Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jepunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Numbers 14:30 (NASB)
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. A day of love for sure but also a Sunday. On Saturday my friend phoned and asked if I was up to subbing for her Sunday School class. We team teach the very small (I’m talking 5 at the most) class of elementary students. Recovery from knee replacement on its 9th week I was ready to jump back in the saddle. The lesson would be about Moses sending in the 12 spies to spy out the promised land. Oh, I knew that story in my sleep!
The Old Testament is fascinating. I greeted my one student and set her on a path to use my scripture coloring book with special pastel pencils while I told the story directly from the Bible. The story goes this way: God told Moses to send in one spy from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to take a good look of what He had promised them and come back and report to the people. He told them to see what people they were up against, what the land was like, the cities, the crops and to make an effort to bring back some fruit. They found the grapes so large and lovely they had to put the clusters on poles carried by two men!
Those were some huge heavy grape clusters. When they got back 10 of the spies gave a bad report and 2 gave a good report. The 10 said the people were giants, the cities too fortified, they would all surely die. The other 2 spies said that God carried them this far and would not let them down. They wanted to go in and take their promised land for heaven’s sake! The people sided with the majority, God’s anger burned against them and the consequences were dire except for the two men who gave the good report: Joshua and Caleb. Those two men and their families would be allowed to enter the promised land flowing with milk and honey as God had promised but thay would have to wait out the 40 years of wandering like all of the rest. Seems unfair but God’s ways are not our ways. The original Israelites who grumbled would die in the desert but their children under age 20 would enter. After 40 years of going in circles those kids would be in their 60’s but God would lead them in to the Land. As for the 10 who gave the bad report, they got a plague and died on the spot.
I am merrily reading along, my charge is coloring a beautiful Bible verse and I get to the section with all of the names. Sheesh! Biblical names are hard to pronounce. Why couldn’t they be Johnny or Roger or Charlie? When I was on the church staff we met weekly. First order of business was to read the Bible. We each read 10 verses as we made our way through the Old Testament. I have to say I really enjoyed that part but it seemed the pastor always planned it so that when a large portion of names came up it was my turn to read! I suggested we skip over the names but he said “if God saw fit to put those names in scripture it is our responsibility to read them.” I think I noticed him winking at his wife, our church office manager, to just get me going. I read the names butchering them as I went but I read them!
Starting in Numbers 13:4 we have names like Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, Geuel and, of course, Joshua and Caleb. Then it dawned on me. I have heard this story preached, seen it flannel boarded, taught it many times and never saw this. THAT is why I love God’s word so much. One never stops learning even if the story is second nature. The names! I asked my little artist if she had ever heard of the names of the 10 spies who gave a bad report? Did she have a Shammua in her class? She said “nope, but I’ve heard of Shamu at Sea World.”
I then asked her if she knew a Caleb or a Joshua and we proceeded to name several. There it was! God not only preserved these two obedient Israelites but He preserved their names for eternity. If you look at lists of popular boy names you will always find Joshua and Caleb. You will be hard pressed to find Palti or Shaphat. I had never even seen that part of God’s faithfulness to these two precious men in all of the times I read or studied that story. When we are obedient even when everyone is against us and we may have to pay some fall out ripple consequences not of our doing God will remember and bless. He wants our obedience my friends. Caleb and Joshua eventually entered that promised land and lived long productive lives. Their generations were blessed. They had to go through some trials to get there but those only made their resolve stronger. They believed God. Believe God today dear one. Believe Him for His promises for you. We read in 2 Corinthians 1:20 “For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are YES; wherefore also by Him our Amen (so be it) to the glory of God through us.” (NASB)
And next time you meet a Caleb or a Joshua you just might want to tell them of the great men whose name they carry.