Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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Grasshoppers

The Bible is very clear. It tells me, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1) So why don’t I live like a child of God? Why do I, so often, quail in fear? Why do I act so weakly and powerlessly when the Bible tells me that I am supposed to be a powerful, Spirit filled, inheriting child of the King of kings?

Identity.

I simply don’t live in the light of the truth that God speaks to me through His word. I am a child of God, with all of the rights, privileges and power that this identity gives me. In John 14, I am told that if I know Jesus, I know the Father. That Jesus is the epitome of the Father and that I am called to be his friend and imitate Him. That by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am equipped and enabled to live as Jesus lived. To be light in a dark world, pointing to the Father God.

Without wanting to go into every verse and proof here (it is a blog rather than a tome), I believe whole heartedly that I am called and empowered to live as a disciple of Jesus with the same power that Jesus has. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Yet, in reality, I do not.

I am full of fear and I believe so many lies about who I am and what I am unable to do. I look at the world around me, the state of others, my own weaknesses and insecurities, and I withdraw in fear. I cower from what I see Jesus do, justifying it as ‘real’ and ‘pragmatic’ to do so. I look around me and say, “I am weak and insecure, and that is how everyone else sees me.”

Yet, I can no longer claim to be honest and believe the lies I tell myself. The Bible tells me that I am more than a conqueror, I am a child of God, and ambassador of Christ. That, if I am full of the Holy Spirit, I will manifest the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, transforming the people around me by shining light into the dark world.

So what is going on?

“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33)

This short verse from the narrative of the spies who went into the Promised Land speaks to me quite clearly. Ten of the twelve who were sent out (the two were Caleb and Joshua) returned from their reconnaissance mission to the Promised Land with the words from Numbers 13:33. They had already shared with the rest of the people of Israel their observation that the fertility and fruit of the land were amazing… yet they did not think it was possible for the people of Israel to take possession of the land. They believed that the people who already lived in the land were simply too big and strong to be defeated by the grasshoppers of God.

“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

I can relate to the fear of doing something new. The feeling of being overwhelmed by what I see standing between me and what the word of God promises.

Yet the spies had had a pretty incredible journey to get as far as the spying mission. They had heard the word of God spoken, promising their freedom from slavery that has lasted hundreds of years, seen the plagues of Egypt and been protected from them, been freed from slavery, taken incredible riches with them as they left Egypt, been protected from attack by the very presence of God in the fiery cloud, crossed the Red Sea with the waters piled either side of them and watched their enemies drowned. As if that were not enough; they had been guarded and led through a wilderness, day and night, by the presence of God, been miraculously provided with water and food despite the fact that there were close to a million people in their group, received the book of the law from God on the mountain where his presence was manifest in glory, witnessed the power of God first hand and reflected in the face of Moses… and the list could go on.

Then, these twelve men, are chosen as the best representatives, each from one of the twelve tribes of Israel, to scout out the land that the God Himself, who has been with them, literally and evidently every day, had promised would be theirs. They had seen the fertility of the land and carried some of fruit back to the people as evidence of their story… and here they are. “We are not big enough to take the land.”

Notice, they did not say… “Those people are huge and we are small.” They said, “Those people are really big and they must have thought we were small because we certainly felt like we were small.” The report that they give is not based on the truth of the word of God or evidence that they have gathered, it is based entirely upon their own image of themselves.

“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, chose to believe the word of God. They said, something like, “it will be hard, BUT GOD HAS GIVEN THE LAND INTO OUR HANDS! Let’s go for it.”

What was the difference? Simply put… Joshua and Caleb believed God before they believed their own perception. They came to the conclusion that, whatever their own eyes saw and their hearts said to them, the promise of God was more powerful and important. They chose to believe the world of the Lord over their own misgivings, fears, perceptions, thoughts and everything else.

That is what I want… Father God, what you promise I choose to believe. Please help me live in the reality of the things you say. Let your Kingdom come!

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)


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Walking around in circles

Even I can see, as I read Joshua 6, that the strategy to take the fortified city of Jericho is a little bit alternative. It is not normal to walk in circles around a city and never fire a rock or stone at the walls, and then to expect the walls to come down.

“as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (Josh. 5:14-15)

Joshua’s encounter with the commander of the Lord’s army reveals several things.

