The Faithful Few
Joshua is mentioned in Numbers 13:8 where the Bible tells us he was chosen to represent the tribe of Ephraim as one of the 12 spies who were sent to investigate the land of Canaan. The name given to him in Numbers 13 is Oshea, a name that means salvation. Moses changed his name to Jehoshua (Numbers 13:16) which means “Jehovah is salvation,” or “by whom Jehovah will save.” In this change of name, God was saying, “Here is a young man by whom I'm going to save Israel.” This change was made only two years after the people of Israel came out of Egypt. God honoured Joshua’s faithfulness, by the change of his name, signified what his future position would be. This is a principle found illustrated in the New Testament also. Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter. Simon means “hearing” but this Peter means “a piece of rock.” Saul, who became the apostle, had his name changed to Paul. Saul means “the great one,” but the Lord gave him the name Paul meaning “the little one.”
Joshua represented Ephraim among the 12 spies. The first report, the one from the 10 spies, was discouraging due to their unbelief. They admitted that the land was wonderful, that it flowed with milk and honey just as God said it did. But they also declared that the people of the country were strong, the city was walled and the children of Anak were giants in the land. The 10 spies said they were like grasshoppers when compared to these large men.
The majority report had much to say about the difficulties but nothing about the power of God. The 10 said the land could not possibly be conquered by Israel. No wonder it was called “an evil report.”
The Israelites had sung a great song of triumph recorded in Exodus 15 after their deliverance from the Red Sea. All of the nation had sung it but apparently the 10 spies had forgotten it. Joshua and Caleb had not. They remembered what God had done to deliver Israel from Egypt and from the Egyptian army and were confident that under his leadership Canaan would be theirs. When they heard how the Israelites were delivered and protected by God, the people of Canaan became afraid. This was not known until many years later when Joshua sent spies into the city of Jericho. Caleb and Joshua did not need to know before in order to be strong in faith. They believed God.
We must ever remember that Satan, our greatest spiritual foe, has been overcome by Jesus Christ our Saviour. We learn in Hebrews 2:14-15 that Christ in His death broke the power of Satan so that those that had been enslaved by him might go free from spiritual bondage. This is a foundational truth to keep in mind if we are going to enjoy that deliverance in our everyday experience.
The strong spiritual caliber of Joshua and Caleb stands out in the words of their report. Even though they were in the minority against a militant majority, they nevertheless said: “only rebel not against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not” (Numbers 14:9). How graphically they express the ease of the victory over their foes. The Israelites will overcome the Canaanites as easily as a person eats bread.
How could this be? The reason is not hard to find. The battle would not be this Israelites’ but God’s. This is the secret of victory in our own Christian lives. The battle against the forces of evil is not necessarily a hard battle at all. We sometimes think so, even considering the Christian life itself to be a hard life. The problem with us is that we try to do in our own strength what God has promised to do for us. The Lord Jesus has already overcome the enemy so that our responsibility is simply to believe and trust.
Joshua and Caleb took their lives in their own hands when they admonished their fellow spies and the people to be courageous and believe God. This is often true of the person who believes God’s Word. There are always those who will rebuke and despise us if we take our stand for God. The people turned on Joshua and Caleb and wanted to stone them. Yet these two courageous servants of God were not abandoned. God intervened on their behalf. Whenever a man dares to stand on the Word of God, he will find that God takes his part. The promise of the Word is: “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” The account of the incident is found in Numbers 14:10-12. “But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.” Because of Moses’ intercession at this time, Israel was not destroyed. At the same time, Joshua and Caleb were protected.
What are the consequences of unbelief? The older generation that had come out of Egypt continued to murmur against Moses and Aaron. They stated that they would rather have died in Egypt or in the wilderness than to have been brought to where they would fall by the sword and their children would be a prey to enemies in the desert.
God said the whole nation would wander in the wilderness for 40 years, a year for each day in which the spies searched the land. During that time the older generation would die because they refused to believe Almighty God. The complete story is found in verses 36-38.
What we are reading in this passage is an illustration of what the Lord is teaching us in Hebrews 6:4-6. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
The subject in this portion is not salvation. The Lord is speaking about salespeople who will not follow through and go on with Him in the Christian life. The Israelites who had seen God’s glory and His miracles in Egypt and in the wilderness, tempted God and refused to listen to Him, were not allowed to enter Canaan. They have been enlightened. They had tasted of the good things. They have been made partakers. They came through the Red Sea and saw the power of the Holy Spirit, who led them by a cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. When such deliberately refused to go on with the Lord, they could not make progress in the Christian experience. Their only place is in the desert till they die.
Joshua and Caleb were the only two adults who crossed the Red Sea and who were allowed to enter the promised land. And the reason they were permitted to enter Canaan was that they believed God. We, like them, need to learn how to trust God for everything and anything.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.