“And Joshua the son of Nun, and? Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, Tent their clothes:
And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: few them not.
But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.”
The minority report!
Of Joshua and Caleb, the faithful two of the twelve who were sent to spy out the promised land of Canaan! Two who dared to challenge the report of the majority, and the threats of a milling, revolting congregation! Who could not be silent when the Word of the Lord and His promises were cast aside in unbelief!
They rent their clothes, a sign of deepest humiliation and sorrow because of Israel’s sin of rebellion!
And they lifted up their voices!
The report of the minority!
A good report! Not only because it was factual! That, too, it was, to be sure!
They, too, had been in the land! They had seen all that the majority had observed! They had not gone a different way than the rest. They had not turned their eyes in a different direction when the object of vision was not pleasing to the eye of flesh. They testify that surely it was a land that floweth with milk and honey! They did not hide the fact that the cities were walled and fortified! They make no attempt to deny or to cover up the fact that the inhabitants of the land were great and strong! The truth need not be covered up for fear that it will hurt the people. The truthful will not hesitate to speak the facts even though it hurts!
The difference between the minority and the majority was that the former had been with God in the land! They saw exactly what the majority did, but with the eye of faith! And what they saw by faith, they reported! Surely it is an exceeding good land! The original text may be literally translated: “It is a good land, very, very!”
And not only so, but the minority report states assuredly: “The Lord will bring us into this land and give it to us.” And they continued: “If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land.” This is not to be interpreted as if it were a matter of doubt that Israel would be the object of God’s delight, or that He would bring them into the land. The very opposite is true! This is very plain from what Joshua and Caleb will yet say in their report. But even apart from that, the “if” clause: “If the Lord delight in us, etc.,” is not intended to cast doubt in the minds of the children of Israel, as if it could ever be questioned that the Lord found delight in His people; or that His promise to bring His people into Canaan and rest could ever fail to be realized. Rather, this presentation is intended to impress upon its audience the truth that the Lord delights Himself in His faithful people, but He hates all who are rebellious and who turn against Him!
And as far as the people of the land are concerned, Joshua and Caleb meant to say: “You need not fear them, for they are bread for us.” This expression is found in other places in the Old Testament. It meant that as with the mouth bread is eaten, so too the enemy will speedily be consumed. Also the minority declare: “their defence is departed from them.” The correct rendering of this passage is found in the margin of some Bibles, which is, “their shadow is gone away from them.” This can mean one of two things. Either they have lost their shadow, hence they are nothing. Or, the shadow is the sign of protection, similar to the pillar of cloud that constantly protected Israel in their journeys. We are inclined to this last idea, because it is in harmony with the context which refers directly to the pillar of cloud. (Num. 14:14). So that the reporters meant to say: They have no protector as we have! That, too, belongs to the facts that must make up the report of the faithful!
Indeed, this was a good report!
A good report!
With a two-fold purpose!
In the first place, it was meant to allay all fear! The minority were deeply conscious that the whole congregation was wrapped in the dark shades of unbelief and fear. And that, too, while they, Joshua and Caleb were living in the light of the Divine Presence. That’s what faith does, you see. O, they were blessed men, I tell you! And what a contrast they made to that fearful congregation! A contrast one often finds among the people of God! You have some of whom you can have no doubt at all as to their being children of God. They are fearless and joyful! They are full of confidence and courage! But you also have some who never rise to the heights of divine revelation! They are always full of doubts and fears! Always they are overcast with clouds, either looking at themselves or their circumstances. They never seem to be bright and happy! This is truly lamentable! It ought not so to be! There is something radically wrong with them! As we mentioned before, there were children of God in that rebellious congregation. They were not all reprobates! There were those who were weak in faith, carnal and fearful! And the report of the minority is intended to soften this fear! This Caleb tried to do already before the majority had finished their report. Already then he had tried to show that faith should overcome all obstacles. And now together they try to still the people! Faith, you see; is the parent of wise courage!
