Obedience and reward

Bible Readings

  • Luke 8:16-18,
  • Joshua 14:6-15

 

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

For some reason not known to me, I sometimes forget to type the word “not” in a sentence where it is needed.  To compound the problem, even proof-reading my now work does not help; I just mentally add “not” where it is missing.  The result, of course, is that what I want to say is the direct opposite of what I write.  

Surely, a small word can make a world of difference. The life and obedience of Caleb make this clear.

Single-minded trust in God

To illustrate the point, you may want to turn with me to Numbers 13 and14.  The is the story of Moses sending out the explorers into the Promised Land.  Israel was camping at Kadesh Barnea, which was about an 80kms journey into the Promised Land.  

Moses sent 12 men, one from every tribe of Israel, into Canaan to explore it and come back with a report of what to expect.  Let’s not read over Numbers 13:2 the words of God:  

God said to Moses, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel.” (Numbers 13:2, ESV)

No if’s, no but’s.  God is keeping his promise He had made to Abraham.  

The 12 explorers returned with two reports.  The minority report was one of faith and trust,

Caleb … said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30, ESV)

The majority report caused the people’s heart to melt.  

… the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. (Numbers 13:28, ESV)

This report led to a revolt amongst the people. 

Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:3–4, ESV)

Caleb and Joshua had another perspective.  

Only do not rebel against the Lord …the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:9, ESV) 

And now—this is where one little word makes all the difference—the Lord said:  How long will they refuse to believe in Me.  Some English translations do not add the “in”; the sentence then reads “How long will they refuse to believe Me.” The Living Translation paraphrases it this way:  

Will they never believe Me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? (Numbers 14:11, NLT)

The Hebrew word in this verse, when used in the context of the reaction of what someone said, is usually translated without the “in”.  We do the same in everyday speech. You don’t need faith in me as a person to not believe me.

The promises of God is something we have to believe because we know that He is trustworthy.

When God in verse Numbers 13:2 said He is giving the land to them, Joshua and Caleb believed Him because they trusted Him!  The difference between Joshua and Caleb and the rest of the explorers is that they were convinced that God is trustworthy; they, therefore, took his word as something they had to believe.  The rest of the explorers rejected the trustworthiness of God and therefore they did not believe Him and treated Him with contempt.

To believe in expresses a statement of faith; to believe is to turn that faith into obedient action. 

Obedience presupposes faith in the one who speaks; obedience flows from trust.  Obedience says, “Yes”; disobedience asks, “Who’s talking?”

The attitude of Caleb was God speaks, therefore I obey.

Obedience flows from faith

The book of Joshua tells the story of Israel occupying the land of promise.  Up to this point in time, we studied the acts of God using his people to wipe out the abhorrent idolatry and sinful lewdness of the Amorites.  One town of the other fell before the judgement of God.

Chapter 14 and further describes how the land on the west side of the Jordan was divided between the tribes.  But before any tribe got their allotment, we meet the same Caleb who trusted God when about everyone else treated God with contempt. Now it is almost as if wholehearted trust gets preferential treatment.

Verse 13-14 states:  

Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. (Joshua 14:13, NIV)

I cannot help but see a link between this and the verses we read in Luke 8 earlier today.  

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” (Luke 8:18, NIV)

There is another verse almost expressing the same truth.  Matthew 25 records the parable of the talents.  When the master returned, those who earned interest on the talent of the master heard these words:  

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:21, NIV)

We cannot book better spots in heaven by our good works.  This verse speaks of different grades of responsibility.  I will put you in charge of many things.” It seems there is a link between how we discharge our responsibilities in this life and assigned responsibilities after this world will be made new.  Let’s not speculate. 

Obedience and reward

Applied to Caleb:  he had been faithful in going on the expedition to spy out the land.  He reported faithfully because he trusted the Lord wholeheartedly.  

I brought back a report according to my convictions (Joshua 14:7, NIV)

He spurred his fellow Israelites on to put their trust in the Lord and to march forward in God’s strength.  He said,

If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land … and will give it to us. (Numbers 14:8, NIV)

He was forty years old at the time.  Then, forty-five years later his trust in the Lord was just as strong.  He believed God for what He promised. 

