Giants are also only dwarfs
«Giants are also only dwarfs», from Caleb, the courageous spy of God. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I want to make it clear to my listeners that we can be courageous on the road with God, because huge challenges become small from his perspective.
The sermon is preceded by a short film:
Let’s be honest and hand on heart. – Who among you would have dared to go to the cinema with this company? It takes a lot of courage and guts, doesn’t it? I myself would have been pretty queasy with so many tough guys in one room. Just the sight and the number of these somewhat weird guys and then the fantasy of my thoughts, what could happen now, would have made me run out of the room pretty quickly ;). It takes a lot of courage to take the last two free seats like the last couple and stay there for a whole film? Based on the story of Caleb, one of the 12 Israeli spies who are supposed to spy out the promised land of Canaan, we want to learn not to be intimidated by challenges, so that we can live our Christian lives even more courageously today through God’s Spirit. I have given this morning’s sermon the title: «Giants are but dwarfs too», from Caleb the courageous spy of God. I will read us extracts from the story in the 4th book of Moses, chapters 13–14. I think that the 12 spies must have felt the same way as the couples in the cinema when they saw the giant population of Canaan! When you see them and you are in the minority, you can well understand that your heart sinks and you get scared?
What is so different about Kaleb?
Only the two God-fearing men Caleb and Joshua react like the last couple in the clip and do not want to be dissuaded from their mission and intention! Only Caleb and Joshua have the positive experience at the end of the story that nothing bad happens to them in the «cinema» or in the promised land! But what is so different about Caleb? What is so particularly courageous that he does not want to shirk the huge challenge of taking the land in spite of everything? The answer is found in verse 24 of chapter 14: «There is another spirit in Caleb (& Joshua)», than the other 10 scouts. Kaleb is endowed with a different spirit, so he has slightly different tools and resources to fall back on. He has something that makes him brave and determined!
The story begins with the Israelite leader Moses commissioning the leaders, the chiefs or elders from each tribe with a spy service. Because God wants to give the land to the people as their property, these 12 all brave and experienced men are supposed to form the «advance guard», so to speak, and check out the situation there in the land, that what awaits them. And they are not just some nobodies here or some naïve young professionals. No, they all have proven leadership qualities! These are real cadres, and they all come from the top echelons… And this fact-finding mission is really something! Imagine that: On enemy soil, – behind enemy lines, detailed reconnaissance of the local living space is to be carried out.
What are the soil conditions like? What is the climate like there? And what is the vegetation like? Are there local development plans and how strong is the professional army? The 12 agents have just under 6 weeks, or 40 days, to cover about 600 km. So when God calls staff or gives out any service assignments, it really gets down to the nitty gritty. But we, today, often recruit staff quite differently, don’t we? We set the level further down, according to the motto: «You don’t need much commitment if you help out here! It’s not very time-consuming either! And you don’t necessarily need knowledge, you’ll grow into it over time…
We very often remain on the human side of the tasks and also the task profiles. Personally, however, I think that God usually challenges us a lot, even overtaxes us, so that we can experience his carrying us through and his powerful help! God puts a burden on us, but he also helps us.… Almost all the figures of the Bible, such as Abraham, Moses, David, Peter and Paul, can tell us a thing or two about this… It is striking, all the scouts agree: The explored land is great! Figuratively speaking, it really is the land long promised by God, where milk and honey flow. It has many agricultural products in abundance (grapes, figs, pomegranates) and everything is of the best 1a food quality.
The spiritual difference
So far, there is not the slightest difference in the reporting between Kaleb and the other agents. They all perceive the positive with equal gratitude! And even with the negative side effects and challenges that every task brings, everyone agrees. There are huge and physically very robust inhabitants, the Anakites. They all report cities that are difficult to capture and well fortified, and on top of that there is a huge army of battle-hardened soldiers. The facts are equally on the table for all! In the perception and the analytical observation of things, everything is still in order up to now. But now comes the big difference between the courageous Caleb, endowed with God’s Spirit, and the others who have become fearful in the meantime. What has happened in the meantime, I ask myself? The spiritual difference lies in the interpretation of the situation! What I see and perceive with the same eyes can and will be interpreted completely differently from person to person. «Faith is a different interpretation of the same reality. It’s about what conclusions I draw from the facts when quasi overpowering giants, i.e. problems and challenges, stand in my way. It just doesn’t happen easily and smoothly.
