Day 2: May 4, 2018: “He Followed Me Fully”
Numbers 14:20-25: Then the Lord said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. 21 But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. 24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. 25 Now, since the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys, turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.”
What does it mean to seek the Lord with our whole hearts? What does wholehearted discipleship look like? In the midst of the disaster that was Israel’s refusal to go up into the Promised Land, Caleb gives us an example of full devotion to the Lord.
As the people’s rebellion ensued “the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel” (Num. 14:10). Then God said to Moses that he was ready to “strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them” and to build a “greater and mightier” nation from Moses’ descendants (14:12). At this threat of judgment Moses interceded for the people and pleaded with God to forgive them according to his own steadfast love (14:13-19).
In response to Moses’ prayer the Lord announced both punishment and pardon (14:20-35). The pardon was that God did not disinherit Israel. He maintained his covenant relationship with the nation and promised to bring the following generation – which would be born and raised in the wilderness – into the Promised Land (14:20, 31).
The punishment was that the entire Exodus generation would wander in the wilderness for forty years until they were all dead. Not one of them would live to enter Canaan (14:21-23, 28-30a, 32-25). The only exceptions to this judgment were Joshua and Caleb. They alone of that generation would survive the wilderness wanderings and inherit what God had promised. Of Caleb in particular the Lord said, “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went…” So, God commended and blessed Caleb as one who followed Him completely.
What can we learn about wholehearted discipleship from Caleb’s example? First, we can see that wholehearted discipleship requires robust faith. Caleb trusted in God’s presence. He knew that God was with Israel and that this made all the difference for them. Caleb trusted in God’s power. He knew that God could defeat the mighty Canaanites just as He had defeated the mighty Egyptians. He knew that compared to God the almighty maker of heaven and earth, the nations were not mighty at all. Caleb also trusted in God’s promise. He knew that God had sworn to give Canaan to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he believed that God would fulfill his word.
As disciples of Jesus we can trust in God’s presence, power, and promises just as Caleb did. God is present with us in a more intimate and wonderful way than He was ever with Israel. God personally lives inside of us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are His temple! (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19, 12:13). Further, while Caleb could look back to God’s power displayed in the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea, we can know that the same power which raised Christ from the dead is at work within our lives! (Eph. 1:19-23). The God who gave His Son for us, and whose Spirit lives inside us, can “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). And God’s promise to us in the gospel – if we will dwell on it and take hold of it – will burst apart our bonds of fear and overflow the banks of our weaknesses. The apostle Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 1:18-22: As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Second, we can see from Caleb’s example that wholehearted discipleship requires full obedience. When the entire nation of Israel was ready to hightail it back to Egypt, Caleb was ready to obey God and go up to take possession of the Promised Land. God saw that Caleb had this obedient spirit and it pleased Him.
The New Testament has this wonderful phrase – “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5) – which captures how our trust in God naturally and necessarily leads us to obey God. Our faith is not biblical and saving faith unless it is obedient faith (Mt. 7:21-27, Mark 3:31-35, John 14:15, Hebrews 11:9-10, James 2:14-26). Often our faithful obedience will be expressed in the quiet ways we go about our daily business as spouses, parents, grandparents, neighbors, and co-workers. However, as Caleb discovered, there will be times when our “obedience of faith” will require us to go against the tide of popular opinion and take a stand for following God that is risky. When Caleb and Joshua urged the people not to rebel against the Lord, the people picked up stones to stone them to death (Num. 14:10)!
Third, we can see from Caleb’s example that wholehearted discipleship requires courageous influence. When Israel was heading down the path of fear-inspired rebellion, Caleb (and Joshua) sought to turn the tide by calling the people to forsake fear and follow the Lord (Num. 14:6-9). They were leading men in Israel and they were members of the group of spies who had explored Canaan (Num. 13:1-3, 6, 8, 16). They spoke up at the critical time and sought to influence Israel to fully obey God along with them.
God intends for our lives of faith-filled obedience to influence our families, our neighbors, our community, and even the nations. The image which the apostle Paul used for Christian influence is arresting. It is the image of what we smell. His words are “fragrance” and “aroma.” What we smell can have a powerful influence on us, for good or for bad. The aroma of freshly baked bread is inviting and appetizing. The fragrance of a rotting corpse is repulsive and may induce reactions such as vomiting. Paul wrote that God was using his ministry of the message of Christ to “spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Cor. 2:14). Paul was a missionary to the Gentiles. Today we are missionaries to the people around us. Today, if we will live our commitment to Christ in an open [public] and loving way, God will use our lives to “spread the knowledge of him” to others. Then what was true of Paul and his companions will also be true of us:
2 Corinthians 2:15-17: For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
Wholehearted discipleship will influence others toward the salvation that is in Christ. If we fully follow the Lord, we will – through our words, deeds and relationships – bring others along with us.
Take time now to ask God to help you grow in robust faith, full obedience, and courageous influence. This prayer can help you get started: “O Lord, thank you that you are wholly committed to us. You gave your Son to make us your own, and you have given your Spirit to live within us. What more could you give? Lord, help me to follow you fully as Caleb did. Help me to trust in your presence, your power, and your promise. Help me to walk in obedience to your commands, especially when it isn’t easy or popular. And Lord, make my life a fragrance of Christ to others. Use me to influence them to come to fully follow you as well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”