While teaching then the book of Numbers last evening all went pretty well until we arrived at chapter 14. The question was asked: "Apparently, what saved Joshua and Caleb?"
I said that it was Moses because he was their mediator and interceded for the people. Several in the class disagreed and said it was "God" citing verse 10. I cited verses 13-19 and also argued that verse 20 shows that it was the Lord alright but because of "Moses" who was acting as mediator. They did not accept my answer. Am I wrong?
Yesterday I did some more studying on this issue and have come up with a couple more thoughts.
- It was God through Moses, their mediator. (I Corinthians 10:1-4)
- It was their faith because the question asks "what" not "who" saved Joshua and Caleb. They were the only two of the twelve spies who believed God would deliver the land of giants into their hands. The other ten were lost because of their unbelief. Joshua and Caleb were saved because of their belief. (Hebrews 3:7-8,12).
- Or, another thought, the question could be asking what "event" saved them?
First, you must decide from what Joshua and Caleb were being saved.
"But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: "The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in 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, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them." And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel" (Numbers 14:6-10).
Here the people were ready to stone Joshua and Caleb because they disagreed with them. Because the Lord interfered, they were saved from the wrath of the people.
But God was so upset with the people that He was ready to wipe them all out and start over with Moses and his descendants. The implication is that Joshua and Caleb would be caught up in the destruction as well.
"Then the LORD said to Moses: "How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they." And Moses said to the LORD: "Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, 'Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.' And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, 'The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.' Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." Then the LORD said: "I have pardoned, according to your word" (Numbers 14:11-20).
Because Moses was willing to stand between the people and the Lord, pleading on the people's behalf, they all were saved from destruction. Thus Joshua and Caleb, by implication, were saved from this purging of Israel by Moses' prompt action.
"But truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD - because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it" (Numbers 14:21-24).
Justice required that punishment still be dealt to the people who rejected God. This led to the condemnation of the people to wander in the wilderness for forty years until that generation died out. But an exception was made for Caleb, and for Joshua (Numbers 14:30). Caleb was saved from death in the wilderness because of his complete obedience to the Lord. This is verified later. "Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and above, shall see the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they have not wholly followed Me, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD" (Numbers 32:11-12, see also Deuteronomy 1:35-38).
Dying in the wilderness was too good for the men who brought the bad report.
"Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land" (Numbers 14:36-38).
Thus Joshua and Caleb were saved from dying with the rest of the spies because of their deed -- bringing a good report to the people and stating that God would give them the land.
Obviously, Joshua and Caleb's deed cannot be separated from their faith (James 2:14-28). Their good report and their willingness to stand against the people demonstrated the strength of their faith. But what we notice and what we are told is what they did. "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).