Faith in the Midst of the Storm.
Joshua 13-14, Acts 12
So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said. – Joshua 14:12 ESV
Caleb had waited a long time for this day. More than 40 years ago, he and Joshua had been two of the 12 men sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan before the Israelites were to begin their conquest. But 10 of the spies returned with a bad report. They had admitted that the land was bountiful and everything God had advertised it to be, but it was also full of powerful armies and formidable walled cities. Their words created doubt and fear among the people. Yet Caleb had encouraged the people to trust God. “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30 ESV). He had not glossed over or ignored the reality that there were enemies in the land, but had encouraged the people to trust God. In the end, the people listened to the words of the majority and chose not to trust God and do as He had commanded. They refused to enter into the land and, as a result, God banished them to wander in the wilderness until that generation died off. Now four decades later, at the age of 85, Caleb stepped forward to claim his reward. God had promised him, “Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord” (Deuteronomy 1:35-36 ESV). For 40 long years, Caleb had faithfully waited to see the promise of God fulfilled. He had watched the other 10 spies die by a plague at the hand of God. He had been witness to the slow die off of his peers as they wandered aimlessly in the wilderness. But now he was ready to enjoy the promise for which he had long waited and eagerly anticipated.
There is always a temptation to do things our own way. Doing things God’s way doesn’t always make sense or seem logical. It isn’t always easy. But Joshua learned that God’s way is always best and produces the preferred outcome.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God had not forgotten about Caleb. And Caleb had not forgotten the promise of God. It is interesting that Caleb is the one who had to remind Joshua, his fellow spy, that there was a promise yet to be fulfilled. God didn’t bring it up. It seems He waited for Caleb to claim it. God’s promise stood. It was up to Caleb to stand on that promise and take what was rightfully his. He had waited a long time for this day to arrive. He had probably had his doubts along the way that he would live long enough to see it happen. But he had trusted God because he knew God to be trustworthy. In the face of adversity, he faithfully waited on God. Forty years is a long time to wait. It would give anyone a lot of time to think, doubt, fear, and question whether God was ever going to come through. But Caleb kept waiting and trusting. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). Caleb’s hope was in the promise of God. His assurance was in the faithfulness of God. He was not going to let time or adversity stand in his way or prevent him from believing.
It is interesting to note that when the church was launched by God on the day of Pentecost, it was characterized by amazing growth as well as intense persecution. It took off like a rocket, but its meteoric rise also attracted a lot of unwanted attention and resulted in strong opposition. Stephen was stoned. James was killed by Herod. Peter was imprisoned. And the believers were forced to pray and wait. As they sat behind closed doors calling on God, they had to have doubts and fears. The had to have wondered why all of this was happening. How could the deaths of James and Stephen be the will of God? How could anything good come of Peter’s imprisonment? What if he ended up the same way? What would they do? “But earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5 ESV). They prayed and waited. And God moved. He moved miraculously, releasing Peter from prison and sending him to tell the news of his release to those who had been earnestly praying for him.
What does this passage reveal about man?
When Peter showed up at the door of the home where the others were praying on his behalf, they refused to believe it was him. While they had been praying earnestly, they had evidently been doubting as well. Their expectations didn’t seem to include Peter’s miraculous release by God. We are not told what they prayed. Perhaps they had simply prayed that Peter’s life would be spared by Herod. Maybe they had prayed that Peter would simply be imprisoned but not executed. But we do know that when Peter showed up, they had a hard time accepting the fact that he had been released. They were amazed. It was not what they had been expecting. Unlike Caleb, these people had not received a specific promise from God regarding the future. They had not been told by God that Peter would be spared and released from captivity by an angel of the Lord. They simply had to pray and wait. But it still required faith – the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. They had to wait on God, not knowing exactly what it was they were waiting for. They had seen the growth of the church after the stoning of Stephen. They had witnessed the miraculous conversion of Saul, the greatest threat to the church in those early days. They knew that God worked in mysterious ways and that what He did didn’t always make sense. But He could be trusted.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Caleb stood for more than 40 years on a promise made to him by God. The friends of Peter stood on the faithfulness and sovereignty of God. Caleb knew exactly what he was waiting for and had spent four decades with his hope set on its arrival. The men and women gathered in that home praying for Peter had no idea what to expect or how God was going to work, but they placed their faith in God. Caleb had to wait a long time. The friends of Peter didn’t. But in both cases, they had to deal with doubt, fear, and the unknown. They had to face apparent adversity with a faithful tenacity to trust in God. He would come through. And in both cases, He did. There are certain promises made by God for which I am assured and for which I am simply going to have to wait. There are other times when the only promise I have is that God is with me and for me. He has assured me of His presence and the availability of His power in my life. But He has not given me the details of how all things are going to work out. It is in those times that I must faithfully wait on Him, trusting in His character and standing on His promise to never leave me or forsake me. God came through for Caleb. He came through for Peter. He will come through for me. How? I may not always know. When? He doesn’t always tell me? But He can be trusted. I can have an assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen – because my God is faithful.
Father, I want to learn to trust You more. I want to stand on Your promises and wait on Your power to be revealed in my life. Forgive me for my doubts and fears. Forgive me when I am shocked and surprised when You do come through, as if it is something I never expected. May I never be taken back by Your activity in and around my life. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men