This is an amazing chapter. It is a turning point for a generation. Moses appointed representatives from the tribes of Israel to spy out the land of Canaan in preparation for taking possession of what God had promised. Joshua and Caleb came back with their faith strengthened, ready to let God lead them. Ten spies did not have that faith response. All twelve had been given the same orders, went on the same mission, and had the same experiences. Only two of them had a response of trust in God and commitment to the call.
How is it that so many leaders could have totally opposite responses to God’s call? It wasn’t like God gave them a choice. Their orders were to find out information so that Israel could take possession of the Promised Land. But by the end of their mission, they ceased seeing themselves as fact-finders and instead became advisors and policy-makers for the nation. Their mission warped into their own “shadow mission” – a corruption of their skills, orders, and calling. Lack of faith caused them to take control of the “outcome”. They would not fight what they saw as an unbeatable foe. And God was not in the equation as they talked about their options.
Caleb’s response was the right one - in direct opposition to the fearful cowardice of the faithless majority who now had switched to fulfilling their shadow mission. I just love it that he spoke up first, loudly and boldly! He was ready to do what God asked. He knew that victory would come despite the odds because God was bigger and stronger than any earthly army. The Canaanites did not know Israel’s God. That was the power for winning! His faith should have been how all of Israel followed the report. But it wasn’t. The majority report of doom and unbelief (Numbers 13:31-32) would eventually win the hearts and minds of the nation.
Even today these two wildly different responses can follow God’s call. We can run forward in faith, true to our mission as followers of Jesus. Or we can fall back, failing in fear – feeding the dark thoughts of our self-gratifying shadow mission. Which will it be for believers today? Our culture is equally intimidating. Canaanites are still giants. But God has given us a call… to change lives and be the church in a world that is radically opposed to the gospel. And faith will see us through to receive what God wants to give us!