Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.” (Numbers 14:38). Thirty-eight years had gone by since play had gone to spy out the land, but Joshua and Caleb’s faith was as strong as ever! Maybe even more so! All those years earlier, the people wanted to stone them after the speech they made. Now they were the leaders of the nation. God gave those positions to Joshua and Caleb because of their great faith.
By: Michael Anderson
When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them everything they would ever need. That included the most important thing they needed which was a personal relationship with Himself! He talked with them in person. He walked with them in person. He taught them in person. All they needed to do was exercise a little faith and trust His Word. Leave the tree alone!
After the fall, the choice to have faith or not to have faith is the question that faces every living soul throughout history. Abel had faith and God accepted his sacrifice, but his brother did not. “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain...” (Hebrews 11:4). We can see the lack of faith when Cain became angry with God and ultimately killed his own brother! Faith or a lack of faith is what divides people for the rest of time and that is true today. In Hebrews 11 it says, “By faith Noah…” (7) and “By faith Abraham...” (8). It was by faith that Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were all among those who belonged to the Lord! Faith is what separated these men from the rest!
It was about two years after Israel left Egypt that the spies were sent into the land to conduct a reconnaissance mission. When they returned and gave their reports, the people began to panic. It was not faith that motivated the people at this point! It was living by sight. In fact, it was even worse than that because it was living by the account of someone else's sight. They hadn't personally seen the giants, but they believed the ten men that said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” (Numbers 13:31). It's pretty amazing to think that after all that God has done for them, they would still fall into fear and panic at the thought of standing up against the enemy! Even after walking through the Red Sea on dry ground, seeing the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, being fed by God, having water provided for them by God and all of the other miracles that they had witnessed, they lost their faith in God. All they could see was the impossible.
It was at this dark time, that the faith of Joshua and Caleb shone through. Numbers 14:6-9 says, “Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” That’s the faith of Joshua and Caleb on display!
They did not say “We can do it!” They said, “If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us...” (v.8)! That’s what real faith is! Not “I can do it” or “we can do it”! It’s “HE CAN DO IT!” In fact, Joshua and Caleb are said that the Lord had already done it! “Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (v.9).
So what do the people do? “But all the congregation said to stone them with stones.” (v.10a). Typical! Then something happens that brings the situation into reality! “Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.” (v.10b). So, faith is what divided Israel into two groups. When twelve men are sent as scouts to spy out the Promised Land, faith would determine the success or failure of their mission. Moses needed reconnaissance so that he could lay out the military strategy for his troops!
Moses was most likely taught military tactics while being raised in the Royal Court of Egypt. The Scriptures do not say if he served in the military, but there are ancient historians that say he did. Josephus wrote about the time of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. It is believed that he used ancient documents that were taken from the Temple before the destruction of the Temple occurred and wrote some of his historical accounts based upon these documents. We do not have copies of those documents today. But, Josephus recounts how Moses, as an Egyptian prince, led Egypt to victory over the Ethiopians in battle (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. Book 2, Chapter 10). There are some other ancient historical records that indicate that Moses was a military leader in Egypt as well (Artapanus of Alexandria in his work: “Concerning the Jews” 3rd century BC). With that in mind, we begin to understand why Moses sent these twelve men into the Promised Land. Any general would want some knowledge of where and when to send his troops into battle to achieve victory.
But it seems the spies didn't do much actual military reconnaissance of the land. However, they did notice the very tall men living in part of the land. Those were probably the descendants of Anak. People called them giants because they were very large people. The average Egyptian male in those days was about 5’3”. There's not much reason to think the Jewish people were any taller than the Egyptians. So, when they saw 7’ to 9’+ tall men, they were terrified! They gave their report! Great food! The land is awesome! BIG PEOPLE! No faith! But not all of them! Twp of the twelve men had no doubts that the people of Israel would be victorious because God would lead them into battle. They were Joshua and Caleb.
Students will learn the importance of living by faith as we represent the name of Jesus Christ. Students will be called to examine their personal faith by looking at the faith of Joshua and Caleb. Students will also learn that it is by faith that we love the Lord and obey His commands.
