“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death…Outside are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolators, and everyone loving and doing falsehood.” (Revelation 21:8,5)
Hmm. Cowards don’t go to heaven. Occasionally, entire nations are made up of cowards. In Numbers 13, after 40 days reconnoitering the land of Canaan, less than 10% of the princes of Israel think the invasion is doable. The opposition (e.g. the Hittites, Jebusites, and Canaanites) isn’t worth the risk. With the exception of Caleb (Hebrew meaning “dog; faithful”), the congregation cowers in fear and vote to return to Egypt.
“Caleb, however, to quiet the people toward Moses, said,” We ought to go up and seize the land.”
Save Caleb, God sentences Israel to 40 years and death by wilderness. Does this punishment fit the crime? Psalm 106 lists their crimes: Israel forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel; they gave way to craving in the desert; they tempted God in the wilderness, and they forgot the God who had saved them.
Not Caleb. The 10 plagues, the Red Sea and the Manna and Quail were daily reminders of God’s saving presence. As my Sunday School teacher told us often, “miracles don’t create faith. Ask the 10 lepers healed by Jesus. Only one leper remembered to give thanks.” While Caleb is not spared the purgatory of the 40 years, God allows him to see the promised land.
After 40 years of wandering and the death of over 600,000 men (plus their families), God chooses Joshua as Moses successor and launch an invasion into Caanan. God orders the execution of every Hittite, Jebusite, and Canaanite (cf. Joshua 6:17). Scripture lists Canaan’s crimes as polytheism, child molestation, child sacrifice, and child sorcery (cf. Deut. 12). Like Pharoah in Egypt, the children of Israel in the desert, the people of Canaan were beyond redemption. When a nation crosses the line, God rains judgment.
More than 1500 years later, a Canaanite woman pleads with the New Moses. Matthew 15:21-28 records their conversation:
- “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
- He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
- But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
- She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
- Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Did Caleb (aka “a faithful dog”) inspire Jesus? Caleb brings faith to the land of Canaan and centuries later, Jesus, the new Joshua refers to this dog of a Canaanite woman not worthy of His food but sees in her “Caleb’s faith”?
Jesus (aka the new Joshua) grants salvation to this women’s household just as Joshua provided salvation to Rahab (cf. 2:9-11). The Canaanite woman, like Rahab, knows the deeds of God and pleads for God to spare their families. Matthew highlights Rahab’s role in salvation by including her in the genealogy of the Saviour of the world (cf Matthew 1) and includes the Canaanite women as the beginning of the salvation of the Gentiles (cf. Matthew 28: 18-20).
What if the Canaanite women and daughter stayed home instead of petitioning Jesus over and over? An entire nation might have never heard the good news.
Choosing God’s way over our way always ends in death. The punishment always fits the crime. Our nation is in need of more than a few Caleb’s to stand up to a nation of cowards who are too afraid to stand up for God’s way.
We need thousands of courageous women who refuse to go away until their nation receives God’s love and forgiveness.