Does the name Gaddiel ring any bells? Probably not. How about Nahbi? No? Let’s try Igal. Or Ammiel. Or maybe Shaphat. How could we forget a name like Shaphat?
And yet we do forget these names – along with those of several other anonymous and faceless men who served alongside them more than 3400 years ago. Until recently, I didn’t even realize that the names of these ten men were listed in the Bible. They have been overshadowed, outlasted, and brushed aside by the names of two other men with whom the ten are forever linked: Caleb and Joshua.
Twelve leading Israelites were sent by Moses to evaluate the land that the Lord had set aside for them. Ten men, whose names are listed (Numbers 13) but largely forgotten, returned with a majority report that can be summarized in one word: “Yikes!” They spoke of large adversaries, fortified cities, and a land that devours its inhabitants. Two phrases stand out in their reaction: “We are not able,” and “We became like grasshoppers.” Their pessimism led to a predictably panicky response of the people, including a call to replace Moses with a new leader who would oversee their return to slavery in Egypt.
God was not mentioned even once in the report of the ten spies. He was considered irrelevant to the conversation.
Caleb and Joshua saw things differently. They saw the same obstacles that the ten had seen, but they didn’t ONLY see the obstacles. They saw the hand of a kind and powerful God who had dramatically rescued them from slavery in Egypt, had provided for them on the long journey across the desert, and had made promises to them about their future. Looking at the world through this lens inspired them to rally Israel around the mission God had given them, and proclaim it do-able: “The Lord is with us; do not fear them!”
The people listened to Gaddiel and the gang, and wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua. They probably would have done so, if God hadn’t intervened.
There is a lesson here for those of us who lead. Wait, don’t turn away because you don’t consider yourself a leader. Are you a parent? Are you a coach? Does anyone report to you? Do you have friends who look up to you, siblings who are following in your footsteps? If you are breathing, the chances are good that someone, somewhere, looks to you as an example. You probably lead more than you realize. This is for all of us.
We need to pay close attention to this stunning fact: by most measurements, the ten spies were the more influential leaders. Their perspective won the day. They changed the minds of God’s people. But they did so in a way that God saw as a dismal failure, which led to 40 years of walking in circles until that entire generation, EXCEPT Caleb and Joshua, died of old age.
Influence is not enough. We can lead effectively without leading well. Let that thought sink in. It is sobering.
A godly leader factors God into the equation, and points His people to His presence and His promises. A godly leader realizes that He is relevant to every conversation. Caleb and Joshua were godly leaders, calling His people to a higher standard and to a different perspective. They didn’t please their peers, but they did please their God.
And they had the last laugh, because their names endure over 3000 years later. My daughter married a Joshua, and I work with a Caleb.
I don’t know anyone named Shaphat.
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