Friday, October 8, 2010

You First

Commentary on Sabbath School Lesson for October 9, 2010

Have you ever played the punch game? It goes like this: Someone says, “Let's see which of us can punch softer? You get to go first.” Chances are, you only fell for that once. “You first “ are usually the last words you hear before you are on the receiving end of something very unpleasant. Ex.: Let's see who can do the best belly flop off the high dive … you first. Let's see who can fly farthest off this cliff … you first.

It may happen differently sometimes, but, in the end, you will probably feel hung out to dry. And that's a bad place to be, isn't it?

Caleb, (one of the Israelite spies – that Caleb) found himself in a place like that. Joshua, Caleb and ten other guys went across the Jordan River to do some recon on the Promised Land. Now, I don't know whether the group had any discussion before reporting back to base camp, but I'm thinking Joshua and Caleb thought they knew what the report was going to be...and then the other ten spies started improvising. And as if ten against two weren't bad enough, all the Israelites sided with the ten. Total bummer. Read Ellen White's take on the whole episode:
“ ... 'And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and ... said ..., Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or … in this wilderness!'...
“Those who bore the discouraging report … served the satanic powers in complete rebellion. And they carried the disappointed congregation with them, in that they believed their interpretation of the land. The congregation took the wrong side, and ... cried out against the faithful spies, and bade them stone Joshua and Caleb, who dared to bear the truthful representation in regard to the land.”1
When the whole group started talking about stoning Joshua and Caleb, Joshua looked at Caleb and said, “You know what? I'm done.” Caleb rolled his eyes and said, “For reals, dude, I am so outa here.” Then they both walked out of the camp, crossed back to the other side of the Jordan, and lived happily ever after.

Oh, wait, no, that's what I'd do. What really happened next is amazing! God said, “Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times ... will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 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.” Numbers 14:21-24

Even more amazing, to me anyway, is that when God turned them back into the wilderness to spend the next forty years, Caleb went with them. Can you imagine how his heart broke when he walked away from the promised land?

I'm pretty sure I'd've been really tempted to stand at the Jordan and wave to the whole tribe. The next forty years must have been awful for Caleb. I have to think that the Israelites didn't just “let bygones be bygones.” I bet they found someway to make the whole thing Caleb's fault, and then rub his nose in it for forty years.

I believe that most of us would have taken off on our own, set up camp somewhere next to the Jordan and just waited until God brought the Israelites back. The temptation to let his disappointment turn into resentment must have been almost unbearable. Caleb could very easily have become a bitter, disillusioned old man by the time the Israelites came back to the Jordan River...but he didn't. Many people in the same situation would have been mad at God because they got the same consequences as the grumblers. But Caleb wasn't. How was that possible?

Well, I have a theory – Caleb paid attention.

That's it. Caleb paid attention when God, through Moses and Aaron, freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. He paid attention at the Red Sea...the manna,the water from the stone, the whole snake episode … he paid attention to what God did. Caleb knew that when God said He the land would be theirs … He would give them the land! The size or the number of the people who lived there didn't make any difference at all.

Caleb didn't spend any time looking at the present circumstances or looking back at his life in Egypt. God said they were going to the land of milk and honey, so that's where they were going. Even when public opinion turned against him, he kept his eyes and his heart on God, making everything else, immaterial.

In Christianity Today, F. B. Meyer describes what must have been Caleb's philosophy of life.
“It is a mistake to be always turning back to recover the past. The law for Christian living is not backward, but forward; ... for doing the will of God, which is always ahead and beckoning us to follow. ... reach forward to those [things] that are before, ... Don't fret because life's joys are fled. There are more in front. Look up, press forward, the best is yet to be!”2
It takes a brave man (or woman) to look into the faces of a million or so angry people and believe that God is standing with you. It takes a person who has spent enough time with God to be able to really know Him.

Have you and I spent that kind of time with God? Could we stand for God's way when no one else will? Do we believe when we're in that situation, God is standing with us? Have we been paying attention? “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose … If God is for us, who can be against us? ... Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? Who is he that condemns? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:28-39

1E.G. White, Church Triumphant, page 119
2F.B. Meyer, “Our Daily Walk,” Christianity Today, Vol. 40, No.1

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