Liahona
Rebel Not, Neither Fear
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“Rebel Not, Neither Fear,” Liahona, Apr. 2022.

Come, Follow Me

Numbers 11–14

Rebel Not, Neither Fear

Joshua and Caleb understood the challenges before them, but they knew that they could rely on the Lord.

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The return of Joshua and Caleb

The Return of Joshua and Caleb, by unknown artist, Lebrecht History / Bridgeman Images

In my life I have noticed that people often react to inspiration received by Church leaders in one of two ways:

  1. They catch the vision of what the leader feels the Lord needs to have done, speak positively about it, and encourage others to catch the same vision. Sometimes this may require them to move forward with faith until they gain full understanding.

  2. They rebel against the vision, pick it apart, and find reasons why they fear it can’t be done. Or they totally ignore the inspiration and do nothing at all. Eventually, those in this category find that the Lord’s work will succeed, even though they chose not to support it.

The Lord’s Promise to Moses

We read about similar reactions to the inspiration of their leaders when the Israelites neared what was known as the land of Canaan. The Lord had delivered the Israelites from Egypt. He had told Moses that if the people would keep His commandments, He would lead them to the promised land, a land that the Lord had promised to give to Abraham’s descendants, “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17). As they journeyed through the wilderness to this place, the Israelites passed through many trials that tested their faith. They often rebelled and strayed from the Lord’s commandments. (See Exodus 32:1–9; Numbers 11:1–34.)

When the Israelites at last neared the promised land, the Lord commanded Moses to send twelve spies—one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel—to “search the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:2). They were commanded to find out whether the people who lived there were “strong or weak, few or many” and whether the land was fruitful. Two of these spies were Joshua and Caleb. (See Numbers 13:4–20.)

These spies spent 40 days searching the land of Canaan before returning to Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness. The spies bore with them the fruit of the land of Canaan. They reported that the land “floweth with milk and honey. … Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great.” (See Numbers 13:25–29, 33.)

Two Ways of Seeing Things

All twelve spies had witnessed the same benefits from and the same obstacles to fulfilling the Lord’s command to dwell in Canaan. However, their responses demonstrate how ten members of the group saw only the problems, while the other two placed their trust in God.

Ten of the spies saw only the difficulties before them. Because they did not rely on the Lord, they feared following His command to go up to the land of Canaan. Caleb and Joshua, on the other hand, knew that if the Israelites had faith, the Lord could deliver the land of Canaan to them. Caleb counseled, “Let us go up at once, and possess it [the land]; for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30).

The other ten spies contradicted Caleb’s counsel. “We be not able to go up against the people,” they said, “for they are stronger than we. … All the people that we saw … are men of a great stature. … And we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:31–33).

Choices Based on Fear

Unfortunately, the Israelites focused on the fearful report. Because the way seemed difficult and they feared the people living there, they refused to enter the promised land. They began to murmur against Moses and against God. They were so without faith that they even wished that God had let them die in Egypt or in the wilderness. “Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?” they asked, going on to say, “Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Numbers 14:3–4).

Joshua and Caleb, however, still tried to help the people rely on the Lord. “If the Lord delight in us,” they said, “then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

“Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; … the Lord is with us: fear them not” (Numbers 14:8–9).

The children of Israel would not listen to Joshua and Caleb and instead tried to kill them (see Numbers 14:10). Because of their rebellion, the Lord told them they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Only when all who had murmured against Him passed away would He bring them back to the promised land. Of the twelve spies, only Joshua and Caleb entered the promised land. (See Numbers 14:22–38.)

Modern-Day Calebs and Joshuas

There are many modern day Calebs and Joshuas. One such man was my wife’s grandfather John Hulme. One day in 1926, the bishop had a conversation with John. The bishop brought up the topic of a mission. This caught John off guard.

John had always wanted to serve a mission, but his life was complicated. Why? Because John was 42 years old. He was a married man with four children, ages 15, 12, 4, and 2. He was a self-employed rancher. He had land and cattle that would need supervision while he was away. He would have to find a way to make sure his family and property were taken care of while he was gone.

The bishop told John that this was not an official call, just a suggestion. John told the bishop he would think about it and let him know the next day.

John sought out the bishop early the next morning and said he would accept the call to serve. That morning, after what was probably a very sleepless night, John did not know how he would make arrangements to serve a mission. He only knew he would serve. Like Caleb and Joshua, he knew God would help him find a way. And God did. John was able to hire a neighbor to care for his land and his cattle, and the ward and community rallied to support his wife and children.

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Missionaries

It must have been quite a culture shock when John, a rancher from a small town, arrived to serve his mission in New York City.

Illustration by Brian Call

John came from a small country town with a population of about 500. He was accustomed to riding a horse and working the land. When he was called to serve in New York City, it must have been quite a culture shock. He probably felt like a grasshopper among giants. But John served a successful mission. His example has given his posterity the desire to place their trust in God regardless of the obstacles and unknowns. “With God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Face Obstacles with Faith

Just like the children of Israel, we face formidable obstacles. But those obstacles cannot separate us from the blessings the Lord has promised if we will obey His commandments. It isn’t wrong for us to recognize those obstacles. But it is important that we face them with faith.

Joshua and Caleb understood the challenges before them, but they knew that they could rely on the Lord.

Through the lens of the ongoing Restoration of the gospel, we can easily see that when the prophets tell us the Lord’s will, we would do best to look for the ways to help bring it to pass. Surely there are obstacles, but with faith in God we can overcome them. Here are some examples:

  • When high priests and elders were combined into a single quorum, some wondered how this change could possibly work. Others embraced the change and reached out to build new relationships.

  • When ministering replaced home and visiting teaching, some saw only the challenges. Others began ministering in a higher, holier way.

  • When President Russell M. Nelson emphasized the need to use the full name of the Church, some hesitated and listed reasons why shorter names were easier. Others immediately embraced the guidance and found ways to use the name as it is given in scripture.

  • When the Sabbath-day meeting schedule was shortened from three hours to two, some felt that the time for teaching would be insufficient and schedules would be confusing. Others quickly adapted to the change.

Of course there are many more examples, but the lesson is clear. Each challenge and each obstacle we face is an opportunity to choose, as did Joshua and Caleb, to rely on the Lord. “Rebel not … , neither fear” (Numbers 14:9) was good counsel for the children of Israel, and it is still good counsel for each of us today.