While the other 10 doubt whether the own forces will be sufficient to fight against the huge population, Caleb perhaps naively holds on to the promise that God will give them the land. promised has. He trusts that God will also personally take care of them and intervene so that they will also get the land.
The 10 scouts compare the giants living in the land with themselves and their own conditions. They compare their own qualities with those of the giants and then analyse correctly: «They don’t have the slightest chance against the Canaanites and Anakites». From a purely human point of view, they are even right! Caleb, however, is led by God’s Holy Spirit, and that is what makes up his faith, his courage and his different spirit. He compares the giants with his God, he confronts the huge challenges – God’s still far greater possibilities – and suddenly the giants shrink into themselves.
John Knox, a Scottish reformer, once said about faith: «that an individual, together with God, is always in the majority and also superior». Caleb’s experience is similar to that of Elisha in 2 Kings 6:16, when he is standing with his anxious servant on the city wall in Dotan and on the opposite side the overwhelming lord of the hostile Arameans is encamped around the city. Suddenly the servant’s spiritual eyes of his heart are opened and the curtain of the invisible world is pulled away so that the two of them see the sky full of fiery chariots and steeds. The question here is: What points of reference determine your thinking and perception in difficult life situations? What are you looking at? Antoine de St. Exupery puts it this way: «One sees well only with the heart» and the prophet Samuel is told in 1 Sam. 16:9: «That a man sees only what is before his eyes!» Seeing, I once heard, means preferring! Today we speak of selective perception.
We mostly see what is on our minds anyway: Pregnant women increasingly see other pregnant women and fearful people see some danger lurking around every corner. About 1200 years later, the Letter to the Hebrews in the NT ch. 13, 6 says «that we should never throw away our trust in God, even when difficulties loom before us». When «giants» stand in our way, we should know that we are always sitting on the shoulder of an even bigger giant who carries and holds us! Now I ask you to think for a moment about the giants in your life that frighten you? What difficulties and challenges are you facing right now and what is preventing you from taking your promised land? What is perhaps keeping you from being on God’s mission and serving Him? Are you more problem- and giant-oriented and do you compare your own strengths with the challenges you face? Or do you have the same courage as Caleb to compare your giants with God’s possibilities and promises?
Adolf Schlatter, a Protestant theologian, once claimed: «That the Bible absolutely wants to help us to recognise God’s invisible world as a real existing reality». Augustine: «Miracles are not against nature, but only against the nature we know! Say God is still greater and always stronger than the greatest challenge you can face!» African proverb: «You may tell your God how big your problems are. But after that, you should also tell your problems how great your God is!» Being equipped and on the way with God’s spirit means for me that I (actually) don’t need to be afraid anymore, because God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power and prudence! Giants are also only dwarfs when I contrast them with the omnipotence of God.
In the Letter to the Romans, Paul claims of himself in the 8th chapter: «that he may be assured that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor things high, nor things low, nor any other creature, will be able to separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord».
I am convinced that Caleb’s exemplary courage also lies in the positive experiences he has had with God so far. Caleb has not forgotten how God delivered him and a hundred thousand other Israelites from captivity. Caleb draws strength and courage from the memory of God’s great deeds in his life. He does not belittle his past experiences because they may have happened some time ago! He consciously keeps in mind that God has helped again and again in earlier times through individual miracles, and that it is a small thing for him to repeat these signs and deeds again and again! Think about where you could muster or practise spiritual courage in the next week, the new year?
- Is there an opportunity to talk about your faith?
- With God’s help, can you dare to do something that you would not dare to do yourself?
- Or where can you perhaps face a problem instead of running away or avoiding another person?
Being equipped with spirit and courage means for me to go through life with a new, different mindset! Based on Caleb, I learn that I want to rely more on God’s promises than listening to my own inner purely human voice! Paul recommends to the Christians in Ephesus 4:23: «But renew yourselves in spirit and mind». / metanoia/ conversion means; «rethinking – rethinking» and to the church in Rome he writes 12,2 «Do not conform yourselves to this world, but be changed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect».
To be equipped with God’s Spirit and His courage does not primarily mean to show any proof of achievement or qualifications, but to look at life and its challenges from God’s perspective and also to interpret them with spiritual eyes of the heart.