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Numbers 13,14 and Joshua 14:6-15

Preached by Ken Sapp @KPRBC
Sept 20, 1999


A little boy was afraid of the dark. One night his mother told him to go out to the back porch and bring her the broom. The little boy turned to his mother and said, “Mama, I don’t want to go out there. It’s dark.” The mother smiled reassuringly at her son. “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark,” she explained. “Jesus is out there. He’ll look after you and protect you.” The little boy looked at his mother real hard and asked, “Are you sure he’s out there?” “Yes, I’m sure. He is everywhere, and he is always ready to help you when you need him,” she said. The little boy thought about that for a minute and then went to the back door and cracked it a little. Peering out into the darkness, he called, “Jesus? If you’re out there, would you please hand me the broom?”

It wasn’t the dark that terrified the spies who entered the Promised Land. It was Giants – giants in walled cities. We all know that twelve spies were sent into Canaan to spy out the land. Can you name the twelve? Most people can name Joshua and Caleb, but the remaining ten are forgotten. Eventually, God raises Joshua and Caleb to become the real giants in the land. By faith they stood on the promises of God. Their faith was bigger than the giants. And God was bigger than their faith.

Someone has said it’s not the size of your faith that makes the difference, but the size of God that we put our faith in.

Jesus said if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains. And as we look at the story of Caleb today, we will see him asking in faith “GIVE ME THE MOUNTAIN” In your life of faith you too face giants, walled fortresses, and discouragement. As we look at the life of Caleb we discover what mustard seed faith does in such circumstances. And it is my hope that you might respond like Caleb “Give me the Mountain.”


We first read of Caleb in Numbers chapters 13-14. We read that the people of Israel are encamped at Kadesh Barnea, an oasis in the Negev desert south of the Promised Land. It has been only a year or so since they have come out of Egypt. The people have seen many miracles in that time:
— the Red Sea opening,
— water from the rock,
— daily manna and quail.
— A pillar of smoke by day and fire by night
— They’ve fought the Amalakite raiders and won.
— Moses has received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and destroyed the golden calf.
— They’ve built the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant.

And having their faith built through these events and many more in their journey, the time has now arrived for them to enter the Promised Land. And Caleb is one of those chosen to enter it ahead of the 2 million Israelites.

Comparison to our situation

Like the Isrealites, are on a journey; we are not at the end of our destination. God has not brought us to where we are without reason. As the Isrealites were to lay claim to the promised land, God has laid it on our heart to go and claim the land around us for him – to reach out into the community, and the world in which we live. We’ve seen the faithfulness of God. His faithfulness has proved sufficient beyond measure. The test of our faith is to enter the land we have claimed for God.

Today as we look at the life of Caleb, we’ll look at three tests of your faith:

  1. Faith focuses on the possibilities, the potential, not the problems
  2. Faith relies on God’s abilities, not our own abilities
  3. Faith is not content with the minimum, the past of least resistance, but asks for the mountain!

TEST 1: Faith focuses on Possibilities- on Potential, not the Problems

We read in Numbers 13:2 “The Lord gave Moses this directive: “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” Caleb is one of those leaders – the recognized leader of the tribe of Judah, largest of the 12 tribes. He is about 40 years old. One Bible scholar suggests his name means ‘all heart.’ And he sets out on the mission with the other 11 leaders, one from each tribe.

They are on a mission to explore Canaan, the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey. A Jewish Rabbi (Meir Leibush Malbim – 1809-1879) says the Hebrew language has two words for spying. One (latour) means to seek good and has the same root as the modern Hebrew word for “Tourist” (tayyar). Tourists look for good things to enjoy wherever they go. Singaporeans love to be tourists. But the other word for spy (leragel) means to look for weaknesses.

Later in Joshua 2, the second Hebrew word for spy – “seeking out weaknesses” is used, when Joshua prepares to invade Canaan after Moses’ death. Two spies are sent out, who stay with Rahab the prostitute as they seek out weaknesses in preparation for conquest.

But that is not the task of the 12. They are not there to spy out the problems. They are to first examine the potential, the possibilities, the abundance the land has to offer. God commands Moses to appoint a team to spy out the good — to examine the resources of this land. They are to give a general report on what cities are available to be taken, what land is available and how fertile, and what people inhabit it. Since they will be dividing up the land between the 12 tribes, it is important that representatives from all the tribes be in on this initial tour of the land. God wanted these leaders to come back and ignite the hearts of the 12 tribes with delight as they reported the riches and the magnificence of the promised land. God wanted to use these leaders to encouraged the people to take possession of the promised land.

