15 August 2022

It's your choice: God's strength or your own?

Bible study by Captain Tom Dunham

Captain Tom Dunham challenges us to move forward in faith.

Key text

My guess is that many of us fear change and feel some anxiety about it. And then there are some who approach change with great expectancy and excitement.

I definitely fall into the first category. But I think we would all agree that change is necessary to move forward.

Pause and reflect

  • How do you react to change?
  • Is there any area of your life where you’re avoiding change because you are comfortable?

As we come to Numbers 13, we find that the Israelites are at a crucial point in their journey as they stand on the brink of the Promised Land – a land flowing with milk and honey that God has promised to them.

Throughout Genesis and Exodus, we read about his promise a number of times. The Israelites have faced much change in their past, and there is more change on the horizon as they finally approach this new land.

In a practical move, God commands Moses to send out spies to explore the land and report back. Verses 4 to 15 outline the names of the leaders trusted with this important task, one from each ancestral tribe.

A sunset with a signpost at a crossroads

Numbers 13:30

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’

Read the passage

The 12 spies travel for 40 days surveying the land and see nothing that the Lord has not already told them. We must also remember that God has promised victory to the Israelites so all they need to do is trust his word.

Pause and reflect

  • Who are the visionaries in your corps, those we should be seeking to listen to as God shows them new opportunities?
  • When have you taken time to listen to the needs of your local area to see what God reveals?

The spies return with their report. They confirm God’s promise that this is indeed a land that is flowing with milk and honey. They even return with a branch of fruit as evidence.

At this point, there should be praise and thanksgiving of God’s promise followed by a readiness to enter the land. However, the tone changes as the spies continue: ‘But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large’ (v28).

The majority of the spies are filled with doubt and great concern regarding the perceived strength of the people in the land, the fortification of the cities and the tribes already living there. They are filled with fear at the prospect of moving into the land and believe that they will fail.

Despite recognising the truth of God’s promises, it’s a report filled with unbelief and a lack of faith in God. It appears that they are focused on what their armies can humanly achieve rather than on what God can achieve through them.

Pause and reflect

  • What obstacle are you currently facing that looks impossible to overcome?
  • As you think about that obstacle, what promise from God do you need to be reminded of?

Despite all the other voices, Caleb speaks up with courage and says: ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it’ (v30). Caleb and Joshua, who speaks later (see Numbers 14), believe the promises of God. They are willing to follow through with obedience, faith and trust.

We must not underestimate the courage that Caleb has in going against the opinion of those who have already spoken. How easy it would have been for him to doubt his own convictions and go along with the others!

Pause and reflect

  • Have you ever been afraid to speak up for what you believe is right when surrounded by others who believe something different?
  • How can you become more courageous in your faith? Take some time to meditate on Philippians 4:13.

Caleb and Joshua’s courage to report back with confidence all that God had promised must have been rooted in a confidence in God’s promises and character. Just as the Israelites faced a new land, we today are often faced with new opportunities or responsibilities. At such times, we have the choice to focus on what we are able to do in our own strength or on what God is able to do through us.

We might feel anxious, but shifting our focus can help change our perspective on moving forward. It will give us courage and confidence to move forward into the future that God promises, rather than being stuck where we are out of fear.

Bible study by

Tom Dunham

Captain Tom Dunham

Corps Officer, Plymouth Exeter Hall Whitleigh

Let's pray

Lord, you know all things. Help me to remember this when I have choices to make and may I trust you to guide every step.


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