Joshua and Caleb saved themselves by faith when they believed the written word of God and were not afraid to confess it in the presence of unbelief. Their good confession revealed the hatred and murder in the hearts of their brothers and brought God himself on the scene to settle the debate.

Numbers 14:28 KJV

28 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:…

 In the King James Bible “As truly as” is in italics because those three words are not in the original manuscripts. If we were reading this statement by the Lord word for word in the Hebrew, the Lord said, “Say unto them, live I, . . . as you have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:”[1] Our God is a living God. He hears every word we say.

If the Lord must judge us, most of the time he will give us what we say. That is one very good reason to pray for spiritual wisdom and understanding until our tongue is tamed.[2] Another good reason is found in the words of Jesus:

 Matthew 12:35-37 KJV

35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

 The words justified and condemned leave an image of being condemned to hell or granted entrance to heaven. But the Bibles use of justified and condemned is not always a reference to whether or not we are going to heaven or hell. A more literal meaning is innocent and guilty. By our words we shall be innocent or by our words we shall be guilty. Which raises a question – innocent of what or guilty of what?


 In this court case you definitely want to be guilty. I am either guilty of loving God or I am innocent, because I have not loved God. The evidence of love that either is or is not in our hearts is in our words! Whatever is in our heart WILL come out of our mouth because no man can tame the tongue.

You can control what you say to an extent and thereby hide what is really in you, but you will never stop the truth from eventually oozing out of your mouth. All it takes is a little pressure to squeeze the truth out of you.

We deceive ourselves all the time because it’s not easy to look at and accept who we really are. If you want to know who you really are, the next time you find yourself in a difficult place listen carefully to what you SAY. Do you speak like the rulers that cried all night God hates us, or do you speak like Joshua and Caleb?

When the rulers that spied out the land realized they could not take the land in their own strength; they returned to the church and proved by their words that they did not love God. They uttered a string of profanity: God will not give us the land, God bought us out here to be killed in battle, God will not protect our women and children. Anyone that promised you something if you followed him, and then killed you and abandoned your family is evil. Love “thinketh no evil”[3]. If they loved God why did they think God would do evil things to them?  Why did they think God is evil? When God appeared to save the people who loved him, he called the rulers and those who followed them evil. Not only were the rulers innocent of love for God they had no love for others. When Joshua and Caleb stood up to SAY the majority were wrong about God, the majority of the rulers SPOKE about killing the men of faith who proved they loved God by their SPOKEN words.

Before the ten rulers and those who followed them DID what they SAID God appeared and JUDGED THEM BASED ON WHAT THEY SAID! The book of Revelation tells us that there will be a day of judgment when everyone will stand before God to give an account for the life they have lived,[4] but every reference in the Bible to being judged is not about that future event. A day of judgment can be any day God must decide what to do with us. When God judges he uses our own words to judge us, even if he has to set up an event to get what he needs before he judges us.

When King David committed adultery and murder, God sent Nathan the prophet with a story about rich men who abuse poor men by taking the little they have. David judged whoever would do such a thing worthy of death BEFORE Nathan revealed, “you are the man.” The way you judge others you will be judged. David judged himself when he judged the man in Nathan’s story. At that point, God would have been justified to kill David, but God is not limited to nor is he controlled by our words and our judgments. God reserves our words and judgments about others as an option. God did not kill David, even though David judged that he deserved to die. David’s long life of love for God overcame David’s sins.

The ten rulers that spoke foolishly influencing those who followed them to believe a lie about God did not have a long life of love or even a short life of love to help them overcome their sin. Jesus said a good man from the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man from the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil things. God was David’s treasure and from that treasure David brought forth good in his life. Yes, he paid a price for his sins because God by no means clears the guilty but God did not kill him, even though David said that’s what should be done. In addition to sparing David’s life God returned David to the throne after his sins took it away from him. Love will give you mercy rights that no law can take away from you.

With a few exceptions the church in the desert did not treasure God. Thus they had no treasure from which to bring forth something good in their life. Before they left Egypt, God told them to put away their idol worship but they never did.[5] From the day God showed up in Egypt to help them, the people accused God of trying to kill them. Then they stood at the border of the Promised Land and declared we want a new leader so we can return to Egypt. If God was their treasure, why did they desire to forsake God as their leader and return to the misery God delivered them from?

