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.”
New International Version (NIV)
God tells Moses to send in some men to explore the land that He is giving to them. ("I am giving" (v. 1)) It's decided. God has spoken. But God knows the hearts of His people and, it appears, decides to test them. They fail miserably.
These twelve exploring spies travel about 500 miles over 40 days through Canaan-what God calls the Promise Land. They come back and report about the land, the peoples, the produce and the cities. Their report is accurate and compelling.
The land is fertile and fruitful. They confirm that it is truly the land of "milk and honey". However, the land is also full of people who are larger and more numerous than the Israelites. They have great cities--many with walls. In sum, it's a fantastic land! But it's full of nations who appear fully capable of defending it against the Israelites. There are even giants in those fortified cities.
What's unsaid, but equally true, is that Israel has no fortified cities filled with giants. Israel is smaller numerically. Israel had survived Egypt but that wasn't really a war they fought. They simply left when God told them to. God's words seemed irrelevant to this conversation (if not completely forgotten).
So ten of the twelve spies report this way. It's truly the best place to live on the planet. But we've got no chance of taking it in this lifetime. How true their words would prove to be.
Meanwhile, two of the twelve spies, Joshua and Caleb, see it very differently.
They remember how they got where they are. They remember God's words and works over the last few months. They are looking at this from a perspective that is radically different from the other ten spies. They look at it through the eyes of faith.
Caleb is likely an imposing figure. Like the rest of the spies, he was a tribal leader and someone with great respect and power in Israel. So when he speaks, people listen.
So with Moses, Aaron, Joshua and the rest of the tribal leaders, along with many others, Caleb silences the crowd and speaks. His credibility is about to take a major hit. His reputation is about to get trashed. And he's probably tempted to stay silent himself. But, by God's grace, he speaks confidently and courageously.
"We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."
On the surface, this comes across arrogant, presumptuous and self-confident, if not suicidal. The reaction is more towards the latter. But it's not confidence in himself that moves him to speak in such an apparently rash way. It's confidence in the LORD God who's proven himself many times already.
Caleb says, "(We) should go up (trusting God) and take (what God said he would give us) possession of the land (promised to us by God) for we can certainly (guaranteed) do it."
Caleb is not denying that it will take great effort. It will! But there will also be great results. God is giving them the land--but he's expecting them to act as if they trust him by their obedience. The book of Joshua is the story of how that eventually happens.
However, Caleb's words have barely ended when the opposition quickly takes over. "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are" and "the land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size" and "We seemed like grasshoppers" became the rally cries of a nation that was pre-occupied with their own limitations instead of their unlimited, faithful God.
And so they paid the consequences of not trusting and obeying the Lord. 40 years later, only Joshua and Caleb survive out of all Israelites 20 years and older as judgment from God. (Moses and Aaron lived too)
God is testing us as well.
What has God promised us? Can we trust him that his promises are true? Will we demonstrate our faith in him by our obedience to his words to us?
Caleb calls us to take possession of Gods' promises as well. He would tell us that "we can certainly do it" in Christ who gives us strength. But do we really believe it?
What promises does God give us in his word?
A generous life will lead to abundant life.
God gives grace to those who humble themselves.
To walk by faith with God is to walk with God forever.
To fear God is to grow in wisdom and knowledge.
When we fully lean on God, he will guide us.
When we walk through dark times, he will give us courage and strength.
And hundreds more...
So what circumstances are you looking at and thinking, "There's no way I can do this. I'll get crushed!" Are you looking at it from your limitations...or from God's unlimited provision?
God is faithful and he will do all that he's promised to do. Will you trust and obey him today? Will you follow God with a confident, courageous faith?
If you say you want to but ask "How?", what would Caleb say?
I think he would say, look at God's track record. Hasn't he always come through?
God is great! Therefore, there's nothing he can't do. God is good! Therefore, he will do the right and best thing. Therefore, God is trustworthy. You can trust him.
So how do you live out a confident, courageous faith? You courageously live as if you confidently believe his words.