And so Caleb and eleven of his peers are sent to assess the potential of Canaan. They go north along the ridge of mountains that provide the backbone of the country, through Hebron in the south all the way to Rehob at the north end of the land. Perhaps they are posing as traders, we don’t know, but along the way they observe carefully what they see: the nature of the cities and villages, the produce of the land and its potential.

And the land does have great potential. When the spies return, they carry a huge cluster of grapes so huge it took two men to carry it– the fruit of the land — on a pole between them. In the desert they’d probably never seen grapes. In their wildest imagination they hadn’t conceived of grapes like these.

Let’s read what they said. Look at Numbers 13: verses 27-29, “They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. (and I am sure they held up the cluster of grapes for all to see) But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea along the Jordan.”

Wait a second. They forgot their mission. Their mission was to report on the possibilities, the potential – not the problems. Their report is like one of those good news bad news jokes. The good news is the land does flow with milk and honey. The bad news is Mike Tyson already lives there. The Giants- the Anak are all over, the Amalekites own the Negev, the hill country is occupied by three separate peoples and the Canaanites control the coastal region. Its an impossible mission.

Their report started out great but then they lost their focus. When it comes to matters of faith, too often we shift our focus and lose sight of God. Remember when Peter tried walking on the water? At first, when he kept his eyes on Jesus, he was fine (showing off and smiling). But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink. When Peter shifted his focus from Jesus to the wind, then fear melted his heart– and he sank. That’s what happened to these ten spies. They shifted their focus. They took their eyes off of God and fixed their eyes on the Giants occupying the land.

Once when Martin Luther was feeling depressed, his wife asked if he’d heard God had died. Luther replied angrily that she was blaspheming. She retorted that if God had indeed not died what right had he to be without hope! But this is the same thing that happened with the Isrealites…

As the ten spies continue to report their fear increases and their faith decreases. You can almost see their faith shrinking as they speak in verse 31-33: “We can’t attack these people; they are stronger than we are.’ They said, the land we explored devours those living in it. (Now they think the land will devour them.) And then they concluded in the first part of verse 33,”We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Grasshoppers! God’s chosen people see themselves as Grasshoppers.

When things looked tough it was not faith that prevailed, but fear. They became pessimists, pointing out the problems, instead of having faith and looking at the possibilities, the potential. Those with faith challenge and motivate and point to the possibilities, but those who have no faith criticize and focus on the problems. When it comes to the Christian life, Giants and grasshoppers are not determined by genes, but by faith. And this test of Giants exposed the Grasshopper hearts of the spies. When it came time to enter and conquer their neighborhood, they stopped in fear. When it came time to live their faith, they fled. Faith that cannot confront the Giants is not faith. Ten of the twelve spies became grasshoppers and thus useless in the midst of God’s people. In fact, they became worse than useless.

In the Bible grasshoppers are associated with destruction. Grasshoppers and Locusts are the same thing. Locusts or Grasshoppers destroy the crops that the farmer has worked so hard to grow. The bad report given by these ten ravaged the faith of the entire nation of Israel in the same way that locusts ravage crops. Moses worked so hard to cultivate the faith of this nation like a farmer works his field. Now, one bad report from Grasshoppers would destroy an entire generation.

TEST 1 APPLIED: Do you want to evaluate YOUR faith?

Ask yourself this question: Are you more likely to point out the possibilities or the problems? Are you more likely to get excited or discouraged? Are you more likely to motivate others or discourage? Are you more likely to challenge or criticize? Are you more likely to be hopeful or pessimistic? Possibilities or Problems?

Don’t get me wrong. There is a time to examine the problems, to determine the obstacles. As a matter of fact, as already mentioned, Joshua later sent spies to the land to spy out the weaknesses, but the first step is one of faith – one of faith in God’s Provision. Our actions are not to be determined by the problems, but by faith that God will provide. Go back and read Numbers 13:2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.” God promised the land to them. God would provide the land. He would give it to them. Your first question is not what are the problems, but what has God promised. What has God provided. You want to evaluate your faith – examine your focus! Are you a grasshopper or does your faith in God’s provision and promises make the giants in your life and this church grasshoppers?

SIDENOTE: Dealing with Problems in Faith

I am not saying that when their are problems that you don’t discuss them. When it does come time to deal with the problems, its not to determine whether we are going to do something or not, but to strategize on HOW we are going to do it. I have never been in a church that doesn’t have its problems. I have never met a person who doesn’t have his / her problems, myself included. But we need to be careful how we handle problems. We need to handle them with faith. For the Isrealites, I would say that giants in the land are a legitimate concern. But their focus became a magnification of the problem instead of searching for a solution. These ten should have pulled Moses off to the side and said look, we have to talk. But instead their unbelief and bad report was devastating.

