Caleb

Numbers 13:6-33 and Numbers 14

Caleb is a very popular bible hero.  If you named one of your sons after him, you are not alone.  In 2018 Caleb was the 45th most popular boys name in the United States.

We first find Caleb in Numbers chapter 13.  As you probably remember, this is the portion of scripture that tells us about the time that Moses sent 12 men into Canaan to spy out the land that God was giving them.  There was one representative from each of the tribes of Israel.  The scripture tells us that Caleb was the representative of the tribe of Judah.

Numbers 13:6 – from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh;

Moses instructed them to find out about the people of the land.  Were they strong or weak?  Did they live in camps or strongholds?  Where there many people or few?  Was the land rich or poor?  Did it have trees or not? In general, Moses was asking them for an overall picture of the land and its inhabitants.  He also instructed the men to bring back some of the fruit of the land.

So, off they went.  I wonder if they went secretly or if there was a public celebration as they left.  How do you picture their departure?   Either way, I suspect the Israelites frequently thought about them while they were gone. 

Can you imagine the anticipation of the people during that time?  Israel had been in slavery for the past 400 years.  They had waited and waited (and waited!) for God to rescue them and lead them into the Promised Land – a land that was flowing with milk and honey! 

The Promised Land would be the fulfillment of the promises made to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  It was to be a place of peace and rest.  A place of prosperity.  A place where they could govern themselves.  A place where they could freely worship Jehovah.  They had waited so long and now it was within their grasp!

I bet you could feel the excitement and electricity in the air as the people waited for the men to return.  I bet that every day they speculated about what the Promised Land was like!

Meanwhile, the spies were hard at work. They traversed the land from north to south and from east to west.  Eventually they came to the valley of Eshcol where they cut down a cluster of grapes that was so big, it took two men to carry it!

Numbers 13:23 – And they came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they also brought some pomegranates and figs. 

Try to picture the scene as the 12 representatives came back into the camp carrying that fruit!  Once they were spotted, news of their return must have spread like wildfire. 

Moses gathered all the people together at Kadesh to hear the report of the spies.  Once everyone was assembled, they began to speak. 

Fact number one: the land was indeed prosperous and wonderful; it was all they could ever hope for.

Numbers 13:7 – And they told him [Moses], “We came to the land to which you sent us.  It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.”

I can picture the people getting more and more excited, like it was Christmas morning. I can feel the anticipation building within them. At last they were coming into their inheritance!

Fact number two:  The inhabitants of the Promised Land were fierce and numerous. There were Hittites and Amorites and lots of other ‘ites’ living there.  In fact, there were even descendants of Anak there. FYI, Anak is the name of a race of people, not an individual.  The Anakim were people known to be of giant stature.  Remember Goliath of David and Goliath?  He was one of their descendants.

Fact number three:  The cities were well fortified and protected.These people were not going to willingly hand Israel the keys to their kingdom and walk away. 

It is interesting to note that all 12 spies acknowledged these facts.  There was no dispute about the situation they faced.  Yet we have two very different responses to the facts.

Numbers 13:30 – Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”

Caleb (and Joshua) believed the promise of God. They trusted that God was well able to fight for them and with them; he would defeat their enemies and they would take their inheritance.  If God was for them, who could be against them?  They wanted to claim their inheritance without delay. If Caleb had his way, Israel would probably have attacked that night!

But then, the other ten spies who were trusting in themselves and not God, encouraged the people not to go. 

Numbers 13:31 – Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”

They went on to say that they felt like grasshoppers compared to the giants living in the land. 

Sadly, the whole congregation of Israel sided against Joshua and Caleb.  They grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  Then they turned their backs on God.  They wished they were dead and that they had never left Egypt!  In fact, they talked about choosing a leader and going back!  Can you imagine?

Numbers 14:2-4 – “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey.  Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”  And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Of course, Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb all tried to reason with them.  They begged them not to rebel against God. 

Numbers 14:9 – “Only do not rebel against the Lord.  And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us.  Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

You already know how this ends.  Despite the begging and pleading of Caleb and the others, the people rebelled.  They picked up stones intending to kill Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, but God had enough.  He intervenes and eventually sentences them to wander in the desert until everyone aged 20 and over died. 