God is a good God and when he speaks he brings forth good things out of the treasure of his heart because we are God’s treasure.[6]

When a good God decided what to do with an evil congregation he said, 

 Numbers 14:30-35

30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But you–your bodies will fall in this desert. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. 34 For forty years–one year for each of the forty days you explored the land–you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this desert; here they will die.”

 It appears there is not much good in this judgment – but there is! There is great mercy and opportunity in this judgment if you understand Abraham’s covenant of grace and the reason God gave us the law at Sinai.

 Galatians 3:24

24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

 The New Testament tells us Christ was the rock that accompanied the church in the desert.[7] Of the twelve rulers that spied out the land two of them were justified by faith, when they spoke their faith that God loved them and would keep his word to them. The rest of the church, which had no faith in Christ, remained condemned by the law because the law of the spirit of life is the only thing that can set you free from the law of sin and death.[8] Even though Joshua and Caleb failed to obey every point of law, they overcame the law by their faith in God’s love. If the only thing that will save us is to believe God loves us why would a good God treat us evil? God’s judgment to leave Israel in the desert was not an evil judgment. The intent of God’s judgment was to bring them to Christ.

In the King James Bible Numbers 14:33 says “And your children shall wander in the desert forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the desert.” The NIV that I just read from says your children will be shepherds. The Hebrew word translated “wander” in the KJV and “shepherds” in the NIV is “ra` ah (raw-aw’); to tend a flock; i.e. pasture it; intransitively, to graze (literally or figuratively); generally to rule; by extension, to associate with (as a friend):”[9] Ra’ ah is used 163 times in the Old Testament but it is only translated “wander” ONE TIME in the King James Bible. In 162 other places it is translated, shepherd, feed, friendship, companion or pastor.

God killed the rulers who taught the people a lie about HIM influencing the nation to rebel. The nation paid a price for their sin because sin is sin whether you did it in ignorance or not. But the people who sinned because they were caught in the middle between good and evil rulers will be given mercy, or time – forty years to renew their mind. For forty years in the desert the people God delivered who had carnal minds and therefore treated God like he is an enemy will be shepherded, fed, and treated like a friend by the people who did nothing wrong but must now bear the burden of sins committed by the carnal minded.

Galatians 6:2

 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

 The law of Christ is love!

 John 15:12-13

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

 The ten rulers and their followers did not love God and would have killed God’s people BUT God and his people WILL love them! God is guilty of loving you and will never give you ammunition to prove he is innocent. If you are really God’s people, you will obey his command to love one another and it will give those who sinned ignorantly an opportunity to see the truth – God loves us! If we don’t learn how to love one another we will not survive God’s judgments and I’m not talking about the law given at Sinai, I’m talking about a law that supersedes a law no one can keep.

Joshua was 21 years old when he was informed most of his life would be spent in a desert. Caleb was 40 years old when he learned he’ll be 80 when they enter the Promised Land. How do you think Joshua and Caleb felt about that? Everything they left Egypt for, everything they hoped for, everything they were promised will be withheld from them until they are almost too old to enjoy it because their brothers listened to foolish rulers and believed God hated them.

Joshua and Caleb did nothing wrong. Joshua and Caleb believed God loves us. They returned from spying out the Promised Land with a good report about God to encourage the church. God appeared to commend them and declare Joshua and Caleb will be the only ones of the twelve to possess the land. Their ten fellow rulers dropped dead. Joshua and Caleb lived. They are ready to enter into the things God promised them but their GOOD God won’t let them have what they had faith for. Joshua and Caleb were sent back into the desert with the sinners. At this point there is only one thing that could keep Joshua and Caleb or anyone for that matter from getting bitter – love!

Joshua and Caleb laid down their life to be a friend to people who sinned so the rebellious church would have a reason to believe God still loves them – even in their rebellion. God is not looking to see how perfectly we can obey the law; God is looking for a people who will love. Even though God gave Joshua and Caleb the right to possess the land, they would have lost that right if they failed to love

Why must Joshua and Caleb spend forty years in the desert with people who foolishly choose to follow evil rulers? Why must Joshua and Caleb love these people and wait so long to possess what they have a God given right to?