  • First, God’s power is present as the people of Israel start to take possession of the promised land. His army is already at the scene of the battle and preparations have been made.
  • Second,  the land around Jericho is already holy. God has set it apart for the people of Israel to see the power of His presence and activity. The land will not be made holy when the city is taken and the non-believers are destroyed. It is already holy because God says that it is. In the same way, I am acceptable to God; not because I am without sin, but because Jesus says that I am. It might seem an odd thing to say but; things are not made holy by our actions, but by God’s declaration. They become real to us as we walk in the faith that they are real.
  • Third, the city of Jericho is doomed by the word of God, but the actions are still to take place.
  • Fourth, the plan to take the city is not Joshua’s. Jericho will fall at the hand of God by the plan of God. Joshua 6 relates God’s plan to open a city that is heavily defended and tight shut… and it is crazy.

“March round the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Make seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march round the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, make the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” (Josh. 6:3-5)

As we read on, this is what happens. The whole army of God marches around the walls a total of 13 times in a period of 7 days. The Ark of the Covenant, which holds the words of God and the proof of the wilderness experience, is given centre stage and the people walk with it around the whole city of Jericho. On the seventh day, they walk around the city seven times and at the last moment let out an enormous shout of praise for God and the walls come tumbling down. Then the huge column of the army charges from all directions at once into the now defenseless city and wins the battle.

There are several things that come to mind as I read this…

  • There is no doubt at all that God wins this battle. No matter what people might say or claim, there is no other possible explanation. And so, as the people of Israel enter the campaign to win the promised land they are building on an earthshattering, resounding victory that is entirely down to God.
  • The faith of the people needs to be strong. The army of the Israelites must have felt like a proper bunch of plonkas, walking in silence around the city walls. The people and army of Jericho would have shouted insults at them all the time they marched and, as day followed day, the army must have wondered what was going to happen and if Joshua had made a mistake. I wonder what the talk in the camp was after the first day of walking around the walls? I wonder what people were saying about Joshua after the 6th day of nothing happening? I wonder how enthusiastic they felt after the 6th circuit on the 7th day? By faith they marched and shouted.
  • Faith is not a feeling, it is a conscious decision. Whatever the feeling of the army of Israel, they went through with the entire plan. God said it would work, and it worked. There must have been occasions when the army thought it was a stupid idea… but they kept going out of a conscious decision to follow God’s words. We are no different. If we believe God has said something, we need to carry on until the end. If they had given up after 6 days, they would not have won.
  • God’s plans are not the same as our plans. No sane General would suggest this plan to take Jericho… but God did. How audacious is that? God has the power and authority to carry through His plans… even when we cannot see how they might actually work out. We need to submit to the plan and power of God, not expect him to take our advice.

This passage has so much to teach us. As disciples, individually and as a community, the will of God should be our primary focus and the glory of God our ultimate aim. No matter what the apparent evidence of our eyes might be or what the preference of our desires might suggest, God’s word is key. When we hear God speak we need to carry it through… however mad it seems.


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Whose side is HE on?

I don’t know about you, but there is something odd about the number of times that we assume that God is on our side. Isn’t it suspicious, how often God agrees with us? I think that often we assume that we are doing the right thing and, therefore, God must be on our side. It is also interesting, at least to me, how often we find ourselves doing things that are other than that which the Bible teaches, whilst still adamantly assuming that God agrees with us.

The truth is, most of us do not set out to move in the wrong direction and so we assume that we are moving in God’s direction. It is not that, when we stop and assess the things we are doing, we think that God agrees with us. It is simply that we assume that we are right and rarely take the time to truly assess what God says or might be saying.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’

‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so. (Josh. 5:13-15)

This passage surprised me and spoke to me afresh when I read it this week.

Joshua and the people of God are moving away from the River Jordon, having crossed the river in flood and committed themselves to taking the Promised Land. As they march towards Jericho’s walls, they meet a powerful warrior who stands in the way of their huge army. He must have been powerful, since standing alone he makes so much impression that Joshua, the leader, confronts him.

‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ (Josh. 5:13)

The man’s reply would not be strange or surprising if he is just a man out for a walk with his sword. It might be expected that he would want to remain neutral in that case. Yet, he is not a man out for a walk. This warrior is the commander of the heavenly army of God.

‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ (Josh 5:14)

What surprises me in his reply is that Joshua and the people of God were themselves acting on the instructions of God. They are seeking to invade and take the promised land as a result of God’s command. Yet, the Warrior says he is neither on the side of the People of Israel nor the People of Canaan. Instead, he asserts that he is in the army of the Lord and, by implication, that he is on the Lord’s side.

I think that there is a really important issue at play here. Joshua asks whether the warrior is on the side of the People of Israel or of their enemies. The warrior’s reply is that neither party leads him or defines his actions. Instead, he is on the Lord’s side and the actions of the army of the Lord will be decided wholly according to the will of God for the glory of God, not by any group of people.

The truth is that Joshua’s question places the people of Israel at the heart of the situation, when it is God who is ALWAYS at the heart of ANY situation. Everything in Creation is created solely for the Glory of God. Therefore, if the will of God leads to another 40 years in the wilderness or defeat at Jericho, that is up to God. The people who claim to be God’s people must simply walk the path that He lays out for them knowing that whatever happens, God is Lord of All.

Joshua realises his error and falls down in front of the warrior. He understands that here is a commander who really knows what it is to follow God rather than people and politics.

Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so. (Josh. 5:14-15)

Joshua immediately understands that the key issue in the journey of the people of Israel into possession of the promised land is not the comfort of the people of Israel. It is the glory and honour of God. God was Lord whilst Abram lived in Ur and Jacob looked after his uncle’s sheep. God was Lord whist the people were in Egypt and whilst they wondered in the wilderness. He will be Lord whether the Promised Land is populated by Canaanites, Philistines or Israelites. God is Lord! The key issue is always God. It is all about Him. So Joshua bows down and worships.

The warrior then places God at the centre by saying, “take off your shoes and remember that you are on Holy Land.” Why? Because the people of God are ALWAYS on holy land whilst they are walking with God. They walk with God so He is present.

The question that every one of us who are disciples need to ask is NOT, “is God on my side?” but, “am I walking with the Lord? Am I on God’s side?”

If we follow God’s will for our life, it does not matter if we win a battle or lose a battle, nor if we are in the wilderness or the land of promise. God is with us and that is all that really matters.

All that matter is that we walk with God. I commit myself again to follow God.

Father, I choose to follow you wherever you lead. If it is where I prefer or fear, I will follow. If it leads to pain or pleasure, I will follow. If it leads to prosperity or suffering, I will follow. If you lead to the wilderness or the promise, I will follow. Jesus, I am your man. Tell me where to walk and I will follow. Where else can I go? With you are the words of eternal life. I will follow. Amen. (My prayer)


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From manna to bread

Having thought about the moment when God rolls away the reproach of Egypt, enabling the people of God to live in the promised land, the reality of their freedom is illustrated in the very next section of the book of Joshua.

“On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, he Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan” (Josh. 5:10-12)

For 40 years, God had literally fed the entire nation through the provision of manna. They would collect their daily quota on every morning (any extra would rot in the night) and eat what they needed. God was their literal provider and they would not have survived the first 6 months, let alone the 40 years, had He not been so. The people of God would have been either dead or scattered all over the region had God not fed them and kept them together as a nation.

After they crossed the Jordon, into the promised land, they committed themselves to the plan and rule of God as their King through the rite of circumcision. Then they ate the Passover.

The Passover feast is the feast that remembers the captivity and release from slavery of God’s people in Egypt. Every part of the commemoration contains symbolism that tells the story of their escape and salvation. The Lord “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Josh. 5:9), but not the memory and lesson of Egypt.

Don’t forget… God, our Father, saves. He releases the captive and restores them. He promises good things for His people and fulfills the promises.

The Passover feast celebrates the salvation of God for His people and here they celebrated, for the first time, in the land that he had promised them. This is an awesome moment, really fulfilling the incredible, wonderful promise of God.

As if that is not amazing enough, the passage goes on to tell us that the day after the Passover meal, they eat food that has come from the land that God promised them for the first time. Their freedom is not simply a virtual reality, but an actual reality. They are free, in the land that God has given them and eating the produce of the land.

“The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan” (Josh. 5:12).

It is easy to overlook the significance of the end of the provision of manna. It is the proof that God has been faithful and that the faith of the people of God, especially Joshua and Caleb, has been realised. The place where the Israelites are standing is no longer the ‘Promised Land’, it is their land. There is still a great deal of work to do, but Canaan is now, in faith, Israel.

