I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I don’t like heights. I don’t do roller coasters. You won’t find me diving into a pool, much less a cave or the sky! I like calm, steady, uneventful, and predictable. My instinct in a public area is to blend in with the walls and go unnoticed. But what happens when God puts a challenge in front of you? Unfortunately, I have no doubt I’ve completely ignored many of those challenges because of my natural proclivities (read: fear).
In a recent study through the book of Numbers (more appropriately named “In the Wilderness” in Hebrew), my church came across a powerful phrase regarding Caleb’s faith:
“But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” – Numbers 14:24
The Israelites had been delivered by God from slavery in Egypt. They witnessed beyond amazing events of God directly interceding on their behalf—parting of the sea, pillars of clouds and fire, miracle bread and quail. He promised them a land. All they had to do was go in and possess it. As we read in Numbers 13-14, twelve spies are sent in ahead of the people.
Ten spies return with a hopeless report. The land is indeed beautiful and full of choice fruits, but it is populated by powerful people with large, fortified cities. They equate themselves as grasshoppers compared to the natives, who apparently are of a special group called the Nephilim (see Gen 6:1-4).
If I’m spying this out, I must admit that my first reaction would be to quickly and quietly run away! What if I knew, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, God promised he would deliver me? Were the spies unaware of this promise? What seems ambiguous in Numbers is clarified in Deuteronomy 1:19-33. Verses 20-21 specifically record what Moses told the people regarding the Lord’s promise: “And I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’”
They knew. They knew it was promised to them. But fear is a powerful thing from the Enemy. And the fear from the ten spies trickled down to the whole population who thought they’d be better off selecting a new leader and returning to slavery in Egypt! (Numbers 14:4)
Caleb and Joshua were different. It didn’t matter that the cities were well-fortified. It didn’t even matter that the people were Nephilim! Caleb and Joshua rested in God’s strength and not their own. They rested in God’s promises and not their own abilities.
In an effort to bring the people back to their senses, Joshua says in Numbers 14:7-9: “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”
The people’s response to this rally cry? They get ready to stone them! (Numbers 14:10)
After just this latest rebellion, God determines it might be better to start from scratch! (Numbers 14:12) But Moses intercedes for the people and God pardons them once again, but not without consequence. The rebels won’t be entering this promised land but will instead wander the desert for 40 years.
Caleb and Joshua displayed immeasurable faith in their God in the face of ridicule from their entire nation. How discouraging it must have been for them to have to wander in the desert for 40 years with this faithless group of people. After seeing and tasting the fullness of God, they must wander with people who completely rejected the truth and the power of the Lord.
But 45 years later, in Joshua 14:10-12, we get to see where Caleb’s faith is: “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then…” He didn’t waiver. He didn’t get pulled down by the doubt and rebellion of the Israelites even after having to wander for 40 years with them. He truly had a “different spirit.”
May we have the faith of Caleb and Joshua to face giants. May we have the faith of Noah to build a boat in the middle of a desert. May we have the faith of Abram to leave the known for the unknown. May we have the faith of Joseph who never gave up despite always finding himself in a “pit.”
Don’t be afraid to take a leap when God puts a challenge before you. Don’t let your natural tendencies impede your spiritual realities. Don’t let your fear prevent you from following God fully.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6 NIV
Be of a different spirit like Caleb. Follow him FULLY. He rewards a faith like that.
I’ll close with a prayer from my dear sister Amanda:
Dear Lord: Help us believe that ALL we need to do is stand STILL. Listen for you. Obey you. Honor you. Help us to remember that we do this to glorify you. Open our hearts to you Lord so we may see you and your works you want us to do more clearly. Forgive us from our daily distractions stealing our focus. Forgive us for forgetting to put you first. How often we forget that you have already gone before us. Through parting the Red Sea, wandering the desert, through work and play, through health and illness, through wealth and poverty, through home and highway. I pray we do not miss the gifts you want us to have this year because we refused to trust the hand that you offer us. So again Lord open our hearts and minds to hear your voice, recognize your call, and to faithfully follow where you lead. Oh God, thy will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen!