minute.  We can do this!”  How difficult do we find it to stand up and contradict ten people who are agreeing with each other, even when we are convinced that they are wrong? 
As so often happens in a discussion, people’s positions become more hardened when they are opposed, and all of a sudden the report of the ten changes:  the land, far from being fruitful, is one of famine, and the people in it are not just big and tough, they are giants!  Whom will the people believe?  Tune in tomorrow.

Numbers 14:1-9, Caleb & Joshua encourage the people. (1/27/2010)

Never underestimate the influence you have on other people.  If you litter, they are likely to litter.  If you panic, they are likely to panic.  The ten spies who didn’t want to go into Canaan influenced the whole nation.  Not only did they not want to go forward, they decided they were better off as slaves back in Egypt!  Only Caleb and Joshua kept their eye on the the main chance, which was that God had promised to give them the land of Canaan, and if they stuck with God, they couldn’t lose. 

Numbers 14:10-19, The LORD is insulted. (1/28/2010)

Some people will argue that God, being God, doesn’t have any human emotions – certainly not any negative emotions like anger or indignation.  They think that whenever God appears to have some emotion, it is because the Biblical writers “anthropomorphized God.” 
Now, I admit that theoretically they could be right, and I haven’t felt like breaking communion with anyone who said this in my presence.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to point out that drawing this conclusion about God and the Biblical writers forces you to ignore a tremendous amount of scripture, including today’s reading.  And please read the whole Bible before you write and tell me that the Old Testament shows God being angry all the time, but the New Testament never does, because neither one of those statements is true.  God is loving all the time, but sometimes he’s also angry.
Anyway, Moses and Aaron sided with Caleb and Joshua in the discussion of whether to invade Canaan, and the people were about to stone the lot of them.  God stepped in to prevent that, and then God and Moses had a little discussion about what to do next.

Numbers 14:20-38, The LORD approves of Caleb & Joshua. (1/29/2010)

You’ve heard the saying, “Be careful what you pray for, because you might get it.”  The children of Israel were taken out of slavery in Egypt by God’s mighty hand, and then they immediately started complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt.  God took them to the edge of the Promised Land in just a few months, and they immediately started saying that God had brought them into the desert to die.  Finally, God agreed with them – they insisted that they would all die in the desert – ok, fine! they would all die in the desert.
The only exceptions were Caleb and Joshua.  They never lost faith, and they stood firm against public opinion.  They were the only adult men who came out of Egypt whom God allowed to enter Canaan.  God did not kill the complainers outright; he just sent them back into the desert.  They spent the next 40 years wandering around in an area about half the size of New Mexico.  When the whole generation born in Egypt had died of old age, God led their children into Canaan.
By the way, “40” is one of those symbolic numbers.  “40 years” means “a long time – about a generation.”

More Heroes of the Faith

Introduction: The Heroic Faith of Our Ancestors

Old Testament Heroes
Abraham and Sarah
Caleb & Joshua
Esther and Mordecai
Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego
King Josiah of Judah
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

New Testament Heroes
Peter & John
The Woman with a Hemorrhage
The Canaanite Woman

Preaching in Difficult Circumstances
Courage to Challenge the Status Quo

Copyright 2010, 2012 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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