Orley M. Berg was associate Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference when he wrote this article.

Israel had come to the borders of the Promised Land. The hopes of months of wearisome travel were now to be realized. Israel would soon be in the Land of Promise. The dream of centuries, the vision of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was finally to meet fulfillment.

In this last hour, however, one thing was yet needful. The people must know more of the land they were to enter and of the demands that would confront them. To this end twelve representative men, one from each of the tribes, were selected and sent on ahead as spies.

The story is a familiar one. Their report spoke of grave danger. The enemy was a formidable foe, far greater it seems than had been anticipated. The cities were great and walled. And the inhabitants were giants, before whom they appeared as grasshoppers.

In this report thus far rendered all twelve of the spies agreed. Surely the enemy was great. Seven powerful heathen nations were spread over the land. Their fortifications were such as to withstand the most daring adversaries.

But at this point a sharp difference arose. Ten of the twelve, a convincing majority, reviewing the situation, quailed with fear: "The situation is impossible. Before them we will be doomed to certain destruction, there's only one thing to do return to Egypt."

To the multitudes this seemed a logical conclusion. In the light of the report and recommendation of their representatives, there was no alternative. 

The missing factor

But Caleb and Joshua saw things differently. Although recognizing fully the dangers before them and the strength of the enemy, they recognized also another factor seemingly forgotten by the others. After all, it was God who had brought them thus far. It was He who had given the command to go in and possess the land. It was He who had promised to fight their battles for them. It was He who had promised them victory over every foe.

These two men of faith now rose to the occasion. Looking beyond the seemingly forbidding circumstances, above the towering walls and the boastful giants, discounting the grasshopper complex of the masses, they saw only the commands and promises of God.

A little more than a year before they had seen God's power displayed at Sinai. They had heard His voice amid thunder, earthquake, and lightning. Before the holy mount all Israel had entered into a sacred covenant of obedience. To Caleb and Joshua it had been a solemn and meaningful occasion. To them the covenant entered into was genuine. With God's help they would be loyal and obedient.

Now in this hour of trial and test they stand forth as mighty men of faith and courage. The cowardice and fear of the multitudes meant many years of needless delay in the conquest of the land. But the faith of these two never faltered. Finally they alone of all who had left Egypt were privileged to enter in. 

History repeated

Today the story of the twelve spies is often repeated at the council tables where the work of the Lord is under study. Once again we stand at the borders of the Promised Land. Now, as then, the divine assignment to reach all the land with the gospel seems an impossible task. The opposition is great and our numbers and resources are small. It is easy to determine statistically that actually more people are being born every day than are being reached with the divine proclamation. In our own cities we can look upon untouched multitudes. The enemy has monopolized the TV, radio, newspaper, and every other means of communication. Major evangelistic campaigns come and go, and even they pass unnoticed by the masses.

In committee meetings at every level of our church organization, from the General Conference Committee down to the local church board, it is easy to join our sentiments, voices, and votes with the faithless ten of that bygone day. But the experience of Caleb and Joshua directs us to the better way. These two men who led ancient Israel into Canaan represent the kind of venturesome leadership needed in our churches today.

To us come the same words of command and promise spoken to Joshua as he assumed the leadership role laid down by Moses, "Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River, into the land I am about to give to them . . . Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:2-9).

Orley M. Berg, former associate editor of Ministry.