We must base our actions with faith in the revealed words of God above the opinions of men.
Those who believe in the God of the Bible have a quality that is not evidenced among outsiders or pretenders to the faith. They possess an undaunted sense of surety about the words of God that leads to different conclusions than that of the general population of a community. This is what can cause friction among communities and congregations.
A good example of this can be exemplified by the group of Israelites that was selected to go spy out the land of Canaan prior to their moving into the land. The story is related that the land was viewed as being plentiful and productive, albeit currently inhabited by some of the most feared inhabitants: a people of extremely large stature known as the descendants of Anak. Because of this, the majority of the scouting group became fearful and therefore provided a negative report of the land, while Joshua and Caleb provided the positive aspects of the land relying on God’s help to overcome the current inhabitants.
Numbers 14:6-9 – Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite community: “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. “If Yahweh is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. “Only don’t rebel against Yahweh, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and Yahweh is with us. Don’t be afraid of them! “
This quickly divided the congregation of Israel into groups of those who wanted to return to Egypt and those who wanted to continue on into the land of Canaan. This caused God’s anger to be aroused at the unfaithful scouts who would not obey his commands to take the land, while Joshua and Caleb were spared for their faithfulness.
Numbers 14:22-24, 30, 37-38 – “none of the men who have seen my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested me these ten times and did not obey me, “will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers. None of those who have despised me will see it. “But since my servant Caleb has a different spirit and has remained loyal to me, I will bring him into the land where he has gone, and his descendants will inherit it. … “I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. … those men who spread the negative report about the land were struck down by Yahweh. Only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh remained alive of those men who went to scout out the land.
As dramatic as this event was, we find that it illustrates how God delineates between those who are truly faithful and obedient to him from those who only pay lip service to him until their own perceived notions or opinions clash with what God has revealed as his purpose. This was a principle that has always existed among God’s people, even up to New Testament times.
The apostle Paul dealt extensively with these types of issues. In his letter to the Corinthians, he had to spell out specifics on different cultural and doctrinal issues that were causing divisions within the congregation, yet he states the following:
1 Corinthians 11:18-19 – “For to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. Indeed, it is necessary that there be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be recognized among you.”
Interestingly, he said these factions were necessary as indicators of right and wrong practices within the congregation. Those of integrity within the congregation were doing everything they could to abide by the word of God while others tried to find loopholes in the doctrine and abuse their privileges based on their own opinions.
In the wilderness, Caleb and Joshua could see beyond the physical appearance of the giants of the land and believed that their “protection had been removed” (since God was commanding the Israelites to overcome them). Because of the wickedness of the land, Caleb and Joshua rightly believed the Canaanites had become exposed to the justice of God that was about to be meted out through the faithful Israelite armies. Joshua and Caleb were merely stating in faith what they knew would come to pass if only the people obeyed and took the land.
This same thing occurs to this very day, but we need to realize that factions can be, as the apostle Paul says, necessary to ensure that those who are doing what is approved become apparent from the rest. This is why it is so important that we have a holistic grasp of the entire Bible, not just a concentrated focus on a few parts. The wider our perspective on the whole of how God has worked and continues to work among his people provides us a wide and firm foundation to draw conclusions for our daily practices.
This is the integrity that people of faith can demonstrate when faced with similar obstacles. Understanding and obeying the word of God from the heart brings the blessings of God, just as Caleb and Joshua received their inheritance while the others did not.
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