A Different Spirit
A Different Spirit
“But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it” (Numbers 14:24)
Upon visiting the "land flowing with milk and honey" God had promised to Israel, the ten spies frightened by its occupants exclaimed to those "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us" (Numbers 13:11)
They Were Leaders
God was clear about the selection of the men to be sent to spy out the land; they were to be leaders among their tribes (Numbers 13:2). Like all God-appointed leaders, they were to be self-motivated, diligent, courageous men of self-control – men who had distinguished themselves – the cream of the crop among the tribes. Yet ten of them will offer a very discouraging report, that was not completely true (13:31). So what are we to learn from this (Romans 15:4)?
They Gave a “Balanced” Report?
The Holy Spirit says that they gave a “bad” report (Numbers 13:32). Yet they probably would have argued that they had given a balanced and fair report, for they did mention the good things about the land (13:27); it was everything that God said it was. Yet they quickly added a “nevertheless” (13:28) and then went on to mention all the obstacles or challenges that existed in the land. In like manner we can tend to give a discouraging report.
- “Christianity has made a world of difference in my life, but I have tried to teach others and it just looks like no one wants the truth anymore”.
- “Our children have a lot of advantages today, but the world is so wicked and I just don’t know how a young person could remain faithful in today’s world”.
- “The Bible is the word of God, but I doubt if anyone is really following it today – we are probably all erring Christians on some point or another”.
- “If we teach what Jesus said about marriage – then we are eliminating most of the people on the planet from being prospects for the gospel, for who would ever willingly comply with Jesus' spoken standards regarding marriage and divorce? ”
What Made it a Bad Report
- It prevented the people from obeying God and going up and taking the land.
- It contained no confidence in God, His plan, His ability to help them, and it completely ignored God’s past track record of helping them defeat the Egyptians and others who attacked them in the wilderness.
- It accused God of sinister motives: Numbers 14:3
- It lead to rebellion against God’s will: Numbers 14:4
The Forgotten Resource
It is interesting how the spies talk in this section. As Caleb tries to encourage them (13:30), they quickly ignore his exhortation and counter, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us” (13:31). What I find missing here is any mention of God. This is another aspect of fear and unbelief. When we are afraid we typically have removed God from the picture along with His help and promises. In fact, too often we might say, “I can’t”. We never say, “Though I have God's help, I still can’t”.
Blaming God for Failure – Before We Even Try
In hearing the bad report, the people would respond, “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little one will become plunder” (14:3). So unbelief can move us to write a future scenario about how God did not come through for us – before we even give Him a chance to demonstrate His power.
- “The people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large” (Numbers 13:28).
- “We also saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight” (Numbers 13:33).
We also can be tempted to think there is no way that we, with our small material resources, can be salt and light in this world. That "all the territory is already claimed" (13:29), by forces, groups, ideologies that are powerful and generously funded. Yet the next generation would quite successfully come in, take the land, and defeat the “Invincible Nephilim” because they trusted God. Do we trust in God?
The Amazing Joshua and Caleb: Numbers 14:6-10
Imagine standing for the truth when there are just two of you (plus Moses and Aaron) against an angry nation. “Then all the congregation” (14:1); “The whole congregation” (14:2). “But all the congregation said to stone them with stones” (14:10). Would you or I still stick to God’s truth if we were one of four people standing against an angry and unbelieving mob of about 2 million people? Yet this is faith, this is trusting God fully. Keep this example in mind when people claim that such and such of a percentage of scientists believe in Evolution, etc… When it comes to truth, how many people believe is often irrelevant (Matthew 7:13-14).
Faith Understands the Urgency of the Moment
“Only do not rebel against the Lord” (Numbers 14:9); “Moses and Aaron fell on their faces” (14:5); “Joshua… and Caleb… tore their clothes” (14:6). By their actions, these men are demonstrating that they are very aware that the congregation is on the verge of missing out. That this refusal to trust God will not end well, and they may well be throwing away their one and only opportunity to enter the Promised Land.
