“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” (Numbers 14:24).
The contrast between believing the promise of God and giving in to the dangers around us is brought out clearly in the story told in chapter 13. The twelve spies are sent into the land of Canaan. They are to spy out the land. The majority report was negative. It was only the minority –the believing minority – who came back with a stirring message which called the people on to greater heights of faith and obedience.
The majority gave a true report: ‘The people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified, and very large’ (13:28). The problem with their report was that it had a great deal to say about the difficulties and very little to say about the possibilities. This is always the way with unbelief. The focus of their attention was on the dangers. They should have paying more attention to the promise of God. The more we talk about the difficulties, the more we line up excuses for our own unbelief. If we are to move forward with God, we must learn to eliminate negative thinking. We must learn to be possibility thinkers. We must look beyond the difficulties to the God who has given His promise – ‘The Lord bless you and keep you’.
We learn the positive attitude of faith from Caleb and Joshua. Following the negative report of the majority, ‘Caleb quietened the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once, and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it’ (13:30).
As we read of the contrast between the unbelieving majority report and the believing report given by Caleb and Joshua, we must ask ourselves the question: ‘Am I going with the crowd or am I taking my stand alongside ‘the faithful few who fought bravely to guard the nation’s life?’
The contrast between the unbelieving majority of ten and the believing testimony of two faithful men became the contrast between the older generation, whose heart was still in Egypt, and the new generation, who were looking forward to the new life in Canaan. Concerning the old generation and the new generation, God says, in 14:29-31, ‘Of all your number, numbered from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against Me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb … and Joshua … But your little ones … I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.’
This is the contrast between the old life and the new life. Before the new life can begin, the old life must die. The little ones, uncorrupted by Egyptian influences, had grown up under the nurture of God in the wilderness. They were to enter the land. They did not carry with them the corruption of the old life. They carried with them the promise of the new life.
If we are preoccupied with the old life, we will echo the complaining words of Israel: ‘Why have You made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place?’ (20:5). If, on the other hand, we are rejoicing in the gift of new life in Christ, new life in the Spirit, we will read the words of 21:9 concerning looking to the bronze serpent for healing and life, and we will rejoice in the words of John 3:14-15: ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.’ If we are truly seeking to live the new life of the Spirit, we will read the words of 21:17 – ‘Spring up, o well!’ – and we will pray for a deeper experience of the ‘rivers of living water’ of which Jesus speaks in John 7:38.
The importance of continuing to live the new life and refusing to go back to the old life is highlighted in the exclusion of Moses and Aaron from the Promised Land. At Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, Moses and Aaron sinned against the Lord at the waters of Meribah (Contention). There was ‘strife’ among the congregation who were rebelling against the Lord (20:10; 27:14). Moses and Aaron failed to believe God and they failed to obey God. At the time of this incident, God drew attention to their unbelief – ‘You did not believe in Me’ (20:12). Later on, in 27:14, God focuses our attention on their disobedience – ‘You rebelled against My Word.’ The leaders of God’s people – Moses and Aaron – were guilty of unbelief and disobedience. This emphasizes for us that there is never any room for resting on our laurels. As we read of the exclusion of Moses and Aaron from the Promised Land, we must hear and heed the challenge of God’s Word when He says to us, ‘Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?’ (Galatians 3:3). The way of blessing is not the way of the flesh. It is the way of the Spirit.
The words of Don Francisco’s song, ‘Holiness’ (from the album of the same name, 1984) bring out well the lessons God was teaching His people, Israel, while they were in the wilderness. He was teaching them about holiness. He was showing them the way of blessing.
“When God took His people to the promised land, He gave them their freedom and He gave a command. He said, west of the Jordan you can have all you see, but beware of their idols and be holy to me.
Holiness, holiness. It’s the only life that the Lord can bless. Holiness, holiness. It’s the Lord’s command, not the the Lord’s request.
They heard the commandment but did not obey. They hardened their hearts and wandered away from the goodness of God and the blessings He gave to the traditions of men and the yoke of a slave.
Holiness, holiness. It’s the only life that the Lord can bless. Holiness, holiness. It’s the life apart from the world’s excess. For the people of God there remains a rest. Holiness, holiness.
Jesus is calling you. Come, take My hand. I’ll lead you away from the wilderness land to a place full of goodness as far as you can see, but remember who brought you and be holy to Me.
Holiness, holiness. It’s not your food or drink. It’s not the way you dress. Holiness, holiness. It’s to hear the Lord and to answer Yes. Holiness, holiness. It’s the only life that the Lord can bless. For the people of God there remains a rest. Holiness, holiness.”