Summary: The prevailing side is often not the winning side.
This morning I’m going to begin with a poll. I’m going to put some names up on the screen and ask you to raise your hand if you’re familiar with that person at all:
Just for the fun of it I threw one name in there that’s not in the Bible at all, but the other 12 all appear in the first 15 verses of chapter 13 of the book of Numbers and they all have something in common, as we’ll see in just a few moments. So why is it that most of us are only familiar with two of the names on that list? What is it that separated them from the other ten?
I could ask similar questions of all of us this morning. I could ask how are we are living our lives in a way that sets us apart from the surrounding culture and making a positive impact on the kingdom of God? And although our goal is not to be famous like Joshua and Caleb, I could also ask if our lives are being lived out in a way that others notice that there is something different that separates us from the crowd? We’ll look at the lives of Joshua and Caleb to help us answer those questions this morning.
Let’s begin by setting the stage for the account that we’ll look at this morning. In order to do that we have to go all the way back to the promises that God had made to Abraham over 600 years earlier to build his descendants into a great nation through whom He would bless the entire world, and, even more relevant to us this morning, to give that people the land that He had promised to Abraham.
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God raised up Moses to lead His people out of bondage through a series of ten miraculous plagues. God then opened up the Red Sea to allow His people to pass through unharmed and then killed their enemies by drowning them in that same sea. They had witnessed God lead them as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They had benefitted from His providential care as they ate the quail and manna that God provided for them each day. God had provided clean drinking water for them in the middle of the desert. He had prepared them for life in that promised land by giving them the Law and the instructions for the tabernacle.
After all that, God gave the command for the people to leave Mt. Sinai and to go and take possession of the land that He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So the people travelled through the wilderness until they came to Kadesh Barnea, just to the south of the land that they were to take possession of.
That brings us to Numbers chapter 13.
[Read Numbers 13:1-4]
Without looking at Deuteronomy chapter 1, which gives the backstory behind what occurs here, we could easily get the idea that it was God’s idea to send the 12 spies into the land He was about to give them. But there we read that when God gave the command the enter the land, it was the people who came up with the idea to go spy out the land, ostensibly to plan out their route. So here, God does what He often does when man rebels against Him – He allows them to follow their own plans and experience the consequences that go along with that rebellion.
Then, beginning in verse 4, there is a list of the 12 names that I read earlier – on from each of the 12 tribes is Israel. That list goes through verse 15.
Let’s pick up in verse 16:
[Read Numbers 13:16]
Here we learn that Moses changed the name of Joshua from Hoshea – which means “help” or “salvation” to Joshua, which means “God is my help” or “God is salvation”. Commentators have come up with all kinds of theories about why Moses did that but frankly there is just not enough in the Bible to support any of them so we won’t speculate and further. But what I do want you to see is that Joshua is a type, or picture of Jesus and that his name is exactly the same as the Hebrew name of Jesus – Yeshua.
[Read Numbers 13:17-33]
The account continues in chapter 14 and for time’s sake, let me just give you the Reader’s Digest version of what occurs there.
After the report of the 10, the people begin to grumble against Moses and Aaron and lamented that it would be better to be back in Egypt as slaves. But Joshua and Caleb plead, with no avail, for the people to take the land because God had promised to give it to them. God is angry with the unbelief of the people and He relents from pouring out his wrath on them only because of the intercession of Moses. God promises to forgive the people’s rebellion, but He doesn’t remove the consequences of their choices. None of that generation, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, will be able to enter into the Promised Land.