“I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. . . . Your children will be shepherds in the wilderness for 40 years and bear the penalty for your acts of unfaithfulness until all your corpses lie scattered in the wilderness.” Numbers 14:10 and 12.
I used the Introduction of this series to describe a particular trial I encountered in my legal career and how it brought me to the profound question, “Am I out of God’s Will?” Turning to the pages of scripture, I found guidance from the lives of four “J”s. We’ve covered the first three of those gentlemen: Jonah, Job, and Joseph. Let’s consider the final member of the “J” team.
Joshua, Caleb, and ten other Israelites spied out Canaan in advance of their planned conquest. The group unanimously praised the land’s quality and bounty while warning of its many people and fortified cities. Joshua and Caleb urged the nation to proceed, trusting in God’s deliverance. The other ten spies proved more persuasive, causing Israel to fear and refuse to enter the Promised Land. God’s displeasure was evident in the judgment He spoke (quoted above).
As a result, Joshua experienced a trial of great immensity – a forty year walk through the desert sands. He lived a daily struggle with “that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions”. (Deut. 8:15). For 14,600 days, Joshua toiled and watched as more than one million of his fellow countrymen perished.
The object of the trial was not Joshua, but the rest of the nation. Joshua (and Caleb) experienced collateral damage – faithful men suffering because of the faithlessness of the masses. From the beginning, Joshua knew that he and Caleb would have to endure God’s very long judgment of Israel. There was no shortcut, no bypass, no quick fix, no fix at all.
In Joshua’s life story, I found another potential cause for the trial I was facing. Maybe it is not about me at all. Maybe God had to do a work in my clients’ lives and I, like Joshua, felt the collateral effects. This is not to say that God is unmindful of faithful people in the midst of His judgment. Yet, Joshua is not the only biblical example of “innocent” people impacted by the judgment others have earned. Life as we know it often tells the same story.
As you struggle with the “hows” and “whys” of your trials, consider the potential that your struggle may have nothing to do with you. Embrace the truth of Romans 8:28 – “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” – in order to consider your present challenges as “a great joy”.
In the next and final segment of this devotional series, we’ll recap what we’ve learned from the four “J”s and see how their life stories should equip us to prudently and faithfully respond to the trials we face.