For me, there are many promises that God has made to me. I love the promises and I love the fact that God is, day to day, providing for me and my family as we walk through the wilderness. When I come to the crossing, however, will I be ready to walk through the waters in faith and live and eat in a new land?

The people of Israel had paid for their lack of faith, walking the wilderness for 40 years, but their crossing over this time is no guarantee either. Yet, they have the faith to believe and trust in God, cross over and LIVE in a strange land. The preparation to cross over is not made standing on the banks of the Jordon River, so much as it is made in the 40 years between promise and reality.

Lord, let me have faith in your promise and have the courage to step into the reality.


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Freedom and Circumcision

After 40 unnecessary, but prescribed, years wondering in the wilderness, all but two (Joshua and Caleb) of the people of God who had looked upon the promised land and refused to enter it for fear of the people who lived there were dead. Even Moses, the Prophet of God, who God spoke to face to face, had died on the top of Mount Nebo, looking out over the land. This was a whole new generation.

Crossing over (part 2) had taken place. The million or so people of God had miraculously cross the river Jordon and were now, for the first time, standing on the very land that was the promise of God to them. This was a momentous moment and, having placed their feet on the land, they enact a ritual as a commitment of themselves to serve and follow God. It is an act that has not been performed for 40 years.

After the people had left Egypt, God had commanded that all of the men should be circumcised, in line with the promise to Abraham, as a sign of their belonging to God and commitment to follow God as their King. During the wilderness years, this practice had not been carried out on the children born, whilst all of the men who had been of fighting age at Crossover 1 had died. This left an entire generation of men (with only Joshua and Caleb as exceptions) who were part of the people of God but had not been circumcised as a sign of their belonging and commitment.

Thus, in Joshua 5, all of the men are circumcised. Ouch! No wonder it says, “And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed” (Josh. 5:8).

It is obvious to say, but necessary, that we who are God’s people need to commit ourselves to the plan of God. Contrary to much popular opinion, God does not worship and serve us. It is not we who decide what is right and wrong. We serve God and, even when it is hard to follow or we do not see the sense of it, we follow and submit to him.

God is all powerful and when he leads us to the edge of a promise, no matter how impossible that promise might seem to be fulfilled to our eyes, He has the power to make it a reality. We, the people of God, must have faith in the word of God even when it seems difficult to believe.

When the people of Israel had come to the edge of the promised land for the first time, they had looked at a wonderful place and been consumed with fear of the people who lived there. Even though God had told them that it was theirs, they had refused to enter the land. They were still slaves, in their minds, to the domination of human beings rather than fully submitted to faith in the promise of God. Their bodies were circumcised in submission, but their minds were not.

On this second occasion, the people have had their minds renewed over the period of 40 years and ACTUALLY crossed into the promised land in obedience to God’s word. The people who lived in the land are the same as they had been 40 years previously and the cities, like Jericho, were still surrounded by high walls. Yet the people of God were willing to have faith in the power of God rather than the supposed evidence of their eyes. They were no longer in the mindset of the slaves of Egypt, who were unable to see past the power of human beings. Now they were children of God in body, mind and spirit.

Their act of circumcision was the final sign that they had left the past behind and were moving into God’s future. God speaks to them following;

“Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Joshua 5:9)

I love these words. In that moment, the people of God step out of the wilderness and into the promise of God. They begin to live by faith instead of fear. God, in His grace, rolls away the past so that we can walk into HIS future. These words echo down to us too.

No longer are their minds dominated by the experience of Egypt and the fear of people with whips. Rather, they are defined by their adoption as the nation who are ruled by the one true and living God. God, who took them out of Egypt with miracle after miracle, fed them out of nothing for 40 years and took them over the flooded river Jordon into the promised land, has rolled away the influence of the past.

This people are not longer the people of Israel. Now they are the people of God.

What about your slavery? What experiences and attitudes cause you to act out of fear rather than faith? Have you crossed over into the promised land yet?

Further, what about the Church? Does it live in the attitudes of the past and so called pragmatism, rather than faith in the promise of God that looks far away but is actually much closer?

“Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Joshua 5:9)

I hear and accept these words by faith. No longer will I be ruled by the past. Now I will walk into God’s future. And where my past affects my actions, I will leave it in the wilderness to be rolled away by God.


