As the people were picking up stones to throw at Moses, God showed up in glory. With his patience exhausted he spoke again of destroying the people and starting over. After Moses interceded God relented but said in Numbers 14:27-28, “…I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say.’” Little did they know how powerful their words were. God would do exactly what they said.
The land would devour them, but instead of Canaan it would be the wilderness. He ordered Moses to turn around and head back into the desert toward the Red Sea. Their trek from Egypt to the Promised Land took two years. This next chapter would take forty years, one year for each day the spies surveyed Canaan. God said in Exodus 14:29, “In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me.” Afraid their children would be taken, God would raise up their children to take the land.
I like happy endings, but this episode doesn’t have one. God struck the ten negative spies with a plague, and they died in front of the assembly. When the people realized their opportunity had passed, they roused themselves and rushed into Canaan without God’s blessing. They were soundly beaten out of the land.
In this dreary account, one stands out like a torch in a dark cave. Numbers 14:24 says, “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.” Forty years later, at the age of eighty Caleb would drive the feared Anakim out and take the hill country, leaving a legacy of faith.
In Hebrew, Caleb’s name means “dog.” A dog is a symbol of wholehearted devotion, faithfulness, loyalty, and gratitude. Dogs are always thrilled to spend time with their master. They receive every moment of attention, care, and affection with thankfulness. No wonder the dog is man’s best friend. How different they are from cats. I apologize cat lovers, but felines live emotionally detached in their little world. You feed, love, and care for them but they turn and walk the other way when you call. Our cat, my wife’s dearest pet, will jump out and randomly bite you and run away. If you offend a cat it will urinate on your carpet.
Caleb was once a slave who made mud bricks under the hot sun for a living. He hauled those bricks to build the pyramids for a tyrant. His only goal was to survive the day. But God saw him at his lowest and loved him. When he had no money or influence, God redeemed him. Forever free God was now leading his entire community to their land.
Traveling the brownness of the wilderness was tough. He too grew tired of waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain. There were times when the water ran low, and the food had lost its flavor. But he chose in those difficult hours to remember all God had done in the past. He fixed his mind on the promises of God for the future. He began to notice the good things in the present. That’s where gratitude starts. Psalms 9:1-2 says, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”