Unbelief is Blind
“So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt’” (Numbers 14:4). Am I stunned that these people thought that any kind of safety or comfort existed back in Egypt. Because of them, the Egyptians had been financially devastated with a series of plagues, and every Egyptian family had lost a first-born parent, child, brother, sister, or spouse (Exodus 11:5). The last time they had saw the Egyptians, the Egyptians were so filled with hate that they rushed into a miraculously parted Red Sea to slaughter the Israelites. One problem with unbelief is that it historically has always failed to think through the problem. “So how is that going to work?”
The Faithful Move On
The next generation, the children of this current unbelieving generation would go up and do what their parents said was impossible, they would take and possess the land (Numbers 14:31), and Joshua and Caleb would be right there with them (14:30). So faith keeps you in the main plot line of the universe. For example, people like Cain, Esau, and Judas wrote themselves out of the main story, and became simply wayside warnings or footnotes. Remaining faithful is the decision to actually have a lasting influence in this and into the next generation. The future belongs to the faithful. The unfaithful have written themselves out of the future.
What You Cannot Get Back
“In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, ‘Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised’” (Numbers 14:40). On the one hand, as long as one is alive, one can obtain forgiveness, when they come to God (Acts 8:22). Yet, repenting and being forgiven and getting back what you might have squandered in the process can be too completely different issues. Like this generation, Esau equally forfeited great blessings because he did not take them seriously (Hebrews 12:16-17). When he finally understood what he had lost, it was sadly too late to ever get it back.
- You cannot get back any time that you squandered.
- You often cannot get back relationships that you may have taken for granted.
- Being forgiven and then being trusted are often two separate issues.
- So before you tear something down, do you even understand what you are tearing down and why it exists? And do you have anything worthwhile to put in its place?
A Lesson About Fear
A recently heard a talk by mountain climber, Matthew Childs, who, after 30 years of mountain climbing, he has come up with some principles that not only have an application to mountain climbing, but to real life, and I would add, principles that would be applicable to successfully serving God:
- Do not let go. Too often the mind will think about letting go far before the body fails. The same is true with people who let go spiritually and become unfaithful. Like the ten spies, people often convince themselves that they can’t go on or continue to do something, when it reality, because of the strength Christ supplies, they can very much avoid failing or being weakened. Determine to remain mentally strong, not buying into the devil’s lie that you cannot take another step or hold on any longer. Take it moment by moment when you must.
- Hesitation is Bad: Momentum is good, don’t stop. In certain types of rock one's best grip is when one first grabs or puts one's foot down – any lack of forward movement and you'll begin to slip. Being a Christian is like that – if we are not moving forward we are certain to slip back: Hebrews 2:1-2.
- Have a Plan: Map your entire climb – your entire life. While the unexpected is sure to happen, people can flame out and quit if they have not thoughtfully planned for each next step of their lives. In fact, the speaker observed that often climbers are successful through some of the most challenging parts of a climb – then fail right at an easy step at the end.
- Execute Every Opportunity To Move Forward: To get to the top you have to be able to complete each move in-between. For the Christian, our “moves” in-between are things like daily prayer, daily Bible reading, being very involved in a congregation, worshipping regularly, going to group meetings, supporting gospel meetings, taking advantage of various classes, hanging out with Christians and resisting temptation today.
- Know how to Rest: The best climbers are the ones that even in the most extreme situations, can find a restful body position to calm themselves and refocus. The same is true for believers (Mark 6:31).
- Fear really Stinks: Fear means that you are not focusing on what you are doing, rather you have turned your attention instead to the consequences of failing. We need to realize that serving God is so important that it deserves our best concentration. For example, if fear is keeping us from sharing the gospel with someone, then we are essentially saying by our actions that sharing the gospel with them is not as important as whatever may be distracting our attention.
- Know how to let go: Once you get to that point when you know that you can’t hang on much longer – then you need to start thinking about how you are going to let go and fall in such a way that minimizes the hurt. While we never let go of God, there are things in life that Christians, from time to time, will need to release – such as people who continue to resist our attempts to help them or an activity that gives us a financial advantage but at the price of a spiritual disadvantage. Matthew 7:6
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017