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Caleb – Man of Action

40 years after the spies returned from their mission (Numbers 13), the people of Israel reentered the Promised Land. For 5 years, they battled the nations who lived there, until the land that God had promised them was theirs. Then Joshua gave the different tribes and clans their share of the land as their inheritance as God had directed.

By this time, Caleb was 85 years old, quite probably the oldest man in Israel, and still fighting with his sons in the front line of battle. His faith had led to a promise from God, that he would inherit the parts of the land that his feet had walked, and he had held on to that word from God for 45 years. This man of faith had remained faithful in his faith.

In Joshua 14:6-15:19, we see that Caleb’s faith comes to fruition. This 85-year-old man approaches Joshua, the leader of the people, who was the only other member of the tribes to have been an adult when they had spied out the land under Moses and a witness to God’s promise to Caleb, and asks for his inheritance.

‘Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.’ (Josh. 14:10-12)

Such faith! Caleb reminds Joshua of the promise and testifies to the faithfulness that God has shown him. Caleb and Joshua are at least 28 years older than their nearest peers, yet Caleb is still as physically strong as he had been 45 years before. He is also just as strong in his faith as he had been 45 years before.

Caleb’s faith is not passive. He does not simply wait for things to happen, even though he has waited for 45 years. When the moment is right he stands up, steps forward and makes things happen.

When he talks to Joshua, Caleb…

  • Asserts the foundation of his faith – “The Lord promised, 45 years ago.”
  • Testifies to the truth of his faith – “Here I am, 45 years later, as the Lord promised I would be”
  • Seeks his inheritance by faith – “Now give me this hill country, that the Lord promised me that day… it is time”
  • States what will happen by faith – “The large people and cities cannot stand in the way of the Lord. With the Lord’s help I will drive them out”
  • Moves in faith – He went on from there to defeat his enemies and take the land that God had promised to him (Josh. 15:13-17)

Caleb was patient for 45 years, but when the moment came to act he did so with no hesitation and in total faith. His faith was a living, vital thing and his life and convictions were founded upon it. He waited for such a long time, but he did so actively by preparing himself and his family for the next stage. When they entered the Promised Land, he and his sons were not only ready to fight, but full of faith that God was on their side.

Caleb’s faith is an inspiration and I want a faith like Caleb’s.

It is a temptation, with matters of faith, to become passive.

  • Sometimes, we see what God says in faith and we fear that it might be too big for us to achieve. It can be tempting to withdraw or hide. Caleb understood that it was too big for him to achieve, and so trusted in God who was far bigger and more able.
  • At other times, we can become impatient with waiting for what God has promised to us and step forward too early. Caleb could have gone with the others, back into the promised land to try and take hold of it before God’s time (Number 14), but he trusted that when it was time God would tell him. He listened for the voice of God telling him to go.
  • We can become fed up with waiting and switch off, becoming overly familiar with what we have and coming to believe that it is all God has for us. Caleb never let go, even once, during his time in the wilderness. Even with his peers and friends’ deaths and the passing of the years, he showed awesome faithfulness to God’s word and patience with God’s timing.

Caleb teaches do much about faith. God’s word has its season and faith response to it. Faith should be in God’s word, in God’s time. Faith is never passive. Faith recognises the timing of God because it listens intently for the voice of God. Faith is eager to hear and even more eager to respond. Faith does not fear because in God there is nothing to fear.
Faith demands a response, but that response is not always the same for every situation. The key is to discern what God’s will is. Our faith response might be to wait, hold on, stand up, move, fight, or any number of other things. However, the key is to discern the will of God and move forward in faith.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)


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Caleb – Man of Faith

In the last blog I spent some time thinking about Caleb’s faith and God’s response to it. My thoughts there lead me on to a line of thought about Caleb that is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but is true by implication.

“Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord whole-heartedly” (Deut. 1:35-36)

Having believed the promise of God in regard to the Promised Land, as well as a further specific promise in regard to His own inheritance in the Promised Land, Caleb holds on for 40 years before he sees it become a reality.

Think about it.

Caleb is assured that he and Joshua would be the only men of fighting age to enter the Promised Land and see the inheritance that God had spoken of in Egypt. Every other man and women who had left Egypt as an adult would die in the wilderness. Apart from Caleb and Joshua, the only other people who would remember what it had been like to be slaves in Egypt, who would enter the Promised Land, would have been children at the time.

For 40 years, Caleb and Joshua wondered in the wilderness with the tribes (about a million people) waiting for God to speak the word to send them back to take the land.

  • Let’s estimate that there were 600000 adult men and women at the time when the spies entering the Promised Land.
  • There are 14610 days in 40 years (including leap years).
  • This means that for 40 years an average of 41 people died every day.

Everyday, Caleb and Joshua watched men and women who were their peers, as well as those who were those older than them, die in the wilderness. Every day that passed meant that Caleb and Joshua become more and more set apart.

  • Caleb was 40 years old when he was sent to spy on the land of Canaan and we can assume that Joshua was of a similar age.
  • The age of adulthood for a Jewish male is 12 years old.
  • This means that, by the time Caleb reached the Promised Land for the second time, he was 80 years old and the next oldest man other than Joshua would have been 52 years old.

Caleb’s faith in the word of God is awe-inspiring. With each death and each passing day, it must have seemed more and more unlikely that he would see the fulfillment of the promise of God. Yet, he held on for 40 years (14610 days). He continued to believe, even though it must have seemed as if nothing was happening. Caleb was a man of faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1)

How often do we get impatient with God? He promises so much and we believe Him, but for how long? If God’s word has not become a reality after 6 months, what do we do? What about after 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? At what point do we throw our hands in the air and shout, “It wasn’t true!!” and move on? What about after 39 years? If we were holding on to the promise of God for 39 years without seeing it becoming a reality, would we keep going?

This is a very serious point. How steadfast is our faith in the word and promise of God?

Let me illustrate from my own situation in the hope that it might be helpful.

3½ years ago I heard the clear call of God to step out of church leadership for a time. At the same time God promised that I would return to church leadership in the future and see amazing things happen by the Spirit’s power to God’s glory. 3½ years ago… and it still hasn’t happened. 3½ years later I am still in the same position. What now? Was the word wrong? Have I missed it? Do I need to do something to make it happen?

The core issue is the steadfastness of my faith.

I firmly believe that, when the right time arrives, God will speak clearly and simply and things will change. That, unless I hear the voice of God, I simply have to hold on and keep going. Until that time, I must be patient and listen intently for the word of God. I must learn to use this time in the wilderness to grow and learn and listen whilst I mature as a disciple of Jesus.

It is really hard. Really hard. There is nothing I want more than to be living in the Promised Land. I am impatient to see things happen and bored of the endless sand and manna and quail of the wilderness. Yet until God say “NOW!” I simply have to walk the path in the wilderness he sets before me.

What about you? What has God said? How long can you hold on?

Let me encourage you. In the end, Caleb received what had been promised to him. God responded to his faith and he received everything that he had been promised.

In the end, whether I receive what I hold to be a promise of God or not is irrelevant. All that matters is that God is God, His love endures forever, and the ONLY place that is worth being in is the place where God wants me. Right now, I am wondering in the wilderness and I have no idea when I will cross over into the Promised Land. But God is in the wilderness. The tent of meeting is always here and I can go in any time I like. The other stuff is just not as important as being close to God.

I want to be like Caleb.


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Caleb – Man convinced

Some thoughts on Caleb following my recent morning studies at home. It will probably take 3 blogs… but I will keep going until they are finished as I believe there is some great stuff to be learned here.

“The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders… from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh” (Num. 13:1-2 and 6).

Here’s what we know about Caleb at the point he appears in the Bible narrative.

  • He is about 40 years old, which means he was a slave in Egypt and has witnessed the whole Exodus.
  • He comes from the tribe of Judah, which will later produce David and Jesus.
  • He is a respected and trusted leader in his family tribe.

Caleb is chosen, with 11 other men who are leaders from the 11 other tribes of Israel (among whom is Joshua, son Nun, who becomes leader after the death of Moses 40 years later), to spy out the promised land. The people of Israel have walked pretty much directly from Egypt to Canaan at this point (although with well over a million people, it has taken some time).

Canaan is a land described as ‘flowing with milk and honey’ and God’s plan is clearly that the people of the Exodus will go in directly to take possession of the land that God has promised to them. The only delay being for a quick scout around.

When the spies return with a massive bunch of grapes about 40 days later, they declare that the land is indeed rich and flowing with milk and honey (Num. 13:27). But they also point out that there are powerful people living in Canaan already, in cities with high walls.

