Numbers 14:6-10 and Stoning the Messenger

“Don’t shoot the messenger!”  This is a common phrase when delivering bad news.  But what about when the messenger is delivering good news and the community doesn’t want to hear it?  After the Israelite spies came back from the Promised Land they turned the people against the idea of entering it.  Joshua and Caleb tried to champion another possibility:

But Joshua, Nun’s son, and Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, from those who had explored the land, tore their clothes  and said to the entire Israelite community, “The land we crossed through to explore is an exceptionally good land.  If the Lord is pleased with us, he’ll bring us into this land and give it to us. It’s a land that’s full of milk and honey.  Only don’t rebel against the Lord and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are our prey.  Their defense has deserted them, but the Lord is with us. So don’t be afraid of them.”  But the entire community intended to stone them.

nm14_10Here Joshua and Caleb simply try to remind the Israelites of the Lord’s promises to them that he would give them that land.  However, the people are so overtaken with fear that they do not even want to listen to any possibility other than the fact that they would die if they tried to enter the land.  They are willing to kill Joshua and Caleb rather than be reminded that the Lord has provided for them, fought for them, and protected them since before they left Egypt.  The people’s fear has overcome them to the point where they want to silence a faith-filled response to their present circumstances.

It is entirely possible to be overcome with fear of the unknown.  It is even possible to doubt whether or not God would look after us despite the fact that there is ample evidence in the past that God has helped us.  In situations like this, it is important to look for the Joshuas and Calebs among us to be reminded that God will be with us.  Doing something new and exciting can be frightening, but it is in those moments of fear and doubt that we need to remember that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  If he did amazing things in the past, he can do amazing things today.

It is ok to wrestle with how something can come about through God’s guidance and leading.  What is not ok is trying to silence a faith-filled response to the present situation because it does not seem logical.  God regularly works through our weaknesses to show his power.  If Christians were only called to do what they could do on their own, there would be no need for God.  It is when events and promises seem the most unlikely to occur, and our doubts are at their strongest, that we need Joshua and Caleb to remind us that God has been with us thus far, and he will never leave us or forsake us.


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