The Meaning of Words

What we say to others matters. It can lift someone up or tear them down. Our words can change the course of someone’s life. In Joshua 14, the Israelites have conquered the land of Canaan and Joshua is apportioning the land to the various tribes. In verse 7-8 Caleb recounts what happened more than 40 years prior to that day:

“I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully.”

It’s a stark contrast between someone who speaks from a heart for God and someone who speaks from fear of people.

Caleb is referring to what is recorded in Numbers 13 where Moses sent out men to spy on the new land. In verse 27 they tell the people when they return, “Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” But the other men focus on their fear of the inhabitants of the land: “Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there (28).” They go on to fill the Israelites with fear, adding in verse 32, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size.”

But Caleb speaks his heart, a heart for God and His promise to them. “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it,” he said in verse 30. Caleb joins Moses, Aaron and Joshua in pleading with the Israelites to focus on God’s promise. In verse 14:9 they tell them, “Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.”

But the words of the other spies have filled the Israelites with fear and they refuse to listen. Instead they want to stone them. The result is that an entire generation misses out on “a land flowing with milk and honey.”

God wants good things for us, but sometimes it requires us to do hard things that can fill us with fear. The Israelites were promised a good land, but it requires them to conquer the inhabitants of that land. God told them they would be victorious, yet they chose to listen to the demoralizing words of the spies who feared the powerful inhabitants of the land. Like these spies, there are people around us who will only see the negative and fill you with fear. The challenge for you is to focus on God’s promises to you. In our Lord there is victory.

© 2021 CGThelen

Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. – Psalm 146:3

12 thoughts on “The Meaning of Words

  1. With God by our side we will have everything we need to overcome the challenges we will face. If we lean solely on our own strength and that of the people around us, and trust in their words more fully than the word of God, we will miss out on much. We will be stuck in place, instead of following the path God guides us to take. It will be hard at times, but we can persevere and get to where He wants us to be.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. You’re so right. What we say to others matters far more than we realize. Help us, Lord, always to speak words of love and encouragement. In His name we pray. Amen. ❤

  3. Scripture shows us so much on how to live for God. We learn from the mistakes of so many in the Bible as well as the faithful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Blessings.

  4. :uke 16.10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
    The Israelites who came from Egypt never were faithful in the little things. They never learned. Therefore, they could not be faithful in the big things: they allowed themselves to be swayed by people instead of God. May we learn from them, and allow lessons from God (even in the little things) to change our hearts to Him.

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