But in the second place, their positive purpose was to encourage obedience! Rebellion is disobedience and apostasy. Israel’s sin is not mere faint-hearted shrinking! For who of the bravest and the most obedient does not shrink when the hour of battle strikes? The bravest of soldiers, while they wait for battle, will tell you how much they would have liked to escape. No, Israel is not to be severely rebuked because they feared. But their sin was willful and deliberate rejection of Jehovah’s rule! They deliberately charged God with tricking them to their death. They boldly threw Jehovah and Moses away. And their rebellion and apostasy was based on a certain distrust of the Lord’s Word. Not only did they disbelieve that God would take them into the land, but they literally said: We will not go with God into that land. Hence Joshua and Caleb exhorted them to obedience!
And what was the effect of this minority report?
A two-fold effect!
On the one hand, it incurred the wrath of the people!
This is what a minority report usually does, you know! History is replete with examples of this. Think of the time of Noah, before the flood! Of Noah we read that he was a preacher of righteousness! But he was a lone figure! All alone he built the ark, while he testified to his generation that the Lord was angry with the children of men and He was of a mind to destroy them with a great flood! And what did the people do about it? They simply turned their faces from him in disgust, and no doubt counted him as one who was not complete in his senses. Think, too, of Daniel and his three friends as lone witnesses in the days of the Babylonian captivity! What was the effect of their report? You know, Daniel was cast into the den of lions, while the three friends were cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Jeremiah was a lone figure in the court of the king, calling the king and his subjects to obedience to the will of the Lord. And he was cast into a dungeon, where, unless God came to his rescue, he would have been left to rot! Paul stood alone before the council, giving testimony to the Word of God, for which he was imprisoned, and later, as tradition has it, he was beheaded for his faith! Jesus, Who brought the greatest of all minority reports, stood alone before the Jewish council, before Pontius Pilate and Herod, and they took Him and. nailed Him to the accursed tree! Luther stood alone before the Diet of Worms with his testimony: Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, so help me God! And they banished this leader of the Reformation from the church!
Many, many, more are the examples that could show that the truth is never popular! There is no place for it in this world, or in the human heart! Lies will be received in every shape, but the truth almost never!
Joshua and Caleb encountered what all true wit: nesses must expect! Verily there were thousands of voices raised against two who simply trusted in God and spoke the truth!
It is most important to tell the truth, also today in this Babel of a majority of false witnesses!
But we must expect the stones!
“But all the congregation bade stone them with stones!” That is the effect of the minority report!
However, there is no need for fear!
Before the stones can fly, Jehovah will make His appearance!
That was the other effect of this report!
You see, it was a case of God’s glory being at stake! He cannot allow His Name to be profaned! Nor will He permit another to steal His glory! Even if He must, as He did, reveal His glory in His holy wrath!
And so we read: “And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.”
Woe be unto the rebels when our God, Who is a consuming fire over against all the workers of iniquity, makes His appearance in His wrath! Of the fierceness of this wrath you may read in the verses that follow our text! Let the wicked majority weep and howl for the miseries that shall come upon them!
Blessed are the faithful minority!
The favor of Jehovah their God is upon them that trust in His Name and His unchangeable promises, though they be a minority!
It is evidently the Lord’s intention here to prove exactly that, that He hears the voice of His faithful servants when they attest to His truth, and declare an implicit faith in His abiding Word!
The Lord will see to it that the faithful minority shall never be brought to shame!
Not only, therefore, is the appearance of the glory of the Lord a precursor of the day of His wrath, but it is also the sign of His favor upon His beloved, that is always ready to deliver them from the most violent adversaries!
Be faithful then, all ye that must give testimony to the truth! Though the faith of many shall wax cold, be thou strong in the faith! Though your numbers be few, forget not that He that is with you is more than they that be with them!
And when you shall come into His heavenly tabernacle, you will see Him in all the glory of His grace in the face of Christ Jesus!
World without end!
Amen and Amen!