On May 3, 1953, an airliner bound for London from Singapore crashed 22 miles northwest of Kolkata, India, with no survivors. Fred Mitchell, who had become the director of China Inland Mission ten years before, was traveling on that aircraft. In his biography, Fred was described as “an ordinary man from a village home with working-class parents, who spent the greater part of his life as a chemist in the provinces—and who walked with God.”
Until Caleb the son of Jephunneh became a spy, appointed by Moses to scope out the land that God had promised to give His people, there was nothing to indicate that he was particularly significant or distinguished, either. But it was almost certainly in those ordinary experiences, along the humdrum track of his life, that God forged and developed the character that is revealed in Numbers 14.
Crisis tends to reveal character. When the Israelite spies came back to report on their discoveries in Canaan, they announced that the cities were fortified, and that “we are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we … we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:31, 33). And the people responded by accusing God of bringing them to a land where they would be killed (14:3).
Caleb’s commitment to God stands out. He was prepared to resist the tide of popular opinion. When the spies recommended not entering the promised land, he stood against them. When everybody was rebelling against God, he would not join them. He, along with his faithful friend Joshua, were the only men to advise courageous obedience to God.
Caleb was certain of what could be accomplished by God’s power. He did not deny the truth of what the other spies had to say; he simply looked at it from a different perspective. He was confident not in his ability nor in the ability of the Israelites but in the power of God and the trustworthiness of His character. He was a man of faith in the midst of fear. He knew that a grasshopper helped by God is a grasshopper that can do great things.
Although we may feel that our lives are simply routine, we can always seek God in the ordinary. In the most mundane moments, He will forge our character so that we too can become people of courage in all circumstances. God is not looking for giants through whom to achieve His plans. He is looking for ordinary people who are prepared to trust Him, step out in faith, and courageously obey. There is nothing to stop you being that person today.
Report of the Spies
25At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”
30But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
The People Rebel
1Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. 6And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” 10Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.
11And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
Moses Intercedes for the People
13But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them, 14and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, 16‘It is because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.’ 17And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, 18‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ 19Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.”
God Promises Judgment
20Then the Lord said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. 21But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, 22none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. 24But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. 25Now, since the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys, turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.”
Get the Program, Devotional, and Bible Reading Plan delivered daily right to your inbox.