At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large …” Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” Numbers 13:25-30.
The “they” in the first sentence of this morning’s reading refers to the advance party of twelve representatives of the tribes of Israel sent by Moses to explore and report back on the land which God had promised to his people when he brought them out of Egypt (Numbers 13.1-20). Among the twelve are Caleb and Joshua. The fruit of the land which they bring back and show to the people is a single bunch of grapes, so large that it takes two of them to carry it between them on a pole (Numbers 13.23). Unfortunately, ten members of the advance party are more impressed by the size of the people who presently occupy the land, and of their townships, than they are by the size of the grapes; and their negative report (“We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are”) so eclipses all the good news that Caleb and Joshua have brought that the people turn their backs on the land, on Moses, and on God, and begin to plan a return to Egypt … a return to slavery (Numbers 14.1-4).
There are surely many ways of applying these words to ourselves today, but what strikes me forcibly this morning is simply this: that my calling, my mission, is to bring back to all my brothers and sisters in Christ, a good report of the land that by his grace I have entered. To be a Caleb … full of encouragement, full of hope, full of confidence in the God who will deliver what he has promised and will give the victory to his people, however formidable are the obstacles in their way.
In an exchange of comments on yesterday’s post, I was saying (in connection with healing) that we need to recognise that there is both a “now” and a “not yet” aspect to the kingdom of God. We are very much on it’s borders. We belong to it, it is ours, it is real and we can experience it but we do not, and cannot, yet enjoy it in all its perfection because perfection has not yet come (1 Corinthians 13.10). But I thank God this morning that, by his calling and grace, he has given me the privilege of being one of that “advance party” who has been entrusted with the task of exploring the land and reporting back to others who no little or nothing of it. By his grace, I have experienced and I continue to experience something of the wonderful kingdom of God … something of the richness and beauty and life of the world to come; and my task is both to bring a good report of it and the evidence of it to the fellowship of God’s people in which he has placed me. That means bringing back the grapes — the fruit of the Spirit — that will speak volumes of the kingdom’s reality and desirability, as will as joining with Caleb in saying: “Let us go up and take possession of the land; for we can certainly do it.” Yes, there is an enemy; yes, he is powerful; yes, there will be spiritual warfare to wage as we advance into all God has for us — but, in Christ and by the power of his Spirit, we shall be more than conquerors. I need to proclaim it.
Lord Jesus, help me to bring a good report of the land to all who will listen to me; and give me fruit to show that all might see the greatness of the kingdom. Amen.