This report means that fear starts to grip the people, so Caleb stands up;

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land for we can certainly do it” (Num. 13:30)

What is it that we act upon? Do we believe that the word of God is real and act upon it, or do we do as the people did?

The people of Israel stand on the brink of having their own homeland by the promise of God. Yet, when they find out that they are not going to be able to wander nonchalantly into Canaan and take up residence, they say; “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites” (Deut. 1:27).

I love Caleb, because he sees things entirely differently. His are words of faith, not fear. He too has seen the opposition that they face in moving into the land of God’s promise, but he chooses to believe only in God’s promise. He says, “God promised us, so lets go. We can certainly do it if God says we can”. Caleb believes God’s words and is willing to act upon them, even though the things that he sees suggest that the process might be harder than expected.

Let’s remember something. Nowhere does God promise the people that they will simply walk into a vacant land flowing with milk and honey. Rather, God tells them that they will be led to a rich land and that the land is theirs. He does not say that it will simply fall into their lap. Further, the results of the spy mission does simply lead to a conclusion that the task is impossible. Why would they believe that?

The God that these people are following has sent plagues on Egypt (the most powerful nation in the world at that time), parted the red sea, fed and watered the people in the middle of a desert, defeated enemies and given the people a faith and purpose. This is the God who stands with them on the edge of the Jordon having promised that the land is for them… and the people question whether he can give it to them?

Compare the words of Caleb above with the words of the 10 other spies.

“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Num. 13:33b)

These are words of fear. They define the feelings of the people and lead them away from God’s plan. “We fell small and our enemy looks big… we are stuffed.” These words assume that, because they see themselves as small, the enemy sees them as small. Despite the proof of God’s power and love over many months, the people choose to believe something else.

The words of Caleb are words of faith. He believes what God says and is convinced by the evidence of the power of God, that he has seen ever since Moses turned up in the brick pits of Egypt and told them that it was time to go. 40 year old Caleb has been there all along and, together with Joshua and Moses, he is the only person who believes that God can do what he has promised.

We need to have faith in the word of God, build ourselves up with testimony about God and act as if God’s word is true even when we do not understand it.

What follows is heartbreaking. The people of God ignore the men of God (Moses, Joshua and Caleb) and convince themselves that it will be impossible for them to take the land. They miss the opportunity to take hold of the wonderful promise of God because they fear.

This God, who is real, responds (perfectly understandably) in anger. “How can they not believe? Have they not seen what I have done for them?”

Moses asks God to forgive the people, and God does so, but He responds to their faith. Since the people believed that God would let them die, He did let them die in the Desert (Num. 14:28). He does not withdraw His promise of Canaan, but He delays it until the generation without faith has died and a new generation rises up. – Except for Caleb.

“Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord whole-heartedly” (Deut. 1:35-36)

God acts on the faith of the people, since their faith is failure and death, but he also acts on the faith of Caleb who believed that God is good for His word. Caleb believed with the same faith as Abraham, who left his home to go somewhere he was not sure was possible. Caleb trusted the word of God and was willing to go into a land that was occupied by strong people. Caleb was unsure how things might work out, but he was full of faith that they WOULD work out one way or another.

The BIG IDEA! – God responds to the faith of His people.

What is our faith in? How often is our faith defined by our fear rather than the Word of God? What do I believe? The inheritance of the people of God is that which they have faith for.

This is not a gospel of prosperity, since we do not define the actions of God by our faith. Rather, it is a gospel of faith. We receive from God that which He has promised, if we have faith for it. If we do not have faith for it, then we receive less than he promised. God always promises more than we can imagine or hope for (Eph. 3:20). If we are satisfied only by our own hope and imagination we will receive less that we are promised. Faith in God’s promises will always be a stretch because God’s promises are so much more than we can imagine.

I want conviction of faith like Caleb!


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Obviously Transformed

How is it that we can tell if a person is close to God?

In my recent times with the Bible reading about Moses, I have found myself drawn, time and again, to the passages where he and the people of Israel encounter God. It blows my mind to think that every day of their journey through the wilderness, these men and women were able to see and experience the presence of God.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:29-35)

In this passage, we see Moses returning from the presence of God with the second set of stone tablets with the words of the law. There are a few remarkable things that I would like to point out.