However, God makes a couple of exceptions:

Numbers 14:24, 30 – But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.  Not one [of the Israelites aged 20 or over] shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

Sure enough, the people wander in the desert for 40 years until the unbelieving generation died.   Joshua and Caleb must have seemed really old to all the rest of the Israelites!

Eventually, just as God promised, he took the next generation into the Promised Land.  Despite the 40 year delay, Caleb had not forgotten the promise of God.  In fact, he brought it up before the people of Judah when Joshua was assigning them their inheritance.  Caleb reminds Joshua that he had been ready, willing and able to conquer his inheritance 40 years earlier, but was unable to because of those around him.  Now he had another chance to claim his inheritance, and he was going to take it! 

Joshua 14:10-12 – And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness.  And now, behold, I am this day 85 years old.  I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.  So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day…it may be that the Lord will be with me and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said. 

So Joshua gave Caleb Hebron for his inheritance; and Caleb stepped up and took it.

Personally, I love movies and stories that tie up all the loose ends and give the viewer or reader a happy ending.  I feel like that is what God did in this case.  Eventually, Caleb received the inheritance he had been promised. 

What about us?  What can we learn from Caleb?

DON’T GIVE UP:   Have you been waiting a long, long time for God to fulfill a promise for you?  Maybe you have been praying for a spouse or for a child.  Maybe you have been waiting for God to save your loved one or heal your body.  Maybe you are asking God to take your ministry to the next level.  Maybe you are seeking a promotion at work. Whatever it is, does it seem to be taking forever?  If so, you have an example in Caleb. 

Sometimes God asks us to wait.  We don’t always know why.  Perhaps we are not yet mature enough to get what we are asking for.  Sometimes we must wait for God’s perfect timing.  Maybe God is using our lives as a testimony to others.

During the times of waiting, the enemy will come and try to get you to give up.  He whispers things in your ear during your most vulnerable times.  See if any of this sound familiar:

  • God has forgotten you. 
  • You know you are not worthy to receive that.  Obviously, God feels the same way or he would have given it to you by now.  
  • You might as well give up – it’s too late for your promise to come to pass.
  • You are too old (or too young). 
  • Stop kidding yourself – God’s promises are for the spiritual elite.

I imagine that the enemy also spoke similar words of discouragement to Caleb, but he ignored them and held on tight to the promise of God.  Because he did not give up, he eventually got his reward. 

Sometimes, the enemy does not speak directly into our ear, but he speaks through those around us.

Sometimes your best friend or your parents or your spouse are the ones who try to discourage you from standing firm.  Sometimes they are the ones who encourage you to give up and move on.  That was the case with Caleb.  Of the 12 spies, ten of them told Caleb to give up, the Promised Land was just a dream.  After that, more than a million people (literally) said the same thing, yet he put his trust in God and did not give up.

Remember, like the Israelites, those around you have a right to believe that their circumstances are greater than God’s power.  They can choose to believe that God has forgotten them.  They have the right to quit and let go of God’s promises, but they can’t force you to give up, unless you choose to do so!

Be on your guard during the waiting season.  This is no time to give up, even if others tell you to!

Looking for another example?  The same thing happened to Abraham.  God promised him a son, but Abraham went years and years without seeing that promise fulfilled.  The scriptures tell us that he did not give up, but trusted God and stayed strong in his faith.  

Romans 4:20-21 – No unbelief made him [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of these two men.  Keep your eyes off the problem and on the one who is able to bring the promise to pass!  God is the great I AM.  Remember, nothing – NOTHING- is impossible for him!

Luke 1:37 – For with God nothing shall be impossible.

When you are tempted to quit, remind yourself and your naysayers that nothing is too hard for God!

Then, begin to praise him for his strength, power and glory.  As Abraham knew, praising God strengthens your faith.  It keeps you from giving up.

BEWARE OF BITTERNESS:  Let’s be honest… if there ever was a person in all of history who had the right to play the “LIFE IS UNFAIR” card, it was Caleb. He did all the right things, but wound up suffering because of those around him.  Had he taken his eyes off of God and looked at his neighbors, he could easily have become bitter. 

