Remember Shammua son of Zaccur, Shaphat son of Hori, or Palti son of Raphu? How about Gaddiel son of Sodi, Gaddi son of Susi, or Geuel son of Maki? No? Well, not many of us do. But if I say Joshua son of Nun or Caleb son of Jephunneh, you instantly know who I’m talking about, don’t you? In fact, I probably only need to say “Joshua and Caleb”, and it will immediately bring to your mind the account in Numbers 13 where Moses dispatches twelve spies to scout out the Land of Canaan as the future home of the Israelite people. Of course, Joshua and Caleb were among these twelve men. The other names I listed are some of the other ten spies.
There’s a reason why we don’t recall the names of the ten, but have no problem remembering Joshua and Caleb. Joshua and Caleb returned from the Land of Canaan, the land God had promised His people, with a positive report, firmly believing that God would grant them victory over their enemies. The rest of the spies came back with a doom and gloom report and discouraged the people from trying to conquer the land. In their mind, the obstacles were too great.
The ten men reported that in Canaan they had seen large, fortified cities and scary looking giants. “The land we explored devours those living in it,” they said (Numbers 13:32). Devours? That’s pretty strong language. And they added, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (verse 33). Now, how in the world did they know that? How did they know what their enemy was thinking? It’s not exactly like they interviewed them!
Of course, they didn’t know. The statement was based on a subjective, unfounded assessment of their circumstances.
How Big Is Your God?
Obstacles are those frightening things we see when we take our eyes off God’s promises. When we forget how big God is, life’s challenges seem insurmountable and fear quickly builds in our hearts. On the other hand, when we consider God’s character, His goodness, His wisdom, His power, His undisputed faithfulness toward us in the past, the fact that He put the stars in their place and created the universe out of nothing, that He is the supreme ruler of all things, then suddenly our problems don’t look so big anymore.
The twelve men all journeyed to the same land, but they didn’t see the same thing. This, because some looked at their circumstances through the eyes of doubt, while others – in fact, only Joshua and Caleb – decided to view them through the eyes of faith.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that we’re more like the ten spies who came back with a negative report than we’re like Joshua and Caleb. We evaluate things more on the basis of our circumstances than on God’s promises.
For example, God says He has moved our transgressions as far from us as the East is from the West, yet we listen to our emotions instead and go around feeling guilty about sins we have already confessed. Or, God tells us we are perfected through patience, but we – because we have bought into the instant gratification mindset of our culture – grumble and complain when things don’t happen on our time table. And of course the list goes on and on and on.
Human beings are prone to be lacking in courage, so it’s no wonder the phrase “don’t be afraid” is the most frequently used command in the Bible (repeated well over 300 times). Also, it’s interesting to note that in the first chapter of the book of Joshua, four decades after the spy incident, when God instructs Joshua to enter and conquer the Promised Land, He tells him multiple times to “be strong and courageous”. Apparently, even an experienced warrior like Joshua needed this reminder.
If we don’t make a deliberate effort to look at our circumstances through the lens of faith, all we will see is guilt that can’t be shaken, temptations that can’t be resisted, prayers that remain unanswered, and needs in our lives that aren’t met. We’ll be inclined to believe weak fellow Christians who come to us with doom and gloom reports and discourage us from taking hold of that which God has promised us. The mountains will appear too high to climb, the terrain too perilous to explore, and the giants much bigger than they really are.
The Calebs and Joshuas of our time, however, understand that it is God who paves the way for His people, grants them favor, wipes out their enemies, and gives them the land. They know that as long as they just walk obediently with the Lord, they have nothing – nothing whatsoever – to fear.
The Link Between Obedience And Courage
Right after God commands Joshua to “be strong and very courageous,” He adds, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7-9).
Do you see the obvious link here between obedience and courage, between following God’s precepts and experiencing His favor, between cherishing God’s Word and succeeding in conquest? So often we pray for God to guide us, yet we haven’t yet responded to what He has already revealed to us! Why would He lead us and show us the next step if we aren’t following what He has already told us?
Each time the Holy Spirit prompts us to move in one direction or the other, you and I have the choice to either obey or disobey what He is showing us. We can be faithful or we can be faithless. Any time we distrust God and reject the light, we experience more bondage. Any time we trust God and respond to the light, we find more freedom.
Put Your Foot In The River
After Moses had died and Joshua had been given the task of leading the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, God also said something else: “It shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above will stand in one heap” (Joshua 3:13).
Did you catch that? God didn’t tell Joshua He was going to lead them to the river bank, part the waters, and then have them walk across on a dry path. No, He said to first step into the river. The moment they did – in fact, the very moment the soles of their feet touched the water – the waters would part.
God builds faith in us not by showing us His entire plan all at once, but by directing us, one step at a time. This is what it means to walk by faith. When we put our faith in Him, He is honored. In return, He honors our faith.
Friend, God wants to take you across the river, to the Promised Land – a place of purpose, usefulness, fulfillment, rest, peace, and joy. It’s all there. You just need to trust and obey Him. So don’t stand there fretting at the giants. Put your foot in the river and the waters will part. Remember, the obstacles in front of you are never as great as the power behind you…