Believers are to follow the Lord, even if it seems like they are standing alone against the crowd.
The choice of faith over fear is always God’s plan for us! He calls us just as He did Joshua to be strong and courageous.
Loving the Lord with all of our hearts, always brings obedience to the commands of Christ!
Every believer is not only called to share the name of the Lord with others but they are also called to live a life that represents the name of Jesus in a way that will turn others to Christ.
During Biblical times, the Jewish people did not haphazardly name their children whatever name came to mind. Names meant something. Joshua was the son of Nun. Nun, means posterity (future generations). That seems appropriate. The future generations of Israel depended heavily upon his son, Joshua. When Joshua was born, his name was Hoshea, which means salvation. In the English Bibles, it can be spelled as “Hosea” or “Hoshea” in different translations or “Oshea” as in the Wycliffe Bible.
After the spies came back from their mission to spy out the land, Moses changed Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua in Hebrew (later translations - Jehoshua). Yehoshua means “YHWH (Yahweh) is salvation!” But, his name also means “YHWH (Yahweh) turns us!” Moses added the Hebrew letter called a “yod” to his original name. It is pronounced like the “Y” in yes.
So why do we use a “J” sound for Joshua instead of a “Y” sound? Because, in Old English, when the first Bibles were translated into English like the Wycliffe and the original 1611 King James, the “Y” was pronounced like we pronounce “J” today. And in the middle ages “I” was also sounded like a “J.” So, English speaking people saw the “Y” or an “I” and they were pronouncing it like we pronounce J! Then, over the centuries, the letter changed to match the way people said it! The letter “J” is only about 400 years old. This transfers to many of the names in the Scriptures and then it became tradition. And we know what happens when something becomes a tradition!
“Ye-ru-sha-LA-yim” became Jerusalem and “yo-NA”, “yi-SHAI”, and “ye-SHU-a” became Jonah, Jesse, and Jesus. That is also how “Yahweh” (I am) becomes Jehovah. To get away from the controversy, most English Bibles replace Yahweh with the word “LORD” in uppercase letters. In first-century Greek, the New Testament name for Jesus is “yesous” and then later “Iesous” ("Iēsous"). So in the Old English, they would have pronounced the “Y” and “I” as a “J” as well.
But, Jesus would have been called Yeshua (ye-shu-a). The spelling had changed slightly over time, but it is the same name that Joshua was given by Moses. So why doesn't Jesus’ name have an “SH” sound? Many of our English words in our Bible translations came from Latin translations. And, like many languages (including Greek) found around the world, there is no “SH” sound in Latin. So, we say “Je-sus”. I know what you're thinking, what a mess! You're right! That’s why translating the Hebrew or Greek is so difficult! English does change a few things, but when we look at the definitions of some of these names we begin to understand a little bit more of the message that God is giving to us! And it's actually pretty amazing! God's word is so awesome!
And by the way, God knows when you are calling on His name! The pronunciation is different all over the world, but our GREAT GOD always hears us and He always answers anyone who calls upon His name! “Jesus” in English! Pronounced “hay-SOOS” in Spanish! “Yeshua” in Hebrew! Yesu in Swahili. In Italy, it’s “Gesú”. In Turkey, İsa. The Chinese confess their faith in “ye su”. And guess what? The Lord is not confused! Spoken by the Lord through the prophet Joel and repeated by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, these words are still true - “‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21).
2. The Faith of Joshua and Caleb and the Connection to Jesus!
So what is this all about? Upon completion of the mission, each spy had a choice. They could choose to believe and have faith in God and lead the people in God's way, up to the Promised Land, take it, defeat the enemy and live in it with God as their King! Or, they could choose to turn the people's hearts, through fear, away from God and away from the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve men choose to live by sight and not by faith (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Ten people managed to turn the people against what God was leading over a million people to do. To walk into the land and possess it! Times seemed hopeless, but there was hope! Two of the twelve men choose faith over what they had seen! Hoshea (Joshua) and Caleb.