Moses gave us a clue. During this discouraging time in the churches history Moses wrote his one and only Psalm. The Psalms are not history as much as they are reactions to historical events. Great despair and extreme joy can be found in the Psalms. Moses wrote Psalms 90 when God sent his people back into the desert for forty years; it reflects Moses despair and his hope. The Psalm also sets us on the trail to discover why Joshua, Caleb and the children of the people who sinned must persevere through God’s judgment against people who believed a lie, Moses wrote 

 Psalm 90:3-4

3 You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by,…

Time is important to us because our time is limited by death. Time is not a concern for God. His time is unlimited. If God wanted to wait for forty years, and then pick up where he left off, it’s not a problem – FOR GOD! That is exactly what God did when he stopped the church in the desert to have mercy on the sinners. The Apostle Peter told us why.

2 Peter 3:8-9

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 I have no doubt that Peter had in mind the events that moved Moses to write Psalms 90 when he wrote that the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise. He used the same thousand years to one day comparison Moses did. The Lord was not slow in keeping his promise to Joshua and Caleb when he judged it was time to patiently wait for everyone to come to repentance before they continued the journey. But who needed to repent? Who were they waiting for?

The people God delivered needed to repent because they believed the lies they were taught by their rulers: God hates us, God delivered us so he can kill us, God will not help and God will abandon the women and children. God did not abandon the women and children in Egypt and God will not abandon these sinners in a desert. When God sent Joshua and Caleb, whom have a right to the Promised Land, back into the desert to suffer with the sinners it was a living testimony of God’s love. If God didn’t love them why didn’t he let Joshua and Caleb enter the Promised Land without them? God would not allow the church to go forward until God and his people proved their love because it is God’s goodness that leads us to repentance.

It was not too late for the people condemned to die as strangers and foreigners in the desert to forsake a covenant of law and embrace the better promises in the covenant of grace made with Abraham and his seed, one seed meaning Christ.[10] We all get saved the same way Abraham did. He was the first and therefore Father of the faith that works by love.

The covenant of law only gave them the land to the Jordan River and a kingdom with corrupt rulers, even David the man after God’s own heart used his place of privilege to commit adultery and murder. The law cannot give us an incorruptible kingdom. King David knew that the nation he was a steward over was not the nation God promised to them. David called the nation they became after they crossed the Jordan River foreigners like their forefathers.[11] David was not satisfied with the things the law gave him. He wanted the things grace could give him because grace gave him the land to the Euphrates River and a king that will never corrupt and therefore a kingdom that will never end. 

For forty years the children would shepherd, pastor and be a friend as they bore the burden of their father’s sins. The children who had not sinned were left in the desert so God could use them to preach the gospel of grace that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God but there is hope if they will repent and put their faith and trust in the one seed of Abraham through whom they can still receive better promises. 

The people that perished in the desert during forty years of mercy did not inherit any land in their lifetime but neither did Abraham before them and neither did Jesus in his lifetime after them. Moses died in the desert, but all he lost was the corrupt nation they became after they crossed the Jordan. The nation grew as corrupt as Sodom and Gomorrah. The one seed God made promises to in the covenant of grace is the only reason the nation did not come to the same end as Sodom and Gomorrah.[12]  The people that perished in the desert still had opportunity to do what Abraham did. Live all their lives as strangers and foreigners and then die in faith believing God would raise them from the dead and give them everything he promised. But they must believe God loves them and does not lie.

God’s treatment of the people who sinned against him gives all of us hope and a choice. We have hope that it is not to late to have a part in all God promised to do. We have a choice between law and grace. Do you want to obtain his promises by obeying a covenant of law or would you rather receive his grace? 




[1]  (Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright (c) 1994 by Biblesoft)

[2] James 3:7

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:5

[4] Revelation 20

[5] Ezekiel 20:4-10

[6] Ephesians 1:18, Living Bible

[7] 1 Corinthians 10:3-4

[8] Romans 8:1-4

[9] 7462 (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[10] Galatians 3:16

[11] 1 Chronicles 29:15

[12] Isaiah 1:9-10

About Teena Myers

Teena Myers is the Chairman of Southern Christian Writers, a freelance writer and author of three books.
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