(Numbers 13) The Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.’3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites.
These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, ‘Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.’ (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, towards Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.
At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’
Just to finish the story off, the people didn’t respond in faith and ended up wandering around a quite small dessert for 40 years before their next generation went into the promised land led by Joshua, who was probably about 20 here, and so would have been about 60.
So when he’s used of an example of a young leader they’re not doing their maths right (although Samuel, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Mary and the disciples and Timothy are all still good illustrations of God using young people!)
Here the people are faced with a choice, to choose to live the life that God has for them, or to stick with the old, comfortable and familiar life.
The choice is between a life in a fertile land of their own where they can settle down, or the nomadic life of a desert traveller.
Bishop Lee read a quote out about a woman who said “I know I live in hell, but I do know all the road names”, meaning she knows that her life was horrible, but she just couldn’t cope with the change.
The problem was the Israelites were faced with a choice, did they trust that God was able to lead them into what he had promised or not? The same God who had delivered them from the hand of pharaoh, and provided for them in the desert in some remarkable ways at yet they looked at this large fortified city with panic, rather that looking at our faithful God and pray!
The choice we all have on a daily basis is do we panic or pray.
What rules our hearts, faith or fear?
Faith is being certain of what we hope for and confident in what we do not see (Heb.11.11), as Christians we live/walk by faith and not by sight 2 Cor.5.7…
Faith is putting it into practice, living it out…
I was thinking too about faith and fear being cultures…
The Israelites created a culture of fear, defeatism which caused them to walk away from the promised land and die in the desert.
Imagine the bravery and social awkwardness of Caleb and Joshua saying after a long diatribe of negativity to stand up and speak out that they believed that God could do it. I am guessing many of us have been in that awful situation in our Churches where faithless defeatism sometimes runs rampant, and we have to stand up to a hostile (and often quite patronising) group and say actually I believe if God is calling us to do this, then he will be faithful.
Sometimes too, the hardest people to speak a word of faith are those closest to us, these were Joshua’s tribesmen, relations, friends; and yet was called to say to stand up for his faith in front of them. Often Christians find the hardest people to talk about Jesus too our those closest too us. Yet here we see Joshua model bravery of speaking up a different and an unpopular view-point, but one that was right. Joshua was prepared to say the unsayable, because of his love and loyalty to God.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to speak a word of faith only to get fobbed off with a line about ‘love your enthusiasm’ -which is normally code for “I think you’re a bit naive!” -Yet actually when we look at this from God’s point of view it is the other way around, with God we are always in the majority, he is the God who is our provider, he is faithful and will fulfil all that he has promised, in fact even when we are faithless, he will remain faithful for he cannot deny himself.
There is a great phrase “God’s will God’s bill!” -in other words Jehovah Jirah is our provider.
Are we people who look at the size of the problem or the size of the God who is our solution.
Too often our Churches can be places of pseudo-faith, where we pay lip-service to trusting in God, but our lifestyles and our life together says a different story. The problem with ‘lip service’ or ‘phoney faith’ is that scripture reminds us that “God is not mocked” and he reminds us that “Faith without works is dead”, to say “I believe God can do it, has to be backed up by our actions otherwise it is empty rhetoric.
I want to close with being a culture of faith, scripture talks a lot about taming the tongue, and all of us can probably remember the story when one person completely changes the atmosphere by what they have said or done. Faith snuffed out by unrighteous cynicism.
Or we could be a community which is filled with faith, spurs one another on in faith, encourages and nurtures faith, a community when faith sets the tone.
This is the culture Joshua created with God, having first heard God speak “bold and courageous, do not be terrified, for I the Lord am with you where-ever you go” Josh 1.8; which led him to issue the Israelites a challenge, ‘Choose this day whom you will serve, but for me and my house we will serve the Lord’ (Josh 24.5). They were clearly filled with faith, as wandering around the city armed with nothing more than a mouth organ seven times a day, was God seeing their hearts and they were obedient, he delivered the city into their hands, and brought them into the promised land.
So a challenge for us all, are we people who are shaped by fear or by faith?
When faced with adversity do we panic or do we pray?
Are we people who inspire and encourage faith, or are will filled with cynicism that snuffs it out?