One of the moist tragic episodes in Israel’s history is described in Numbers 13. The Jewish people sent 12 spies to the land of Israel to reconnoiter the territory. At the conclusion of their mission the spies split into two camps. 10 of the men brought back a discouraging report to the nation. They convinced the people that the inhabitants of the land are too powerful and that the Jewish people are incapable of capturing the country. The other two men, Joshua and Caleb, vehemently disagreed with the assessment of their comrades. They attempted to convince the people that it is entirely within their capability to inherit the land.
The nation as a whole accepted the discouraging report of the ten and they despaired of their ability to enter the land of Israel. The prophetic narrative tells us that Israel’s despair was a rebellion against God and God punished the people for this rebellion (Psalm 106:27). But Caleb was not punished for this rebellion. God points to Caleb’s spirit as an example of loyalty to God.
What was the dividing line between the spirit of Caleb and the spirit of those who opposed him? Why is Caleb’s spirit the spirit of loyalty while the spirit of those who despaired of capturing the land a spirit of rebellion?
It all boils down to trust. God took the people out of Egypt and He said that they will inherit the Land of Israel. Perhaps it didn’t make sense on paper. The armies of the Canaanites may have been stronger than those of the Israelites. The defenses of the fortified cities may have been impenetrable to the Jewish army who did not possess the necessary weapons to overcome such obstacles. But those are human calculations. These are not the calculations of a heart that trusts in God.
Those who trust in God do not calculate. They trust in God’s goodness and are tranquil in that trust. Caleb did not see obstacles. He saw God’s word, he saw God’s plan and He trusted in God’s goodness. This is the spirit of loyalty to God.
We can take Caleb’s lesson to heart in the age-old argument between Paul and the Jewish people.
God gave us a Law through His trusted prophet. God assured us that this Law is the path to life and to all goodness (Deuteronomy 30:15; Psalm 19:8). Paul brings us a message of despair. He tells us that the plan that God mapped out for us is fraught with obstacles. Paul argued that it is impossible for man to inherit the land by following God’s Law.
The spirit of Caleb would have us reject Paul’s message of despair. Caleb’s example of loyalty to God would have us tell Paul; “we can indeed arise and inherit it, it is within our capabilities! God is with us, we have nothing to fear!”
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal