The Courage of Caleb


In the days of Moses the people of Israel had to make a choice. Did they have the courage to trust God, or were they going to cling to what was inadequate and detestable, but familiar? The book of Numbers tells us the story:

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites…” When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many” – Numbers 13:1-2, 17-18 (NIV)

The Lord wanted the Israelites to go see and hear and smell the land He was giving them, their new home. So Moses sent leaders out to explore the land and its people. There must have been a wave of excitement in the air as these explorers left on their journey. I’m sure there was a buzz around camp while they were gone. And surely men were posted to let Moses and the others know when the heroes returned to camp. Finally the day of their return arrived:

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. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 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 Jordan” – Numbers 13:27-29 (NIV)

What a land they saw. Flowing with cactus milk and fig honey, giant fruit, sweet and plump. But the people! The fortified cities! The huge crowds began to hiss and mumble. They did not expect this kind of a report. As the murmuring spread, the volume began to drown out the spies, until one of them spoke up:

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.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” – Numbers 13:30-31 (NIV)

The stage was set for a showdown. Caleb, one of the spies, wanted to pack up right then and take the land that God was giving them. But 10 of the 12 spies, the overwhelming majority, said, “Impossible! They are too strong.” Caleb shouted, “We can certainly do it.” The ten retorted, “We can’t.”

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” – Numbers 14:1-4 (NIV)

The people of the community had a choice to make. That choice was not really over whether they should take the land or not. It was not over whether to go back to Egypt or stay where they were. It had nothing to do with their wives or children, or whether to replace their leader. None of these was the real choice facing the people that long, restless night in the Israelite camp.

They simply had to decide whether they were going to trust God or not. God had already told them that He was giving them this land. All they had to do was go up and accept His gift. Did they trust that God would do it? That He could do it?

There were options. They could go back to Egypt or get another human leader. But which of these alternatives could possibly help them in the distress brought on by unexpected changes in their lives?

We are faced with the same choice. God promises us a new kind of life beyond the wilderness we are in. But all too often we behave just like the Israelites who turned their backs on God, grumbling as they turned, looking for other worthless, empty things to trust in.

Are you willing to trust God when He says you should persevere through your pain? When He says that He will enable you to become a more complete person on the other side? Are you willing to accept pain and difficulty as part of God’s like changing process?

What makes the difference? The focus of faith. Are you focusing on God, or on the circumstances of life? When we keep focused on God, the circumstances have a way of fading into the background, and don’t have a chance to sap our courage to trust God.

(Portions taken from: Dr. Rick Taylor, When Life Is Changed Forever, Harvest House Publishers)

Dr. Rick Taylor

Dr. Rick Taylor

Equipping Director at The Well Community Church, international speaker, and author of The Anatomy of a Disciple.

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