  • Moses’ face was radiant. This is not to say that he had a particularly effective skincare regime. Moses’ actual face shone with the actual radiance of God’s glory and presence. He was reflecting God’s presence in such a way that it showed.
  • People noticed. The leaders and the people were frightened to come near to Moses, because of the radiance of his face. They recognise in him something overwhelming of the holiness and presence of God. The reality of the glory of God that showed in Moses’ face struck fear into them.
  • The radiance in Moses’ face was the evidence that he had been speaking to God. This was a physical and obvious manifestation of God’s reality. Moses did not need to tell the people where he had been… it was clear and obvious. God’s glory was shining from Moses face. His words had authority because Moses was displaying God.
  • Moses had to cover his face so that the people could function. The veil was not for the benefit of Moses, but for the people. Those who were far from the presence of God were simply unable to cope with the proof and evidence of God’s presence. Had Moses not have covered his face, he never would have got anything done.
  • Moses uncovered his face to prove his words. Moses was shining with the presence of God whether people wanted to see it or not. It is the presence of God that is important, not what people want to see. But when Moses wanted to tell the people about God’s will he ensured that the proof of the effect of God’s presence was plain for all to see.

As I think and pray, it seems to me that it is VITAL that the people who speak to us about the word of God need to display the presence of God. If I am to speak God’s Word, I must display God’s presence.

I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to come into the presence of God and not be changed by it. Therefore, the evidence of time spent in the presence of God should be clear in the lives of the people of God. If we do not display the glory of God’s presence then we are not going into His presence. We need to get into God’s presence.

This has some uncomfortable implications for Christians and their leaders. Does our time in the presence of God show in us?

Two things seem clear to me…

  1. As a Christian, I need to get into the presence of God.
  2. I need to be willing to let God confront me and change me

Huge implications for the way in which we approach prayer, scripture, fellowship and worship.


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Jesus was overwhelmed

As I spent time meditating on the Bible this morning (25th June), I was struck by a verse in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus, about to be arrested and crucified, goes to Gethsemane to pray. When he arrives he turns to the closest of his disciples and speaks these words.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matt 26:38)

This statement and request are so rich and poignant.

In the darkness that precedes the whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth, his death on the cross, he feels overwhelmed by the prospect and cost of what is to come and he shares it with his closest disciples.

Jesus displays such vulnerability. It is not a weakness to be honest and his confession of such sorrow and darkness does not disqualify him from what is to come. Ultimately, his disciples cannot share his burden or his task, but they can watch with him and Jesus tells them that he needs them to do so.

Jesus is so honest. In his darkest time, Jesus does not push people away or hide his feelings and pain. He tells them what is going on and asks them to be with him in prayer. Time and again, Jesus told his disciples to imitate what he did. I find this quite a profound implication as a leader and as a disciple.

There is an honesty that is breathtaking about the way Jesus speaks out his situation to his disciples. There is also a deep security that is evident in him. That Jesus feels able to share such a dark feeling without fear of the perception of others.

We do Peter, James and John a disservice if we simply move quickly on to the fact that in the next hour they fell asleep. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (v 41) . I think that Jesus’ friends will have seen the depth of his pain and sorrow in his eyes and movements, as well as hearing it in his voice. They would have been deeply concerned that their master was so close to breaking point and full of sorrow. Yet all they could do was watch with him.

Praise God for the people who simply make themselves available to watch with us during times of great sorrow and stress. Those who we are aware will simply be next to us. A presence of comfort and a gift of loving friendship.

How many of us know friends who are going through a wilderness time? All we can do is listen and pray. It seems like so little, but it is as much as we can do. Someone once said that prayer is the least and most that we can do.

This verse has profound implications for me and, I think, for others. As a leader, I find that to witness Jesus’ vulnerability and honesty is humbling. As a disciple, seeking to follow my master, I find the depth of Jesus security in His Father and faith in the midst of darkness a simple inspiration. As a friend to others, I see the need for others, to simply watch with those who are at their most vulnerable and pray, unable to do any more. It is a profound encouragement to show love by simply drawing alongside and being present in Gethsemane.

  • If you are going through a dark time, share it with honesty and openness with someone you trust and pray together.
  • If you know of someone who is ‘overwhelmed’ with what they are facing, watch with them and love them.