It was at this point that Moses changed Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua (Joshua). Yahweh is Salvation, or “Yahweh turns us”! Moses knew Yahweh was the only one who could save them and He was the only one who could turn the people’s hearts toward God and toward their homeland.
But the people turned away from Yahweh! The people turned away from the leadership of Yahweh and Yahweh then turns the people away from the Promised Land. Rejection of God’s leadership would cost them their lives. God would have killed them on the spot if Moses had not intervened. God makes His decision! Everyone, twenty years old and up, would die in the wilderness over the next forty years.
If the people of Israel had listened to Joshua and Caleb, that's what they would have received - salvation! Salvation from slavery. Salvation from the wilderness. Salvation from difficult times moving from place to place.
Salvation from death in the wilderness. And ultimately, salvation as the Bride of Yahweh! But they would not listen to Joshua or Caleb! The voice of faith was drowned out amongst the drone of fear, panic and rebellion. It all started with ten voices and soon it became many, many voices! Maybe in the millions. The people were not going to go up and face those giants. They were the sons of Anak and they were impossible to beat! Or so they thought.
There would be other failures concerning the sons of Anak. God told them to destroy every one of them, but after the conquest, there would be a few of them left alive in Gath, Ekron and few other little towns which the Bible calls the land of the Philistines. Today we call it the Gaza Strip, and it is in the news regularly as the people there attack Israel. Because of this failure, David would face one of their descendants as a young man in the Valley of Elah sometime around four centuries later. His name was Goliath. The descendants of Anak will figure into several more of our studies as we go through the Word together.
Connection to Jesus? We can’t help but notice that the name of Jesus in the actual Aramaic Hebrew (“Yeshua”) is a match for “Yehoshua”. (The spelling changed slightly over time, but it is the same name.) By New Testament times, the name would be very common. But the fact that it was an angel that told Joseph to name Him Yeshua, tells us that it was God's intention for Him to have that name. While speaking to Joseph, the angel said, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, (Yeshua) for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). Remember, the name means Yahweh is salvation! God saves His people from their sins! His name was and is a proclamation of salvation come to mankind in the birth, life, death and resurrection of THE SON OF GOD! The One who is Yahweh saves! Yahweh means “I AM”! That’s what he told Moses at the burning bush. From what I understand, the Name of Jesus is two names combined in Hebrew that says Yahweh = “I AM” and Hoshuah = “Salvation!” “I AM SALVATION”! And, yes He is!!!
“I AM SALVATION!” That is the Lord’s name! Jesus’ name in Hebrew begins with the letter yod (Y)! It is the smallest letter in the alphabet. Every other letter is written by first writing a yod. Every letter has the shape of the yod in the letter! When Jesus said, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter (yod) or stroke (kotz) shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18). In Aramaic Hebrew, He actually said, “Not one yod or even kotz (the point of the yod) will pass away.”
The people of Israel had to make a choice there at Kadesh (Numbers 13). Which direction would they take? A better way to ask the question might be: Whose direction would they take? Their choice cost them thirty-eight more years in the wilderness and their lives. Today, people still have to choose the direction they would take. To go with God to victory or with the crowd that says it can’t be done or it’s not true! Do they choose self-rule, self-desires and self-centeredness or do they choose the one who gave Himself upon the cross for all mankind! Will they follow the crowd or a King?
3. The Result of Faith
“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.” (Numbers 14:38). Thirty-eight years had gone by, but Joshua and Caleb’s faith was as strong as ever! Maybe even more so! All those years earlier, the people wanted to stone them after the speech they made. Now they were the leaders of the nation. They were the replacements for Moses and Aaron. I believe others wanted those positions, like the first two sons of Aaron, but God gave those positions to Joshua and Caleb because of their great faith.
The Lord said to Joshua, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.” (Joshua 1:2-3). The reference to the feet is interesting! Every where they put their feet was going to be theirs! God would give them the land and fulfill His promises to them!
