Numbers 14 is a great chapter in the Old Testament, not so much for how it starts. The chapter begins with the Israelites grumbling and complaining:
That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:1-4)
Listening to their complaints, one might have thought they had left behind the lifestyle of the rich and famous. To hear them speak, life in Egypt was life on easy street. It’s remarkable how easily our memory fails us.
Truth be told, they had been slaves in Egypt. No freedom. No independence. Life had been hard. Really hard. And now they’re clamoring to go back.
This doesn’t sit too well with God: ” I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them …” (Numbers 14:12). I’m reading between the lines here, but I think God doesn’t like grumbling and complaining all that much.
Fortunately for the Israelites, Moses pleads their case and God relents. Plague avoided. Even though he relents, he’s still not too happy with them. With one exception — Caleb. Remember him? One of the 12 spies who snuck into the Promise Land. Along with Joshua, he was the only other spy who actually thought the Israelites could take the land. The other 10 lacked the faith and courage to recommend fighting.
Listen to what God says about Caleb: “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Numbers 14:24, emphasis mine).
What is the difference between those who grumble and complain and get nowhere and those who advance and take the land? Two things:
- A different spirit (or way of looking at life)
- Complete obedience (a willingness to follow God wholeheartedly)
It starts with seeing and ends with following.
Leaders, teachers, parents, coaches — do you have a different spirit? Faithful leaders will always have a slightly different spirit than those they lead. That’s the nature of faith. It sees things others cannot (or choose not to) see.