I want to apologize for being a bit late on this study. I was hospitalized yesterday for kidney stones and there was a bit too much morphine in my system to publish a study. All is well now, and here we go.
In order to fully understand Joshua 14, our text today, we must remember the spies that were sent into the Land of Canaan under Moses’ leadership. The Great Exodus from Egypt has occurred and the Israelites are in the Wilderness of Paran in Numbers 13. Moses sends twelve men, one from each tribe of Israel to enter Canaan and take a look. Two important men here are Joshua from the Tribe of Ephraim, and Caleb from the Tribe of Judah. The twelve spies go into the land, and bring back some figs, pomegranates, and a cluster of grapes that was so large two men carried it. The problem is the perception of ten of them on the inhabitants of the land. Ten of them say that they can’t win if they battle the inhabitants. After forty days in country they come up with excuses like we saw the “strong” inhabitants of the land, their cities are fortified and very large. They said that the preferred areas of the region are already inhabited, including the hill country, the land by the sea and the land by the Jordan River. This, in my mind, shows their perception of the LORD’s promise here. It is probable that they thought they were just looking for a quaint little village location away from everybody with some nice grape vines, and they didn’t see anything that matched that description. There is a huge problem with that. Their mindsets were not formed in what the LORD spoke, but in what they thought of what the LORD spoke. This is big. As we have gone through Joshua, we have repeatedly brought the LORD’s promises to Abraham and His covenant with him back into light from Genesis 12 and 15 where the iniquity of the people of Canaan would reach a time when they were beyond reconciliation to God. The text teaches that the Israelites were not to simply look for an unoccupied place to sleep in this new land, they were to go into it prepared for war. However, this idea is not unanimous. Two of the spies understood this. Their names were Caleb and Joshua. In Numbers 13:30 we read Caleb telling the rest of the spies to be quiet and said “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are able to overcome it.” The ten spies then begin to give a discourse of defeat. We can’t do it because of this, etc., etc., etc. All of this caused the Congregation of Israel to rebel in Numbers 14, and God’s will was pushed back until more capable men were allowed to serve Him. We read about the fortitude of Joshua and Caleb, in the midst of the people’s rebellion, in Numbers 14. Beginning in verse five: “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to the people of Israel, ‘The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If 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. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.’ ” This speech did not win over the congregation and the people revolted against them and against the LORD.
We now fast forward forty-five years and through many, many battles as we open the text in Joshua 14:6. “Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.’ ” Caleb was a man’s man. He was a man who believed that what he was doing was right because he followed the LORD. The rebellion of people did not matter to him. He stood on what was right. He stood firmly with the God of Israel, and if necessary against the people of Israel to do so. We see a reunion between two warriors telling war stories. They fought to influence their own people, but were unwavering in their stand with the LORD even after the people were not convinced. They stand together now at the end of the successful conquest into the land. They were victorious warriors who stood for the LORD.
When I look at this text two main points come to mind. The first point is good leadership is good. Caleb and Joshua stood for the LORD that day when they returned to the people from spying out Canaan. Good leadership is not a job position. It is the desire to influence people for good and effective action towards that end goal. The failure of the Nation of Israel not entering the land forty-five years earlier is not on the shoulders of Joshua and Caleb. It was placed purely and solely on the shoulders of the rebellious people by God, Himself, in Number 14:20-24. Let this encourage us to lead people towards the LORD and not against Him with our words and our actions. The second point is relationships that are born or fostered in struggle are powerful. Think back on what relationships in your life have been strengthened by people taking actions within a struggle. This can be a memory from serving our country in conflict, to a great friend who was there in a time of need.
I want to encourage you today to stand with the LORD and what He says is right just like Joshua and Caleb did so many years ago. I want to encourage you to be that friend to people who are in a struggle. Let us support our brothers and sisters in love and in doing so serve the LORD. Finally, let us take the time to thank them for supporting us.
Joshua 14:11 – “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.”