King Content, meet Queen Context
For a journalist and writer, the Bible offers a number of good role models. Moses could tell a great story, though he was a bit repetitive at times. David had flourish, but he had a tendency to get a little flowery. Luke was accurate, though I wonder how easy it was to decipher his doctor’s script. And Paul, well, someone ought to have talked to him about run-on sentences and rabbit trails.
For me, the scriptural scribe to emulate is Caleb. You won’t find anything he actually wrote in the Bible, but then he’s in good company with Jesus in that regard. However, he was one of the two Hebrew “reporters” Moses sent to spy out the Promised Land that brought back a “good report,” you will recall.
Unfortunately, the other ten correspondents on the assignment came home with a “bad report” that led to God’s chosen people missing out on all He had intended for them. Instead of going into God’s place of provision, they wandered around in circles for forty years getting sandy.
As I have observed before, this incident is a striking picture of the power of the press. It serves as an example of how information gatherers and disseminaters—journalists, writers, reporters, commentators—play a significant role as disciplers. The things they tell cause their audience to follow, one way or another.
So what was it about Caleb and his colleague, Joshua, that set them apart from the others? Not that much, actually, when you look at the account in Numbers 13. The timid ten were all fussed about the rather large “sitting tenants” they had found, the giants descended from Anak. “We turned into grasshoppers” was their supermarket tabloid-style account of that encounter.
Caleb didn’t actually dispute the details, but he must have known that the devil was in them: if the people believed the majority report, then they wouldn’t follow God’s plan.
“Come on, folks,” Caleb said in response to the others’ report (Butcher Paraphrase). “We’ve got this.”
It was not so much the facts that the two sets of reporters were at odds over, but what they meant. The difference was more context than content.
The ten saw giants because they were looking at things from where they were, from ground level. And that made the big guys they had run into cast a mighty shadow. Caleb, meanwhile, was viewing things from God’s perspective. And so he looked down on the giants, rather than craning his neck up at them.
Content may be king, as the old media wisdom goes, but if communication were chess, then context would be queen.
If the majority view of Caleb’s peers had any validity, you might expect their concern to be borne out in later encounters. But when you flip forward to the Book of Joshua to read about how the Hebrews finally took possession of the land God had promised them, the Anakites are no big deal. They are simply listed as another group that was dispossessed. So much for the giants.
As I have observed before, it’s not easy being the minority voice in the media, holding to the conviction that something is black when everyone else is saying it is white. How did Caleb hold firm to his dissenting view in the face of overwhelming opposition? What set him apart? What made his words true?
According to Numbers 14:24, God said that Caleb had “a different spirit” and “followed wholeheartedly” after Him. From that place he could see clearly and correctly. It’s somewhere worth aiming for.
One Response to “King Content, meet Queen Context”
[…] A photograph can be a powerful thing, but it’s only a single moment in time. It contains no before or after by which to position it. And, as I have observed before, without context we may not be able to truly understand the content. […]