Time and tide, as we all know, wait for no man whoever that man may be. Not even for a man like the indomitable Caleb who is the subject of our contemplation today. The Bible is full of wonderful men and women of great courage and determination; we can recall some stalwarts like Jacob, Moses, Joseph and Abraham from the Old Testament times and New Testament giants like Paul, Peter, John and Timothy. But 85 year old Caleb is truly outstanding and all Christians can learn some valuable lessons from observing this amazing man.
It was truly amazing that at his age:
He still had a vast thirst for God-directed adventure.
He still possessed an appetite for battle.
He still had a huge hunger for his promised possessions.
His trust in God to deliver diminished not one jot.
Let us now turn to the substance of the matter by looking at this determined man under the following headings.
HIS DETERMINATION WAS BASED ON HIS EXPERIENCE
Experience is a great teacher and all of us learn from our encounters and Caleb was definitely no exception. His experience was huge and he saw God’s working close up and personal. He could verify God’s hand in his life and he was so willing to testify to Joshua and Israel.
God spared Caleb from disasters
As a spy travelling through the land he could have been caught and executed “Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land” (Joshua 14:7)
He survived unscathed the many wanderings in the desert “For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the desert, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun” (Numbers 26:65)
When the spies were struck by the plague he was untouched “Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD” (Numbers 14: 37)
When you recognize God’s hand in your life you give the credit to him as did Caleb. A popular hymn says, Some through the waters, some through the flood, Some through the fire, but all through the blood; Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song, In the night season and all the day long.
God showed Caleb his doings
Caleb witnessed the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night and the manna from heaven as he travelled through the desert; how blessed and honoured.
He witnessed the miraculous fall of Jericho “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.” (Joshua 6:20)
He was present when Joshua asked God for a long day “…Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.” (Joshua 10:12-13)
We always say the sun “sets” and the sun “rises” and these are literally impossible and should be understood as idioms of speech but the effect is what we are concerned with and the same is true here; the cosmos was halted by God at Joshua’s command.
God saved Caleb from despair
Caleb endured for 45 more years with God’s help “And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years …” (Joshua 14: 10a)
He was preserved and strengthened by God during those years “…and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me:” (Joshua 14: 10c-11a) And His robustness and enthusiasm was evidence that his hopes were still high “I’m just as vigorous…” (Joshua 14: 11b)
A timely reminder that God’s work is best done when we are enthusiastic and fully committed.
If we are lukewarm, God will surely spew us out of his mouth. (Revelation 3:16)
Age is not a barrier to enthusiasm
HIS DETERMINATION WAS BOLSTERED BY HIS EXPLOITS
It was bolstered by his tough mission of spying in Canaan
Caleb endured a tough mission across the Promised Land “Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land” (Joshua 14:7a) and it had taught him much.
He took a principled, rather tha a popular stand with his minority report “And I brought him word again as it was in mine heart” (Joshua 14:7b). The majority, though loud, is not always right. The church needs men and women of strong conviction who are prepared to swim against the tide.
Church leaders too must be strong in their convictions because contrary liberal winds are blowing.
Caleb refused to compromise with the merchants of doom and gloom “…but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people sink. I however followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly” (Joshua 14:8)
Compromise, deemed desirable in industrial disputes and international diplomacy, can be morally reprehensible at times. Compromising to make one’s life “EASY” is often unwise. We can all think of shoddy compromises which in the end turned out disastrously, e.g. Samson and Delilah
It was bolstered by his tough task of ridding toughs from Hebron
Caleb requested the demanding hills of Hebron “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day” (Joshua 14: 12a)
Now compare this with Lot’s choice of the lush plains of Sodom, "Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other" (Genesis 13:11 ). Caleb routed the detestable giants from the land “From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites, Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai – descendents of Anak” (Joshua 15:14)
Giants are symbolic of spiritual obstacles and they can be hard to remove.
How we deal with our “giants" can determine our standing with God.
He rested the delightful land from war “Then the land had rest from war” (Joshua 15:15b)
It was bolstered by his tough engagements in conquering land
Caleb was a man of a zillion battles and he was never reluctant to do more. He conquered not only Hebron but assisted others to follow his example “From there he marched against the people of Debir, …and…Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother, took it” And he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher. And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it" (Joshua 15:15 -17a)
He was involved in battles at Heshbon, Bashan, Jerico, Ai, Gibeon, Libnah, Lachish and others and he assisted the liberation of small towns outside of Hebron.
A timely example of the need to assist fellow travellers. Believers will do well to follow Caleb's example of giving assistance to fellow believers for in so doing we fulfil God's command.
HIS DETERMINATION WAS BUILT WITH FAITH ENGAGED
Faithful Caleb acknowledged his trust in God
It is so easy to keep God in the background and not the centre of our life, but not Caleb. He believed strongly and fervently trusted in Almighty God “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day;” (Joshua 14:12a)
Caleb took comfort and showed confidence in God’s assurances in a real and substantial way not just as a general sentiment to him and his offspring. It is here where victory is won for God is still promising his people great things and we know that what God has promised he is able to perform.
Dutifully he accomplished his goals by trusting God
Caleb knew the Lord would give him the necessary help “and…the Lord helping me…” (Joshua 14:12b) This is the key to everything for he knew with God helping him he would prevail.
His confidence with God’s help was enormous “I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:12c) His task was mammoth bur his trust in God was equal to it and believers everywhere with this kind of confidence can affirm like Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13)
Caleb's belief in God was finally vindicated when all was well in the land, the work was done and the goals realized, “And the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:15b)
Finally Caleb attained closure
The wars are over, the land is settled and Caleb’s journey comes to an end, “So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord.” (Joshua 14:15a)
Believers' journey does not end on earth for our destination is heaven but here we can find closure just as Paul found when he affirmed, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7).
God’s promise to Caleb was that he would get his possession in the Promised Land but he had to claim it through mighty effort and determination, resilience and courage, never backing down and trusting God mightily the whole way. Just like Caleb, believers are travelling through the enemy’s territory and need to show courage and determination, vigour and strength and wait upon the Lord, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40: 30-31) This is God's guarantee and if this does not make you a person of fortitude, like 85 year old Caleb, then pray tell me what will.
Books by this author (non-fiction except indicated otherwise)
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THINGS EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD KNOW (3 Volumes)
Volume 1 – Five tough facts to be faced
Volume 2 – Five big truths not to be ignored
Volume 3 – Five challenging realities to be acknowledged
STAND UP TO THE DEVIL (5 Volumes)
Volume 1 – You must first identify him
Volume 2 – The Devil is not the boss