October 26, 2021
Numbers 14:5-9 (NIV)
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)
It’s today again! ;0)
This meeting has clearly gone off the rails. The people are crying and yelling. They are grumbling and cursing under their breath. In a move of desperate devotion, Moses and Aaron have fallen facedown on the ground in front of the whole assembly. Now Joshua and Caleb, the two members of the minority report, begin ripping up their clothes. When Patrick Lencioni said good meetings need drama I don’t think this is what he had in mind. This meeting is headed for mutiny. Coaches are about to be axed mid-season. This is clearly going to be a major turning point in the story.
The Promised Land movement is all but lost. Against all odds, Joshua and Caleb determine to express their encouragement to the people, come what may. Let’s break their speech down to its enumerated points.
- The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.
- If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.
- Only do not rebel against the Lord.
- And do not be afraid of the people of the land
- because we will devour them.
- Their protection is gone,
- but the Lord is with us.
- Do not be afraid of them.
“The Lord. . . The Lord. . . The Lord.” Did you see it? Count them. Three times they witness to the presence and power of God.
I love that the designated leaders of the people, Moses and Aaron, are not the ones giving this exhortation. They are facedown on the floor. I love the courage of these two eye-witnesses, leaving everything on the field, knowing the other ten eye-witnesses are not with them. They have taken a courageous stand, knowing they would likely not carry the day.
This is what our ascended Lord Jesus Christ is watching for every minute of every day. He is looking for those whose eyes are fixed on him, who will give witness to “the Lord” around the family table, in the church council meeting, at the executive committee session at work, from city hall to the halls of congress. He looks not so much for people to say religious things but to say and do righteous things. He is looking for those whose hearts belong wholly to him.
Why is encouragement so essential? Because discouragement is so dangerous. Discouragement is toxic, like a malignant cancer, spreading a spirit of defeat and despair which most often leads to division. As we walk through this story, I am beginning to see the strategy and movement of encouragement. It begins with empathy and deep identification with a person or community. Then it moves to a shared remembrance of the story so far. It then moves into a mode of prophetic co-presencing, creating the space for the Holy Spirit to move and minister to the heart of a person or community. This is the space where deep begins to call out to deep, before and even beyond words. The final move is one of exhortation, where our words take on supernatural capacities to freight the heart and mind of God for and into another.
Here’s the best part. SPOILER ALERT: This story will not end well. But we will never stop talking about Caleb and Joshua. The witness of encouragement always wins, even when it is on a losing team.
Father, teach and train us in this essential work of encouragement. Give us the eyes of Jesus to see others, the deep heart to hear them, the ears to listen for what you are saying over them, the patience to wait on you, and the boldness to speak—come what may. I know it begins with my own wholehearted belonging to you, Jesus. Come Holy Spirit, and encourage my heart to this end and these outcomes. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
How is this approach and framework for encouragement encouraging you? Challenging you? How will you grow in your appropriation of it?
For the Awakening,