Caleb: Willing to Take on The Giants
How many have heard of Shammua? Shaphat? Igal? Palti? Gaddiel? Gaddi? Ammiel? Sethur? Nahbi? Geuel? Perhaps, not many. These ten men are not nearly as well known as two of their colleagues or fellow spies: Joshua and Caleb. Some characters in the Old Testament are a rich source of excellent lessons (Romans 15:4). Many lessons can be gleaned from the life of Joshua as he played a major role in the conquering of the promised land. Caleb on the other hand only appears on the Biblical scene to make a few cameo appearances.
Caleb’s most prominent role in history was when he was sent out with the twelve spies to check out the land of Canaan. From Kadesh Barnea, Moses sent twelve men to spy out the land. Of all the men of the tribe of the Judah, the people had enough respect for him that he was selected to represent them (Num. 13:1,2,6). When the spies returned they gave conflicting reports. Ten of the spies said the land could not be taken because the Israelites would be no match for the pagan warriors in Canaan. Furthermore, this land of promise was one “that eats up the inhabitants thereof.” Their final protest was that men of great stature lived in Canaan.
Acting on faith, Caleb and Joshua objected, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome” (Num. 13:30). The congregation wanted to stone them until God appeared to the people (Num. 13:10). The other ten spies died by a plague sent by the Lord (Num. 14:36-37). Caleb and Joshua were rewarded by being the only ones to enter the Promised Land.
Caleb’s Award Winning Cameos
Full of Faith
Caleb was rewarded because he did not sacrifice his own convictions in order to make the majority report unanimous. He did not minimize the problems the Israelites faced in taking the land, instead he venerated God. The ten spies had faith in men and their power or in this case impotence. Their faith was based on what seemed logical instead on the faithfulness of God’s promises. What gave Caleb the confidence to take Canaan? Caleb believed God would be with them.
Louis Albert Banks tells of an incident that illustrates what it means to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ. On one occasion while Sir Henry Brackenbury was a military attaché in Paris, he was conversing with the distinguished statesman Gambetta, who said to him, “In these days there are only two things a soldier needs to know. He must know how to march and he must know how to shoot.” The Englishman quickly responded, “I beg your pardon, but you have forgotten the most important thing of all!” “What is that?” asked the Frenchman. Brackenbury replied, “He must know how to obey!!!”
Caleb’s faith produced godly living. Five times we are told that Caleb “wholly followed” the Lord (Num. 32:11,12; Dt 1:36; Josh. 14:9-14). Literally, that means he “ rendered a full obedience.” Too often Christians serve God half heartedly. His faith produced active obedience to every command of God.
As Christians we are to be obedient to God wholeheartedly. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23,24).
President Eisenhower told this tale, “An old farmer had a cow that we wanted to buy. We went over to visit him and asked about the cow’s pedigree. The old farmer didn’t know what pedigree meant, so we asked him about the cow’s butterfat production. He told us that he didn’t have any idea. Finally, he asked him if he knew how many pounds of milk the cow produced each year. The farmer shook his head and said, I don’t know, but she’s an honest old cow, and she’ll give you all the milk she has!”
Not every Christian can be a Paul or a David or a Joshua? But everyone of us can give everything they have got. Are you a Caleb? Does God have your whole heart without reservation?
Patient for Promises
As Joshua was dividing up the land by lots (Joshua 14:6-15), Caleb came to Joshua and reminded him of two promises that had been made many years ago. First, God would prolong his life. Caleb was now 85. Second, he would be rewarded the territory in which he had ventured as a spy. Caleb’s faith was based on the promises of God. Five times it said, Caleb said, “the Lord said…”
Even if it takes 45 years, God will keep his promises. Caleb was patient. He was not resentful, he simply went back into the wilderness and waited to receive his reward. That would be like receiving a promise today and waiting for it to be satisfied in 2057. Today, we await the fulfillment of the promise of God that if we are faithful we will receive a crown of life. A lifetime of waiting patiently for an eternal reward is not to much to ask.
Here are some of the signs that you are getting old…
- You’re asleep, but others worry that you’re dead
- Your back goes out more often than you do.
• You’re proud of your lawn mower.
• You can’t remember the last time you laid on the floor to watch television.
• Your ears are hairier than your head.
• You’re sitting in a rocker and you can’t get it started.
When the children of Israel were numbered the second time forty years later, all those from twenty years old and upward had died, except Caleb and Joshua (Num. 26:63- 65). Caleb was not 85. Yet, he had the optimistic outlook that he could take the territory promised him even if it was a well fortified mountain top inhabited by giants.
Having an optimistic outlook is a great blessing. Optimism is considering the positive side of life. Optimism is taking a camera when you go fishing. Optimism is reaching for the song book when the preacher says, “And now in conclusion…” The church, is full of negative thinkers who loudly cry: “It can’t be done”, “It won’t work”, “We’ve tried that”, “We’re too small”
The key to the longevity of his optimism was Caleb’s ability to keep the dream alive as long as he lived. A study was made of 200 people that we would call “very successful.” It was discovered that all 200 had one common denominator: each had dared to dream big dreams, set goals, and reach out to achieve those goals. George Foreman, at age 42, he came out of retirement to box once against Evander Holyfield, the heavyweight champion, who was 28 years old. Foreman said afterwards when he was being interviewed. He said, “I lost the fight, but…as long as you’re alive you can dream.”
Caleb was a fighting senior citizen. When most 85 year olds can only dream of playing dominos in a retirement home, telling stories of past adventures, keeping up with their meds, etc., Caleb still had his health and energy and most importantly his desire. He is not preoccupied with dying but with living a new adventure, twenty years past retirement age.
Get Rid of Giants
Caleb realizes that even though this land has been promised him by God, the only way for him to get the land is by going to battle. God was not just going to drop it into his lap. The Father is giving and kind but He is not a Santa Claus who is going to leave it under the Christmas tree. In fact Caleb requested the very location that had put the most fear into the hearts of the other ten spies. Caleb had seniority and could have requested any city, at the end of those 40 years only Moses, Joshua, & Caleb were left of the older generation of men. The three sons of Anak would have to be expelled (Judg. 1:20). The book of Numbers tells us that the descendants of Anak came from a people called the Nephilim. To receive his reward Caleb had to defeat several giants.
To claim the prize of great promise we too must defeat the giants that stand in our way. The giant of futility and failure. The giant of advancing age. It is easy to argue that the big task should be left to the younger generation sense we have fought hard for years. Then there is the giant of focus. Instead of seeing obstacles we like Caleb need to see the opportunities. We need to trust God who specializes in killing giants just ask Caleb and David.
The physical battles of the Old Testament are foreshadowings of our own spiritual battles. Far too many Christians act as if the war is over and no more battles are to be fought. Others think that we are losing the war. However, Christians who have faith like Caleb will know that we are more than conquerors with God on our side (Rom. 8:31,37).
– Daniel R. Vess