Can you see how it might happen? 

  • “Well today is my 45th(or 50th or 60th or 70th…) birthday, but it sure isn’t a happy one.  I should be spending this birthday in my new house, but instead I am still here in this stupid desert”
  • “I am so tired this morning! I don’t feel like packing up and marching any more but thanks to my countrymen, that is exactly what I have to do!” 
  • “Manna – again!  If it wasn’t for my fellow Israelites, I could be eating lamb and drinking my own wine right now!”
  • “My life stinks and it’s their fault!”

Can you see how it might happen to you?  Maybe you missed out on some opportunities because you grew up poor.  Maybe a doctor misdiagnosed your condition and you have permanent health issues because of it.  Maybe your spouse left you for someone else.Regardless of what happened, keep this in mind:

Other people cannot negate the promises of God in your life – only you can do that – so don’t be bitter!

The writer of Hebrews warns us against the destructive influence of bitterness. 

Hebrews 12:15 – See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble…

Let me give you some truth – even if you grew up poor and missed some opportunities, God can overcome that and bring to pass his perfect plan for your life. 

Your physical/mental/emotional issues are not a surprise to God, nor are they a stumbling block for him.  God is still in the healing and deliverance business.  Hestill has a divine plan specifically tailored for your life, and he will bring it to pass if (like Caleb) you trust him. 

Let’s take this one step further.  Maybe you are personally responsible for some of the mess in your life.  Maybe you were the one who made some bad decisions and the repercussions are enormous and permanent.

Perhaps you were once addicted to alcohol/drugs or had an abortion or broke some laws and spent time in jail.  Once you stand up and take responsibility for what has been done, then you need to put it all under the blood of Christ and let it go.  None of these things (once they are under the blood of Christ) can negate God’s plan for you!

So again, follow Caleb’s example.  Do not blame others or become bitter.  Instead, forgive and keep your eyes on God.  Unlike humans, God keeps all the promises he makes!

Ps 12:6-7 – The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.  You, O Lord, will keep them…

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

MEDITATE ON THE PROMISE:  I believe that Caleb kept the words of God’s promise close to his heart.  I believe that he rehearsed them in his mind on a daily basis.  Maybe he meditated on them while he marched through the desert each day. Perhaps they were the last thing he thought of as he went to sleep, and the first thing that came to mind in the morning. 

Maybe when his children were born, he held them on his lap and told them not to worry, because the promised inheritance was on the way.  When his family became discouraged, he gave them hope by quoting that promise.  He could rejoice, because he knew his situation would have an ending point.  The trial would not last forever.  The fulfillment of the promise was coming.

Notice that when he finally comes before Joshua to claim his inheritance, he speaks with authority, like someone who has kept a tight grip on a legal contract:

Joshua 14:10-12 – And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness.  And now, behold, I am this day 85 years old.  I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.  So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day…it may be that the Lord will be with me and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.  

What about you?  Is your promise close to your heart or have you lost it amongst discouragement?  Is it on your mind at bedtime and in the morning or are you busy thinking about the problem?  Do you keep it in prayer?  Do you praise God for its completion even before you see it?  You should.  The scriptures say:

God gives life to the dead and calls and calls into existence the things that do not exist (Romans 4:17).

Meditate on your promise knowing that someday, in God’s perfect timing, it will become a reality.  Rejoice knowing that your waiting will eventually end.  Rest in the peace of God’s love for you, as he takes you into your Promised Land.

Let me give you some encouragement:  Don’t give up!  God has not forgotten you.  He is still on the throne and actively working in your life.  He loves you more than you can imagine.

Let me give you some relief:  Nothing in your past can disqualify you from God’s will for your life.  God is famous for bringing the dead back to life.  If he has to do that in your situation, he will; you have not surprised him in any way. 

Let me give you some strength: You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  As a child of the Most High God, you don’t just endure the waiting period – you can thrive in it when you know that he is in control.   You can relish in it, knowing that your faith strengthens others.  At the end of the wait, you will have not only the fulfillment of your promise, but you will have greater faith and a closer walk with your savior. 

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