Saturday Night Live had a feature every now and then called “Debbie Downer.” This person interjected herself into otherwise happy occasions with terrible news and reports destined to ruin the mood of those around her. She was “always ready to tell you about a new disease, car accident, or killer bees.” Plus the fact she worked in her concern that the number one killer of domestic cats is feline aids.
There were many downers among the people of Israel. Numbers 14 records Moses’ desire to follow the Lord’s guidance by sending spies into the land of Canaan. This was the land promised to them by the Lord, but upon their return, 10 of the 12 spies indicated that there was no way they could move into the land. There were “giants” in the land, so the “milk and honey” that they saw only served as a teaser of what could have been.
We don’t remember much about those 10 spies, but we do follow the paths of Joshua and Caleb. Caleb, in particular, attempted to silence the people by telling them that the Lord would go before them and they would be successful. However, they had to be careful not to rebel. Unfortunately, this was exactly what they had been doing. They were cultivating a spirit of complaint.
They had gotten good at this. At the sign of trouble, and really before trouble began, the people of Israel complained and griped against Moses. They wanted a new leader, and couldn’t believe God would bring them all the way out from Egypt only to watch them die. It was a Debbie Downer display if ever there was one.
There’s a difference between disagreement and disobedience to God. Sometimes people disagree over certain matters, but it’s not the same as rejecting God’s purpose for your life when things get hard. When this happens, we settle for less than God’s best for us. Consequently, all those complainers never saw the promised land or lived to see the results of obedience to God.
I enjoy being around Calebs. They are instinctively encouragers and see the possibilities beyond the problems. Not everyone can do this, which is why the Lord noted that Caleb had “a different spirit.” The people of God had cultivated an entitlement mentality which reinforced their belief that difficulties were not part of the deal.
Sometimes folks get the idea that they are entitled to certain things. This can create problems when things don’t go their way. Complaint becomes not only a guest of the house but a resident, unpacking his suitcase of bitterness, frustration, and fear. That’s what was taking place around Caleb, Joshua, and Moses.
It’s a good time, while we’re still in January 2013, to make a point to follow Caleb’s example as the Lord lays out the opportunities before us. The Lord is patient and compassionate, and I’m grateful for these attributes as he works with me and the family of faith. May God help us to have a “different spirit” when tempted to succumb to complaint and anger when things don’t go our way. This is a real challenge for people who follow Christ.
Between Egypt and Canaan there’s a lot of room for spiritual development. It could be a time of personal growth or for personal griping. The land in between is like that.
Let’s keep moving.