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One of the most encouraging stories in the Old Testament is the story of Joshua and Caleb. As the nation of Israel neared the land of Canaan, after the Lord had delivered them from Egypt and led them through the wilderness, a group of men were sent into the land to gather information about it. When these men returned, only Joshua and Caleb said that Israel should enter the land and take it. All of the others said the task was impossible -- the cities were too strongly fortified. "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we" (Num. 13:31).
Years later, Moses remembered those events. "And the Lord's anger was kindled on that day, and he swore, saying, 'Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the Lord'" (Num. 32:10-12).
Like Joshua and Caleb, we must rely on the Lord fully. If the Lord has commanded something to be done, He has also promised to provide the means necessary for its accomplishment. Faith means that we follow the Lord's instructions completely, trusting that He will make it possible for His purposes to be fulfilled. Like Joshua and Caleb, we may not be able to see how God is going to do this, but we trust that He will keep His promises. In the meantime, we will obey His word.
If we only follow the Lord in situations where it looks safe from our perspective, then we have little faith. In fact, if we act only on the basis of our own foresight and common sense, that is not faith in the Lord at all -- it is faith in our own wisdom.
This week, let's go back and study the story of Joshua and Caleb. It has many good things to teach us about the way faith and obedience work together. This story has a number of clear applications to our lives today. We may not easily relate to the task of the men who were sent to spy out Canaan, but we have some daunting responsibilities of our own. May we learn to trust the Lord as Joshua and Caleb did, both when it is "safe" to do so and when it is not.
Monday: Numbers 14:24; 32:10-12
Key Idea: We must be willing to trust the Lord completely.
Questions for Family Growth: In what way did Caleb (and also Joshua) have a "different spirit" than the other men who were sent to spy out the land? What does it mean that "[he] has followed me fully"? Compare this to the statement "they have wholly followed the Lord" in 32:12.
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 28:28.
Tuesday: Numbers 13:21-30
Key Idea: We must be willing to do things that involve some risk.
Questions for Family Growth: What risks would have been involved in the mission to spy out the land? Why was it risky for Joshua and Caleb to disagree with the report of the other spies? How would it have been risky for Israel to try to take the land of Canaan?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 29:1.
Wednesday: Numbers 13:1-20; 14:6-8
Key Idea: We must be willing to be in a small minority.
Questions for Family Growth: How many men were originally sent to spy out Canaan? What percentage of them advised that Israel should go ahead and do what the Lord had commanded? Why is it so hard for us to stand up for what is right when the majority is going the other way?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 29:2.
Thursday: Numbers 13:30-33; 14:5-10
Key Idea: We must be willing to incur criticism for doing what is right.
Questions for Family Growth: In 13:30, what advice did Caleb give to the people? In 13:31, what answer was given by the other men? In 14:10, what did the congregation say? How should we react when we try to do what is right and others become angry at us?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 29:3.
Friday: Joshua 14:6-9
Key Idea: We must never discourage others from carrying out the Lord's instructions.
Questions for Family Growth: What does it mean in v.8 that the other men "made the heart of the people melt"? When we fail to do what is right ourselves, why is it even worse when we discourage others? What are some situations today where we need to set an example of courage?
Wisdom for the Day: Proverbs 29:4.