Numbers 13 introduces us to a 40 year old Israeli named Caleb. He's lived through some pretty amazing times already. A couple of years before, he and the rest of the Israelites had been delivered from 400 years of bondage in Egypt by God through the hand of Moses. They'd seen the Red Sea split open, their Egyptian enemies crushed, and the giving of the Mosaic law by the fiery hand of God at Mt. Sinai. Now they are about to enter into the land of Canaan-a land that had been promised to them by God hundreds of years before. One catch-their were some really nasty characters in Canaan! Affectionately called the Canaanites (imagine that!), they were idol worshipers, had walled cities, and were roughly about as tall as Lebron James. Caleb is a member of an elite Israeli Special Ops Unit made up of one man from each of the 12 tribes (Maybe we'll call them Seal Team 12!). They are sent by Moses not to see if they can take the land, but rather as a sort of ancient reconnaissance team to find out the best way to neutralize the Canaanites.
Well, long story short, when these guys see the size of the Canaanites, they get seriously cold feet. All but two of them come back saying, "Yeah, the land is everything we've ever dreamed, but (and isn't there always a "but") there is no way we can take it." However, there was a minority report. Caleb and his buddy Joshua saw the same giants in the land, but their faith was greater than the size of the Canaanites. He spoke against the Whiny Baby Ten and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." (Num. 13: 30) However, the people, quaking in their sandals, accepted the majority report and decided to make like a tree and leave. Caleb and Joshua pleaded with their brethren to not bail out of God's plan but to go up in God's strength. Unfortunately, the people would have none of it. In fact, they actually picked up stones to stone the two spies! Talk about some unpopular leaders!
The people had had their say, but then God had his say. And, believe me, it was not what the Israelites wanted to hear! God sided with the two men of courage against everybody else. As a matter of fact, Moses (who had also stood with Caleb and Joshua) had to do some serious negotiating with God to keep Him from nuking the whole nation! God consigns the entire nation to wander in the wilderness for forty years until all the men forty and older had died. The exceptions were to be---you guessed it-Joshua and Caleb. Numbers 14:24 is a refrigerator verse. Here God tells the people what he thinks about Caleb--
"But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it."
The forty years have passed, the old crew has gone out and the new crew has come in. A nation of migrants has gone into Canaan and cleaned the clocks of a nation of giants. Ever heard of the walls of Jericho? They're history now. And today a nation of a million or so Israelites has only two old men. Yep, our old buddies, Joshua and Caleb. Joshua was given the unenviable task of following in Moses' footsteps as Commander In Chief, and (with God's help) he fills that role with grace and grit. Caleb? Well, we haven't heard from him in awhile. We catch up with him in Joshua 14. He's 85 now and as strong as he was at 40. He's still got that "can do" spirit. Instead of retirement, he's ready for a new challenge. Moses had promised him a portion of Israel and he's come to claim it. Think maybe he'll take a condo on the Sea of Galilee? Maybe a spot by the Jericho Country Club? Nope. !et's peak in on Joshua 14:12-
"Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
Caleb has his pick of the litter, and he chooses the rocky hills of Hebron where the giant Anakites live. Yep, there's a few Canaanites left in the land, and 85-year-old Caleb wants to knock their heads together! This is one old hombre whose doesn't have retirement on his radar! Oh, and guess what? Joshua 15:14 tells us he did exactly what he promised he'd do. Those pesky Anakites were assigned to the ash heap of history!
What does the story of this ancient Israeli have to do with our lives here in 21st century America? I think this over 3000-year-old story has something to say to us today. Let's draw some lessons from Caleb's life:
- Caleb was a man of a different spirit. Caleb was not a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. When virtually everyone around him had the wrong answer, he stuck stubbornly to God's right answer no matter what others thought. His wholehearted devotion to God contrasted starkly with the wishy-washy religion of his peers. Sound familiar? Even in Christian circles today, spiritual toughness is a rarely found trait. We want a boatload of feel-good religion, but aren't willing to spend much time in God's word and in prayer to find out what God wants for our lives. And it shows. I'm afraid most Christians today would buy in to the majority report of fear and "can't do" than the minority report of "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
- Caleb was a tenacious man. We know this because he stuck it out in the wilderness with his unfaithful companions without losing his faith. After 45 years, not only was he as physically as strong as he was at forty, but his spiritual abs were pretty amazing as well. What about you? Would you be willing to toil it out in anonymity for almost half a century, tenaciously holding to your faith no matter what the world, the flesh, and the devil throw at you?
- Caleb didn't have any quit in him even at the end. Instead of
looking for retirement, Eighty-five year old Caleb is ready to take on the
Hebron Mob. We somehow have bought in to this notion in our
society that birthday sixty-five buys us a ticket to Easy Street. Not
Caleb. He's two decades past that milestone and still itching
to serve the Lord in any way he can. I'd love to have half the
spiritual grit in my gizzard that this old geezer had!
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