Was Celeb Brave, Compelled
or Just Plan Crazy?
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
"The Bible is a first-hand story of goose-bump courage in very ordinary people who were invaded by the living God." - Tim Hansel
Generally people like to be comfortable. It's easier to go with the flow than to swim upstream. Why climb out on a limb? Someone might saw the branch off while you are out there. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who went against the grain of human society to serve God. One of the great examples was Caleb. He stood against all the Israelites in the wilderness whose numbers have been estimated to be in the high hundreds of thousands to over a million. We will begin looking at Caleb by seeing the promise of God that he put his life on the line to stand up for.
Leviticus 20:24 (NLT) But I have promised that you will inherit their land, a land flowing with milk and honey. I, the LORD, am your God, who has set you apart from all other people.
Approximately two years after leaving Egypt, Moses and the Israelite camp came near the border of the Promised land. The people encouraged Moses to send spies into the land to learn about it. This was a common practice at that time to aid in the development of military strategies. Please notice that the spies were not sent out in response to a command from God. Although it was the people's idea to do so, Moses thought the suggestion had merit. Apparently Moses did not see the need to consult God about this. I believe that God wanted them to rely on His promise about inheriting the land and to seek Him for the battle strategies. If the spies were not, sent out the stage for the rebellion would not have been set.
Deuteronomy 1:20-23 (NLT) I said to you, 'You have now reached the land that the LORD our God is giving us. Look! He has placed it in front of you. Go and occupy it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don't be afraid! Don't be discouraged!' "But you responded, 'First, let's send out scouts to explore the land for us. They will advise us on the best route to take and decide which towns we should capture.' This seemed like a good idea to me, so I chose twelve scouts, one from each of your tribes.
Deuteronomy 1:25 (NLT) They picked some of its fruit and brought it back to us. And they reported that the land the LORD our God had given us was indeed a good land.
The spies learned that the land was just as God had promised it to be. However, they also noticed that the inhabitants of the land appeared so powerful that they felt it was beyond their ability to defeat them.
Numbers 13:28 (NLT) But the people living there are powerful, and their cities and towns are fortified and very large. We also saw the descendants of Anak who are living there!
Satan likes to use fear and intimidation to keep us from doing God's will. We must learn to keep our eyes on the Lord and trust Him to be our salvation. We must remain optimistic in Him and not allow the enemy to make us pessimistic. Someone once said that an optimist sees an opportunity in every crisis while a pessimist sees calamity in every opportunity. God is glorified when he provides deliverance from a situation that looks impossible. Caleb knew that God was faithful and is able to do perform miracles to ensure that He promises are kept. He remembered how God saved them from the Egyptian army by drowning them in the Red Sea. Not a single Israelite had to even lift a sword to defeat them. Caleb raised his voice and tried to show them that their fears were unfounded because God promised them the land.
Numbers 13:30 (NLT) But Caleb tried to encourage the people as they stood before Moses. "Let's go at once to take the land," he said. "We can certainly conquer it!"
They would not listen to the encouraging and true words of Caleb. Sometimes we cannot save men from traveling down a path of destruction. They will be judged for their actions. We however must warn them. Caleb did this in spite of knowing he could easily alienate himself from the whole tribe.
Numbers 13:31-33 (NLT) But the other men who had explored the land with him answered, "We can't go up against them! They are stronger than we are!" So they spread discouraging reports about the land among the Israelites: "The land we explored will swallow up any who go to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. We felt like grasshoppers next to them, and that's what we looked like to them!"
Instead of listening to the encouragement and spiritual truth that Caleb presented, they chose to listen to those whose eyes could only see the physical giants in front of them. Then they did what they proved to be best at. They grumbled and complained against the Lord. They let fear overcome them. Instead of looking to God and praising Him for the great opportunity in front of them, they focused on their own desperate situation without God.
Numbers 14:1-4 (NLT) Then all the people began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of complaint against Moses and Aaron. "We wish we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!" they wailed. "Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and little ones will be carried off as slaves! Let's get out of here and return to Egypt!" Then they plotted among themselves, "Let's choose a leader and go back to Egypt!"
It is so easy to forget God if we live our lives focused on our own needs and pleasures. Blinded to the promise of freedom and prosperity before them, they foolishly believe that it would be better to go back to their cruel slave masters in Egypt. Moses pleaded with the people reminding them of what God had already done. He desperately attempted to open their eyes that were blind to God's truth.
Deuteronomy 1:26-33 (NLT) "But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God and refused to go in. You murmured and complained in your tents and said, 'the LORD must hate us, bringing us here from Egypt to be slaughtered by these Amorites. How can we go on? Our scouts have demoralized us with their report. They say that the people of the land are taller and more powerful than we are, and that the walls of their towns rise high into the sky! They have even seen giants there-the descendants of Anak!' "But I said to you, 'Don't be afraid! The LORD your God is going before you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. And you saw how the LORD your God cared for you again and again here in the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place." But even after all he did, you refused to trust the LORD your God, who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day.
Together Joshua and Caleb again tried to encourage the people reminding them that the Lord was not with the inhabitants of the land but was with them.
