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.