We know their names but probably would have wanted to forget them if we had lived during their time. They had an excellent opportunity to lead their people to glory. Before them was a profound moment to experience the miraculous movements of God. But that’s not what happened. To say they fumbled the ball is an understatement. This was no mere choking in the playoffs. This cost lives. They died, and so many along with them.
God had promised victory beforehand. The critical intersection in their demise opened in Numbers chapter 13, where the patriarch, Moses, summoned each of the 12 tribes of Israel to select one leader and send these supposed brave men on a reconnaissance mission of sorts into the Promised Land. The historical narrative tells us that they executed their mission and found that God was telling the truth and that the new ground had everything they needed and much more. The problem is that 10 out of the 12 took their eyes off God and focused on the obstacle in the road. They gave in to fear and failed.
In their assessment, the enemy was too big. In the face of the enemy, their fear persuaded them they were too small, and they believed that they were “like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Ultimately, they did not believe God was big enough to do anything about it. While they had heard of God’s power and experienced miracles, they had merely relegated God to the backseat of their designs. As a result, God let them have their way, and they all ended up dying in the desert during a 40-year exile. All that is, except the two spies who trusted that God would keep His word, Joshua and Caleb. The death in the desert of the ten was not just poured out upon them alone, but it affected everyone in the community who bought into their fears and doubts. Fear spreads, and so does death.
So much of the question comes down to who we will listen to. Satan, the Father of Lies, says God’s way is emptyheaded, restrictive, and impossible. God says that His way is perfect and loving and that he has not given us a “spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 2:7). Will we listen to the evil one and those who scoff at God and His calling in our lives? Or rather, will we listen to the promises of God and those who build our faith? Which team will we give our allegiance to? Will you be like “Team Josh and Caleb,” who took God at his word regardless of what the majority said? Or will you be on “Team Majority,” which trusts God only when life is easy?
None of us are being called to lead an army of Hebrews into the Promised Land, although that sounds cool. But we all experience occasions of calling to step up to the plate in God’s kingdom. Sometimes, these will be dramatic and life altering decisions, like leaving a plush career and returning to school to pursue a new and risky calling. It may be a group effort like a local church body stepping out in faith to launch a vast ministry or build an expansive ministry center.
Other times, it may be in the daily drudge of fully trusting the Lord with your finances or submitting to your boss at work. There may be relatively small and personal occasions like the young man courageously asking the lady out on a date after young adult Bible study or the young woman asking her boss for a raise after all the hard work she has done.
It may be a choice to sacrifice by putting the needs and comforts of others before your own. It may even be as simple as bringing encouragement to those who are wrestling with their faith and need a little help in directing their focus back onto the one who not only makes the promises but can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
What battle are you facing today as we move into the weekend?
Who are you listening to and putting your trust in?
Is there someone in your world today who is struggling and desperately needs a word of encouragement from you? Someone who desperately needs to hear you tell them, “Be strong, my friend. Stay in the ring and do not throw in the towel because God will come through in His time and way. Then, you will hear His voice at the end of it all: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”