“It is one’s attitude at the beginning of a difficult undertaking which, more than anything else, will determine its successful outcome” wrote William James, often called “the father of modern psychology.”
Today’s Bible reading, Numbers 12-14, is a great illustration of that fact. It describes a familiar Bible narrative when Israel stood on the brink of inheriting the land of Canaan. Moses sent out 12 men to spy out the land and their report resulted in death and disaster for Israel.
By the way, do you know how many men of war died during the wilderness wanderings? (I’ll give you the answer at the end of this post).
It’s important to note from Numbers 13 that Moses chose the best of the best from every tribe of Israel. They were called the “heads.” “The chief among them.” “Leaders of the Israelites.” You know their names, right?
Shammua. Shaphat. Igal. Palti. Gaddiel. Gaddi. Ammiel. Sethur. Nahbi. Geuel.
No, I would guess no one knew the names of these 10 men. But every child who has attended Bible classes knows the names of the other two–Caleb and Joshua.
Because they possessed a different attitude. Their outlook on the 40 days of Cannan’s surveillance was in stark contrast to the other 10 spies, who brought back a “bad report.” One version rendered it “an evil report.”
Even though they admitted the land “flowed with milk and honey” and even brought its fruit, they didn’t believe they could conquer Canaan.
Note the difference in attitude.
The 10 said, “The people are strong.” Caleb and Joshua replied, “Don’t fear the people.”
The 10 observed, “The cities are walled.” Caleb and Joshua countered, “Their defense is departed from them.”
The 10 trembled, “We saw giants.” Caleb and Joshua assured, “They are bread for us.”
The 10 worried, “They are stronger than we.” Caleb and Joshua reminded, “The Lord is with us.”
The 10 felt, “The land devours its inhabitants.” Caleb and Joshua insisted, “The Lord will give us the land.”
The 10 conceded, “We are not able.” Caleb and Joshua defended, “We are well able.”
Finally, the 10 spies dejectedly viewed themselves as mere grasshoppers in the sight of the Canaanites. On the other hand Caleb and Joshua saw God’s favor, blessing and delight in this endeavor.
The 10 spies were self-effacing. Ungrateful. Rebellious. Fearful. And doubted God’s guidance, protection and deliverance.
In contrast, Caleb and Joshua were confident. Thankful. Obedient. Courageous. And faithfully trusted God’s providential care and His promises.
Unfortunately the negative report prevailed. The attitude of the 10 spies permeated the entire congregation. They cried and complained. They saw themselves as victims. And were ready to elect a new leader and return to Egypt. As a result, God punished Israel. So they were confined to wander in the wilderness another 38 years.
“Attitude is the little thing that makes a big difference,” opined the great British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. It was true in ancient Israel. It’s true today.
We need leaders in our homes that fear God. Who will bring up their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).
We need older women who will teach the younger women what it means to truly be a Christian wife and mother (Titus 2:3-4).
We need older men to exhort younger men to be God’s man and learn to lead (Titus 2:6-8).
We need Christian teachers who are faithful and able to train others to be teachers of God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:2).
We need preachers who will “preach the Word,” whether folks like it or not. And who will not shun to “declare the whole counsel of God (2 Tim. 4:1-2; Ax 20:27)
We need pastors who will Shepherd the flock of God. Tend to spiritual matters. And cast a vision that will lead God’s people to greener pastures and more fruitful fields.
In short, we need more men and women with the attitude of Caleb and Joshua, whose actions ultimately brought them to the promised land.
As we live in uncertain times with negative forces trying to distract our focus, let us never forget the Lord is on our side. And we are well able to overcome.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
BTW, the answer? 603,548 men of war died in the wilderness (Num. 1:46; 13:29-30). They are legacy of the 10 negative spies.