Look at the first couple of verses of Numbers 14.
[1] That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. [2] All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! [3] Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” [4] And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

The pessimism of the ten men, their lack of faith was devastating. Imagine the scene. We read in (Numbers 1:46) that a census taken at Sinai several weeks earlier that recorded that the number of men over 20 years of age able to fight was 603,550. Add the women and those under 20 years of age and you are looking at close to 2 million people. By nightfall their report has spread throughout the people, and with it the infectious fear of spies. “That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud” (Numbers 14:1). Women were sobbing that their husbands would be killed in battle and their children left fatherless. Across the camp that night you could hear the sound of weeping and anguish. By the next morning everyone was grumbling against Moses and ready to go back to slavery. They were ready to give up.

Application: If it comes to a point in your life when your lack of faith has you focusing on problems instead of the provider; if you are having that grasshopper mentality, you might best keep it to yourself and among leadership until you are willing to focus on God’s provision and God’s promises. You may do inestimable damage to the people of God because you’ve lost your faith. As a result of your grasshopper mentality, you may doom the rest of God’s people to wander in a spiritual desert for next 40 years!

TEST 2: Faith relies on God’s Abilities

Not only does faith focus on the possibilities instead of the problems, but Faith focuses on God’s abilities and not our own! Ten of the spies measured the giants against themselves: we can’t do it, they said. They are stronger than we are. We’re like grasshoppers compared to them. But in the midst of this fear and unbelief, pessimism, two men stood firm in faith and hope — Caleb and Joshua. When the 10 spies were sharing their tale of terror, the scripture reports, “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” (13:30).

Caleb measured the giants, not against themselves, but against God.

To a great God those giants were very puny. The next day, Caleb and Joshua try to sway the gathered Israelite crowds with their faith: “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them'” (14:7-9).

Notice the positive attitude – look at the hope, the faith. Caleb at this point was a man in his prime, aged forty-five. ‘Yeah, we can do it! Let’s go! The Lord is with us – that’s all that matters!’ Notice the explicit mention of the LORD in their words. The 10 spies don’t even mention the LORD, only what they have seen that terrifies them. Joshua and Caleb have seen the same giants and the same heavily fortified cities, but they are not comparing themselves to the task, but God! They see the LORD enabling them to conquer these people.

There are walls and giants we must overcome but there are milk and honey too. If we measure ourselves to the task we will always fall short. But if we measure God to the task we will never be disappointed. Faith focus on God’s Abilities, not our own.

Test #2 Applied

Ask yourself these questions: When I am asked to serve God in a task, do I compare myself to the task before accepting it or do I compare God to the task? When you are asked to serve in the church council, in Sunday School, in training, in the youth ministry, and the multitude of other needs we have as a church in reaching our goals, do you make your decision by looking at your own abilities or at Gods? Do you evaluate what you are capable or what God is capable of? The question should never be “CAN I DO IT?” but “Am I willing to let GOD DO IT through me?”

TEST #3 – Faith Asks for the Mountain
(i.e. faith doesn’t take the path of least resistance – the easy way out)

Look what God says about Caleb in Numbers 14:24, “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” (14:24, cf. 30). We see a similar quotation in Deuteronomy, where Moses recounts for the children of these rebels what God has said: “… 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 wholeheartedly” (Deuteronomy 1:36)

Caleb followed the LORD “wholeheartedly” (NIV) or “wholly” or “fully” (KJV). What a testimony! So often we follow the Lord when it suits us, but when things get tough and we must lean on faith rather than sight we balk. Fear sets in, and we follow our fears instead of our faith. That’s what I like about Caleb: he looks at life as what Robert Schuller terms a “possibility thinker,” one who sees himself walking into the future, not alone but leaning on the strong arm of his God.

Lets jump to Joshua 14:6-15. This is scene 2 of Caleb’s life. After being forced to wonder 40 years in the desert because of a lack of faith of the others, Caleb could have been VERY discouraged. Yet here there was no hint that he was discouraged. Instead he seems ambitious for God! He could have thrown up his hands in angry despair and adopted a ‘What’s the use, with this mob?’ or ‘I told you so’ attitude. He could have sulked and let his anger and frustration at the situation simmer. He could have said, “You got yourselves into this mess, you can get yourselves out.” We see no frustration in Caleb though he had every reason to be upset. Now 45 years later at the age of 85, his faith burns as brightly as ever. When others of his age would have retired years before and been taking life easy ever since, Caleb had no such thoughts. He remained active in the service of the Lord. The Lord had remained faithful to Caleb and Caleb had remained faithful to the Lord. Caleb’s attitude was not one of despair. Nor was it one of frustration or anger. His was an attitude of ambition for God.