You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. (Joshua 14:6, NIV) 

His heart was still set on serving the Lord:  

I … followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. (Joshua 14:8, NIV)

So on that day, Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever.’ (Joshua 14:9, NIV)

Not only did he believe in God; he believed God. 

“Now then, just as the Lord promised, He has kept me alive … So here I am today, eighty-five years old! (Joshua 14:10, NIV)

He is signing up again.  This is faith in action.  Nothing has changed.  The battle is not won yet, there is still some work to do.  Age is not a problem.  He was not tired yet.  Retirement has not come onto his horizon.  The Lord’s work must be completed.

Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. 

What did he ask for?  An easy winnable seat, a cushy job for his latter years?  A shady verandah with a hammock?  No!  He asked for the hardest battlefield of them all.  

You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified …(Joshua 14:12, NIV)

Who were the Anakites?  We met them last week, didn’t we?  The kings Sihon and Og were of the same stock— Amorites of unusual physical stature.  The explorers measured themselves up against these people and considered themselves grasshoppers.  Their cities were fortified—it was not going to be a walk-over.  But Caleb did not have his eyes fixed on the enemy; his eyes were fixed on God.

but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.

Verse 14 ends this part of Israel’s history.  

So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Joshua 14:14, NIV)

As a postscript we read these words:  

Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites. (Joshua 14:15, NIV)

By trusting the Lord, Caleb wiped out the mightiest of the enemy.  The name of the city changed. And it was from this region that King David’s family came.  

Caleb was faithful over little, and over many things, God put him in charge.

Just something else of interest:  Caleb is referred to as a Kenizzite.  Does it mean anything?  Consider this.  The Kenizzites were from the line of Esau, the arch-enemy of God’s people who had lived Canaan among the Amorites.  Yet, some of them broke away and trusted the God of Abraham. Down that line, there was Jephunneh, who was Caleb’s father.  These folk openly identified with God’s people.  It is not impossible that Caleb’s forefathers left the godless land of Canaan to add themselves to the Israelites during their stay in Egypt where Caleb was born. Point is, his family were believers.  This faith was passed on to Caleb.  And it had a significant impact on the history of Israel:  Called destroyed the Anakites.  But, and this is interesting, Caleb’s nephew, Othniel was one of the judges who played a distinct role in Israel’s defeat of the Amorites (Judges 39-11).    

The influence of Caleb’s relatives was felt through generations.

Caleb was obedient to the Lord.  He believed God, and his reward in the Lord was great.  

Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.

Application

This brings us to the question, “What sort of stewards are we of what entrusted to us?”  Do we only believe in God, or do we believe Him, taking Him on his Word?  Do we say “Yes” to his call, or do we ask, “Who’s talking?”  Do we serve Him wholeheartedly?  Do we find ourselves on the battlefield, or do we perhaps look for the easy cushy jobs?  Are we actively driving out the enemy, winning ground for the Kingdom of God, or are we with those whose hearts melt at the size of our enemy?  

Our Lord did not save us to be fruitless until He comes again.  In the words of Luke 8:10 we have to understand that He made us to be like lamps, shining brightly.  We need to consider how we listen.  Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.  

We just need to look at the tribes of Israel:  whenever they thought they had something, and they then stopped the conquering task until they had all of their inheritance under their control, they started losing it — until they became slaves in their own promised land.

Let’s close on a positive note.  When it seemed everything was lost and there was about nothing left of the people fo God, God sent another Caleb, another Joshua.  He served his Father wholeheartedly and faced our enemy.  On the cross, Jesus defeated Satan and won the promised land back.  But He now sends his church out just like God sent the Israelites out to conquer in his Name.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Go make disciples of all nations.  I am with you always.”  

Do you believe Him, or is your faith only an abstract idea kept in your heart.  My friend, your faith must be active.  You have to believe Christ, take Him on his word, and obeyed Him.   Only then will you be able to complete the task.

Amen. 

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