There are about 11,000 known species of grasshoppers and they can be found all around the world. They live in the fields, eat mainly plants and vegetable matter, and are called grasshoppers because of powerful hind legs that allow them to leap great distances. Grasshoppers are from the insect family and range in size from two inches to about five inches. Though large for the insect kingdom, they are tiny animals. Calling or seeing oneself as a grasshopper may not necessarily be a flattering thing, especially in the context of the following story.*
The children of Israel had an opportunity to scope out the Promised Land that they were hoping to occupy. They had heard that the land was bountiful – flowing with ‘milk and honey’ -and they wanted to see for themselves if this was indeed true. Moses their great leader chose twelve men – one from each tribe – to go in as spies to see what was in the land. He wanted to know whether the people in the land were “strong or weak; few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad’ and so on. Moses instructed the men to “be of good courage” and he asked them to bring back some of the fruit of the land.
After forty days of spying, the men came back bringing word that the land was bountiful indeed; that it really flowed with “milk and honey” and as proof the men had brought back a cluster of grapes cut from one vine that had to be carried by two men. However, the report was not all positive. Some of the men declared that the land was inhabited by strong people living in fortified cities. Hearing such a report the crowd buzzed with disappointment and fear. That’s when a young man by the name of Caleb spoke up. “Let us go up at once and take possession,” Caleb said, “for we are well able to overcome it.” Caleb was supported only by Joshua, his friend. But ten out of the twelve spies disagreed with them; they continued giving a bad report saying that the inhabitants of the land were stronger than they were. And if that was not bad enough, there were giants in the land as well “and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
When you are a leader, it really should not matter what people think about you. But what is more important is what you think of yourself. If you think you are a grasshopper in the sight of those who are against you, you will be squashed every time! This story starkly illustrates the difference between people who are appointed to lead – as were the ten spies – and those who are natural leaders. While all twelve were appointed by Moses, Caleb and Joshua were the only two who exhibited real leadership. After hearing the bad reports given by the ten spies, the people lamented. They complained to Moses and Aaron and even suggested electing a new leader to take them back to Egypt, the land of bondage. Joshua and Caleb however stood firm in their belief that “the land is an exceedingly good land.” For their point of view the people wanted to stone them.
There are a few things we can learn about Caleb and Joshua that leaders should emulate.
- They focused on the positives in the report: The assignment the spies were given was to look at the land the see whether it was a good land or not. They came back with a report that it was indeed as promised, a good land flowing with milk and honey. From the beginning they knew that the land would be inhabited, so this was no surprise. When they made the report however, the ten spies placed emphasis on the negatives. The goodness of the land became an unnecessary distraction to them and not as important as their well-being. Someone once said anything worth having, is worth fighting for. Caleb and Joshua saw that the land was bountiful as they had expected it to be and the challenges they would face was nothing they could not overcome.
- They believed in themselves: There is no doubt that every situation a leader faces will bring challenges. Things are never as easy as we would like them to be and challenges – like giants – are there to overcome. If a leader sees that obstacles are bigger than himself, he has failed already. This is not to say the leader should simply ignore the size of the challenge. However the size of the problem is not as important as the size of the leader’s courage. Joshua and Caleb told the Israelites they should not “fear the people of the land for they are our bread.” While ten spies saw themselves as grasshoppers in their own eyes as well as their adversaries, Joshua and Caleb saw themselves as ‘overcomers.’
- They believed in the God they served: The possession of the Promised Land would be a culmination of an act of deliverance for which the Israelites had longed for and prayed for years. Under the leadership of Moses it had finally happened and now they were close to their destination. Along the way they had ample opportunity to experience the power of God in their deliverance. Through miracles and divine intervention they were at the threshold of their destination. You would think they would feel if God had brought them this far, He would take them all the way, right? That’s how it should be but instead they became ungrateful and complained that they were brought out here to die. Joshua had to remind them “if the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us.”
*(Read the full story in the Bible: Numbers 15 and 16)