Each of us gets disappointed in other people from time to time: they don’t live up to our expectations. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers – but he didn’t give up. Paul, writing with a sad heart told how one of his friends had forsaken him to follow the world. However Paul didn’t cease preaching the gospel because Demas did.

The land is to be divided among the 12 tribes. But before the land west of the Jordan is distributed by lot, Caleb stakes his own claim, based on the promise made to him by Moses: Look at verse 9 – “The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.” (14:9)

Joshua blesses Caleb and gives him Hebron as his inheritance (14:13). Apparently, the grant involved the whole hill country surrounding Hebron. Interestingly, when the lot was cast for Caleb’s tribe Judah (15:1), the tribal land assigned by lot providentially included the portion already given to Caleb. But lets look a little closer at his request!

Caleb’s faith is showing in vss. 10-12. From one perspective he might seem to be bragging, but look closer

  1. “Just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years … so here I am today, eighty-five years old!” (10a).
  2. “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” (11).
  3. “Now give me this hill country (NIV; KJV “mountain”) that the LORD promised me that day” (12a).
  4. “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” (12b).

Notice that in three out of the four statements in this section, he mentions the name of Yahweh. “The LORD promised… The LORD promised… the LORD helping me.” Here is a man who has learned to trust in the promises of God and stake his whole future on them. He knows what it is like to have the LORD help him, and he is trusting that the LORD will continue to do so.

“Give Me This Mountain” (14:12)

When Israel finally came into the Promised Land, Caleb – as a reward for his faith – was allowed to pick out any section of the land for himself and his family forever. Do you know what section he asked for? He asked for Hebron. Why Hebron? Of all Palestine that could have been his for the asking, why did he pick Hebron? I think he wanted Hebron because there were the Anakite giants that had so terrified his fellow scouts 40 years ago. It was the most hilly part in the area, infested by giants. Israel’s enemies were strongest here – the most difficult part of the whole Promised Land to subdue.

But Caleb at age 85 said ‘give me that.’ You say there’s a problem… let God use me to handle it! “We looked like grasshoppers in their eyes,” they whimpered. “Bring them on,” says Caleb. “They’re no match for the LORD!” Forty-five years before he had counseled, “Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us” (Numbers 14:9). The giants represent the enemies of Conquest, and Caleb is ready for them. He didn’t ask for the easy job.

This man of faith knew that with God nothing is impossible – if it is done out of faith. There’s a saying that a person of vision and faith does the most difficult thing now and leaves the impossible until later. That was Caleb. Caleb refused to be discouraged, but took up the most difficult task to be used in what God had promised to do.

Test #3 Applied

Ask yourself these questions: Am I content to do the minimum in my service to God? Am I content to sit back and watch others work? Am I looking for the easy way out in my Christian service? Or am I asking God to give me his toughest! Give me the mountain! God USE me! Here I am.. I’m ready…

Caleb’s faith was mustard seed faith to move mountains. When it came time to be a leader he said – Give me the mountain.

In the upcoming months before the new year your faith also will be tested. People are going to ask you to do things that may terrify you. And you’ll either respond as a grasshopper or a Caleb. You may be asked to teach Sunday School, to help out in worship services, to help with Children’s worship, and many other tasks.

When those times come Remember the three tests of your faith?

  • Will you focus on the problems, or the possibilities?
  • Will you focus on your abilities or God’s Abilities?
  • Will you ask for the mountain or flee in fear?

There will be giants! And unfortunately, some around you will be grasshoppers. But how desperately we need more Calebs with faith to lead our church to claim the lost for God. When you are called to act – to serve – will you be a grasshopper or a Caleb? Caleb’s eulogy (Joshua 14:14): he ‘faithfully obeyed the Lord’ (GNB); he ‘wholeheartedly followed the Lord’ (NRSV); or as the Jerusalem Bible translates it he ‘scrupulously obeyed the Lord’. I wonder if they’ll say that about me, about you? Mustard seed faith means looking to the possibilities, relying on his abilities, and asking for the mountain?

Grasshopper or Caleb – The choice is Yours!

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