Numbers 14:6-9 (NLT) Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to the community of Israel, "The land we explored is a wonderful land! And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey, and he will give it to us! Do not rebel against the LORD, and don't be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don't be afraid of them!"
The people could not remember that this is the God who heard their cries when they were oppressed in Egypt and sent Moses to deliver them. This is the God who promised them the rich land in front of them even before they were born. Instead of heeding the advice from Joshua and Caleb, the whole camp of the Israelites wanted to kill them.
Numbers 14:10 (NLT) But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb.
God's love is enduring but we must always remember that He is also a God of justice. In the wilderness He demonstrated His love for the Israelites over and over. Instead of being grateful and focusing on God, they consistently focused on their own discomfort and their desires that weren't being met. Over and over they grumbled and complained and disregarded all that God had done for them. Finally God had enough. Choosing to embrace the bad report of the ten spies, they were rejecting God's promise and in their minds they were diminishing His power to give it to them. This was a costly mistake.
Numbers 14:21-23 (NLT) But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD'S glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they tested me by refusing to listen. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will enter it.
Knowing that the people were carnal and needed things they could see God struck dead the ten scouts who incited them to fear. This was probably to convince the Israelites that His judgment against was real. He spared Joshua and Caleb.
Numbers 14:36-38 (NLT) Then the ten scouts who had incited the rebellion against the LORD by spreading discouraging reports about the land were struck dead with a plague before the LORD. Of the twelve who had explored the land, only Joshua and Caleb remained alive.
The foolish Israelites thought that they could change God's judgment against them by simply confessing their sin and taking the matter into their own hands. Once it was taken away, they were willing to do anything to get it back. However, God showed them that He does not play this type of game. When he asked them to take the land, they rebelled wanted to go back to Egypt. When he told then that they would die in the dessert, they again rebelled and tried to take the land.
Deuteronomy 1:41-46 (NLT) "Then you confessed, 'We have sinned against the LORD! We will go into the land and fight for it, as the LORD our God has told us.' So your men strapped on their weapons, thinking it would be easy to conquer the hill country. "But the LORD said to me, 'tell them not to attack, for I will not go with them. If they do, they will be crushed by their enemies.' This is what I told you, but you would not listen. Instead, you again rebelled against the LORD'S command and arrogantly went into the hill country to fight. But the Amorites who lived there came out against you like a swarm of bees. They chased and battered you all the way from Seir to Hormah. Then you returned and wept before the LORD, but he refused to listen. So you stayed there at Kadesh for a long time.
Did the Israelites gain anything from the open rebellion against God? They could have been tremendously blessed by obeying God. Instead they fought Him and were doubly cursed. How often do we foolishly rebel against a God who loves us beyond our comprehension and desires the best for us? What blessings have we lost? Where would we be if we learned to follow God wholeheartedly as Caleb? He and Joshua were the only two of the vast camp Israelites who were able to enter the Promised Land.
Numbers 14:24 (NIV) But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.
It is ironic that Caleb wasn't even an Israelite by blood. He was an Edomite. He was probably looked down upon by the others. Yet he alone stood for God when he saw the other Israelites of pure blood begin to rebel against Him.
Numbers 32:12 (NLT) The only exceptions are Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they have wholeheartedly followed the LORD.'
Genesis 36:9 - 11 (NLT) This is a list of Esau's descendants, the Edomites, who lived in the hill country of Seir. Among Esau's sons were Eliphaz, the son of Esau's wife Adah; and Reuel, the son of Esau's wife Basemath. The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz.
It is also ironic that would Caleb later conquered the Anakites, the giants that so terrified the rest of the Israelites. Caleb did not just express his trust in God with his lips. He exercised his faith and allowed God to prove that He could help him defeat the very giants that struck the most fear into the hearts of the Israelites.
Joshua 15:13-14 (NLT) The LORD instructed Joshua to assign some of Judah's territory to Caleb son of Jephunneh. So Caleb was given the city of Arba (that is, Hebron), which had been named after Anak's ancestor. Caleb drove out the three Anakites-Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai-descendants of Anak.
Was It Bravery or Something Else?
What caused Caleb to do what he did. Was he exceptionally brave? What about the rest of us? Is bravery part of serving God wholeheartedly? I believe that a close relationship with God and knowing the truth of His reality compels us to act in a way that demonstrates bravery. To consider this let us start by looking at a couple dictionary definitions of the word compel.
Compel - to force or drive, esp. to a course of action
Compel - to drive or urge with force, or irresistibly; to constrain; to oblige; to necessitate, either by physical or moral force. (American Dictionary of the English Language - 1828 Edition)
The Apostle Paul found himself compelled to go to Jerusalem without knowing his fate. He continued on his journey even after the prophet Agabus warned him the he would be arrested and turned over to the Gentiles.
Acts 20:22 (NIV) "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.
I did not show how Caleb and Paul might have been compelled to down-play their courageous acts. I showed this aspect of service to encourage us. We might not see ourselves as courageous, but our love for Jesus and our desire to be obedient could compel us to become a Caleb when God needs us to be such. However, like Caleb, we will have to learn to serve God wholeheartedly. What does that mean? I will give you a hint. It is more than just attending church every time the door is open. Read Deuteronomy 6:5.