(Numbers 13:25-14:10; Joshua 1:1-11)
Should it be surprising to us that as Christians we are in the minority in this world (see Matthew 20:16b)? Is it startling that many are vehemently opposed to us when we bear witness to the truths of God out in the world (see John 15:18,19)? Is it a futile cause to speak out concerning the Christian faith? In answer to these troubling questions, the Old Testament believer Joshua supplies us with a positive view of things in the kingdom of God!
After spying out the promised land of Canaan shortly after Israel’s exodus from Egypt, Joshua, together with another believer named Caleb, found themselves to be minority voices when delivering their report. While all agreed that this was a fertile land flowing with milk and honey, the ten spiritual weaklings among the spies reasoned that it would be impossible for Israel to take possession of this land. Relying only upon their own strength and resources, they regarded themselves to be like grasshoppers in comparison to the giant-like Canaanite inhabitants. In contrast, both Joshua and Caleb encouraged Israel to go forward, putting their faith and trust in God’s infinite power and His faithfulness to keep His promises to them.
Faithless Israel not only accepted the majority report and rejected the minority one, but they also were ready to stone to death both Joshua and Caleb—such was their animosity toward the two for their faithful Christian witness. While the Lord spared the two from such a painful death, these believers nonetheless had to endure the forty-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula along with the disbelievers.
When we go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel message that it is only through the redemptive work of Christ that we are eternally saved and can enter the promised land of heaven, the unbelieving world frequently scoffs at this testimony and ridicules us. Christians are not only subjected to verbal abuse, but also can suffer more severe persecution—even to the point of death.
By the grace and mercies of God, Joshua and Caleb endured the long and difficult sojourn in the wilderness, and were blessed with the high honor of passing over the Jordan River into the promised land of Canaan. On the other hand, those disbelieving Israelites who had been twenty years and older at the time that the twelve spies returned with their reports did not have a share in this blessedness. As judgment for their faithlessness, they all died in the wilderness.
Who then was it that led the remaining Israelites in battle to dispossess the Canaanites and lay claim to the land flowing with milk and honey? It was the minority voice of Joshua. And how was it that Israel was able to conquer the land of giants? With Joshua in the lead, calling upon Israel to put their trust in God’s great power to deliver Canaan into their hands, they prevailed.
Although like Joshua we are a minority voice in a hostile world, nevertheless we are equipped with the Gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). According to God’s promise, His Word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what He pleases and will prosper in the thing for which He has sent it (Isaiah 55:11). The Christians who go out with the Gospel may be a minority in numbers, but they will lead others into the promised land of heaven, as the Holy Spirit works saving faith through the Gospel.
Yes, we are in the minority, but we serve as leaders for a Major Power!
Mark Gullerud is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bowdle, South Dakota, and Zion Lutheran Church in Ipswich, South Dakota.