Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Devotional: 'Caleb's Land'

I learned about this plight of the Israelites in Sunday school while my mother reinforced the lesson at home. Growing up in Brazil my 4 siblings and I were given different chores around the house and because I was the early riser, I was asked to go to the bakery to buy bread for our family as well as my grandmother. The bakery was a block away but I didn’t have the best attitude when asked to buy bread. I must have complained at times because my mother lovingly reminded me that murmur and complaint didn’t lead the Israelites to anything good. In fact, they stayed in the dessert much longer than they needed because of their murmuring. Those biblical analogies really scared me or should I say, gave me a holy fear. The interesting thing about growing up and reading the Bible for yourself is that you find richer details that can help you with your daily life.

Numbers 13: 26-33
26 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.” 
30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” 
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants[d] (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

During the 11 years I’ve been in the States, I noticed that the younger generation is often referred to as the ‘Joshua’ generation. Caleb, as far as I noticed, doesn’t get as much play but his life and witness were as powerful I’d say. If we take the time to research his life we’ll find out that Caleb was one of the 2 spies who brought a good report from the promise land. 

“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.” Numbers 14:24

* Caleb had a peculiar spirit
How peculiar? Number one, he didn’t murmur. He saw the same thing as the other spies but chose to belong to the minority who saw potential in the land God was giving them. His vision was different than most. 

* Caleb followed God fully. This statement God made makes me realize that we can follow God but not fully. We have to remember that these were ‘church folk.’ They saw miracles, they saw the plagues, they saw the red sea being parted and when they were about to walk in the fullness of God, what was in their true hearts was revealed. Caleb did not murmured or belonged to the group who wanted to go back to Egypt after finding a new leader. He says in the book of Joshua that he spoke according to his convictions while the other spies made the hearts of the people melt with fear.

* I can take the liberty to say that Caleb had an advantage of being from the tribe of Judah. Remember that when Judah was born, his mother said ‘this time I will praise the Lord. I can say that praise was in Caleb’s DNA. 

* God called Caleb ‘my servant.’ Job, Moses, David were in this category given to a few in the Bible. I believe God called them ‘my servant’ because of their focused and perfect love for God.
 
* Caleb remembered and claimed God’s promisesJoshua 14:6-14 
6 Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, '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.' [a]
10 "Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 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. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. 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."
13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.

The story of Caleb is indeed very inspirational but sometimes we may find ourselves just bitter and negative as the other 10 spies were. Remember, these were all Israelite leaders and I assume they did love God but there was something in their character that made all the difference in this story and that was bitterness.

I have found myself in that situation as recently as last week. I found myself dealing with bitterness and you dare not bring up a scripture to me because that would make me even worse. We’re talking about church people who know God, who know the Scriptures but sometimes can just taste the bitterness of life. 

In my experience, bitterness is something that you cultivate. I consider myself to be a positive person most of the time but in some areas in my life, I cultivated bitterness. I invite you to look at your life and as the Holy Spirit to show you what are these areas where there’s bitterness. 

In my experience, bitterness can blind you. Usually you think you’re being realistic and you also spend a lot of time trying to prove you are correct so you are partially blind to the fact you are bitter. In order to escape that, God had to show me I was being bitter and at first I didn’t want to accept it. He may use people to show you and He will always speak through His word. I toiled and struggled with bitterness one night and when I woke up, I heard a still, small voice saying ‘bitterness will take you nowhere.’ Repenting from bitterness was the next step but we need to fill that space with something else. 

Bitter people are toxic. One of the sure ways to find out if you are being bitter is through your words. Bitter words can infect any atmosphere they encounter. The Bible talks about sweet words and the difference they can also make in an atmosphere: 

Proverbs 16:24: Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Ezekiel 3:3: Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

In my experience, bitterness came because I was not believing the promise of God. The same thing happened with the spies, they saw the land, they got fruit from it but they just had a bitter spirit about them. Caleb chose to persevere and this is what God wants you to do this afternoon: persevere. Persevere in that which God has called you to do. You may be the minority but you will be in the company of Caleb who spoke faith out of his convictions in God. Persevere. He went through the dessert and at the end of that wondering, he said ‘give me that land which God has promised me. I am a strong today as I was when Moses sent me to spy the land.’ Believe God’s promise and flourish. Persevere my brother and sister. 

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