Joshua had been prepared and trained by Moses. When Moses commissioned him to take over he told him to “Be strong and courageous...” (Deuteronomy 31:7, 23)! We tend to think of Joshua as a mighty warrior who had no fear as he attacked and conquered the enemy, but that may not be an accurate picture! Moses must have known Joshua very well, yet he tells him to “Be strong and courageous.” Then the Lord tells Joshua to “Be strong and courageous...” in Joshua 1:6. The Lord repeats it in verse 7 and then in verse 9 He says it even more strongly! “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Then the people spoke to Joshua and said, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” (Joshua 1:16) and then they told Joshua, “...only be strong and courageous.” (v. 18).
To me, that tells me that Joshua was not a superhero! He was a guy just like me! A regular person who made a choice to follow God and has stuck with it. And sometimes you have to choose to be strong and courageous.
Joshua’s faith grows even more as the Israelites continue the conquest of the land. In fact, his faith grows to the point that he asked the Lord to stop the earth from spinning and the Lord did it! “On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, ‘Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies.” (Joshua 10:12-13 NLT). Now that’s faith! In fact, the old Joshua, that had to be told over and over to be strong, had grown into a leader that now passed on this faith to others! He passed it onto the next generation! “‘Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,’ Joshua told his men. ‘Be strong and courageous, for the Lord is going to do this to all of your enemies.’” (Joshua 10:25 NLT). What are you passing on to the next generation?
Joshua made his choice! “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).
At Kadesh, the Lord had said, “‘Not one of you from this wicked generation will live to see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see this land because he has followed the Lord completely. I will give to him and his descendants some of the very land he explored during his scouting mission.’” (Deuteronomy 1:35-36 NLT). He has followed me completely! How many people will the Lord say that about?
Caleb was one of those people who apparently had no fear! He believed in the Lord so much that he understood there was nothing God could not do! I want to have that kind of faith! Did you know Caleb was not and Israelite? He was a Kenizzite! They were inhabitants of the land of Canaan that Israel would destroy. It does not say how he is counted as a member of Judah, but it could be because his mother was of the tribe of Judah? There are a number of Gentiles that join the tribe of Judah. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Caleb… and those four women are in the lineage of Christ! Also, Moses inviteed his in-laws to join Israel (Numbers 10:29-32), and his descendants end up settling with the Judahites (Judges 1:16).
Something else that is interesting is that Caleb’s name means dog! He was the original “Dog the Bounty Hunter!” Ok, just kidding about that, but the name is interesting. But here is a man of valor, a mighty warrior, a man who fully followed God and his name means dog! God didn’t change his name. We might think of it as derogatory in today’s culture, but it is not the case for Caleb. Caleb exhibits fierce loyalty to Moses and to Joshua! He was a fierce fighter and he surely would have given his life for the one he served.
He was different! His attitude was different! And he was obviously not afraid to be different. The Lord said, “But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully...” (Numbers 14:24). The difference was that he lived with his eyes on the prize and not on the giants in front of him. What a lesson we can learn from Caleb. He may have been a mixed race addition to the exodus. His family was probably descended from the Hyksos people who were overthrown and placed into slavery after Joseph’s time in Egypt. For all intents and purposes, he was a nobody. But he quietly and faithfully served God and God blessed him. God gave him victory and God gave him the desires of his heart by giving him some of the inheritance in the land of Israel!
What a lesson from these two men! It makes me ask what kind of faith do I have? I want a faith like Joshua's! A faith like Caleb's that knows without a doubt that God is the almighty Yahweh! “I AM” and that He cares for me. A faith that lives like the one who came down from heaven, whose name means “I am Salvation.” I want my name to mean something that goes on past my lifetime and makes a difference for the kingdom of God. To be known as a follower of the King and never a follower of the crowd. How about you? How's your faith? What do you want your name to mean?
Application: What does this lesson teach us about God? Man? Sin? Grace?
God speaks to Joshua as He did to Moses to direct the people of Israel.
God acts by making two men of faith the leaders of the nation and by giving Joshua and Caleb an inheritance in the land because of their great faith and faithfulness to the Lord.
God reveals Himself by using unlikely and ordinary people, like Joshua and Caleb, to change the direction of a whole nation.
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