Caleb was one of 12 men sent by Moses to scout out Canaan and bring back intelligence to prepare Israel for conquest (Numbers 13). Twelve spies all observed the same data: fertile soil, fortified cities, and giants descendent from Anak. At the debriefing Caleb said cheerfully, "Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it." But the other men (except Joshua) gave the people "a bad report":
"The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim . . . and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them" (13:32-33).
How little have we understood the deadly poison of "a bad report" on the hearers? I do it all the time. I nearly gave one today. Someone told me his relationship with the mother of his son was unsalvageable and that the idea of their reconciling and marrying was out of the question. He listed several reasons why he should give up and move on, and they were such formidable reasons that I almost agreed with him. (God could never fix that! Too far gone!)
No Christian who insists that he is unable to do a difficult thing thinks he has a spirit of unbelief. He thinks, rather, that he is a realist. He considers someone with Caleb's attitude to be nutty at best and theologically dangerous at worst.
God later weighed in on the spies' reports and decreed that the 10 realists would never enter the land of Canaan. But as for the obnoxious faith fanatic, God said, "My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring him into the land into which he went. . . ." (14:24).
There are two kinds of Christians in the world: the kind of Christian who goes around expecting too little from God and the kind who goes around expecting too much from God. There is nothing in the middle.
We have made things complicated but they are simple: Put your faith in God, in spite of all outward appearances. And do not go around giving "a bad report" and dousing other people's faith by always pointing out the negative side of things, the obstacles and probabilities and statistics. Caleb saw opportunities for God to be glorious, where others saw only difficulties. His spirit was, of course, the Holy Spirit.
It used to be very important for me to know who was right about the continuance of miracles and of healing and of shooting up prayers for parking spots. But the case of Caleb slices through all that armchair theology. God favors men who have outsized expectations of his power. That's enough for my brain to ponder.
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