By Stephen Green. (First Published in Christian Voice November 2007)
Josh. 14:6 Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the LORD said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadeshbarnea.
7 Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.
8 Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God.
9 And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children's for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God.
10 And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of
wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old.
11 As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.
12 Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.
13 And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.
therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of
NO POINT IN RETIRING What a man! Not only did Caleb wholly follow the Lord, not only was he one of the two spies who brought back a good report of the land of Canaan, but he still had the spirit of battle in him at the age of eighty-five. I like that a lot.
From time to time men say things like, 'I'm eighty-five, you know,' when they are asked to do something. Or men of any age excuse themselves with, 'I'm not as young as I was,' or they tell me they are just about retire, at the age of sixty-five, or sixty. I hear of men retiring in their fifties. That shocks me, as I am that kind of age, and I have just started running and training so I can do the Lord's mental and spiritual work for as long as He wants me.
Indeed, as long as the good Lord can use me, I cannot see the point in retiring. I have no issue with men retiring from a secular job to do the Lord's work, but the idea of 'taking it easy' fills me with horror and dismay. I am sure I am annoying someone, or failing to understand someone's circumstances. There may indeed be situations where ill health forces someone to ease up and rest, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about those in good health who settle on their lees like the men of
in Jer 48:11 or the deists of Zeph 1:12. It is sin, and an abrogation of duty, in my humble opinion.
NEVER GIVE IN Back to Caleb. His name (Strong's H3612) gives a clue to his nature. Some say it is a form of H3611, which means 'dog', probably in the sense of 'attack'. Hebrew nouns are generally descriptive. They don’t have a word which can be translated straight across as ‘dog’. Their word means ‘an attacker’ and only ‘dog’ by application. But the word can also, in its H3612 form, mean 'forcible'. Today, in sport, particularly in contact endurance sports like rugby or boxing or even in long distance running, there has arisen the expression 'to dog it out' or to have the quality of 'dog'. It carries the meaning of being, well, dogged, just like a hound who keeps chasing or a terrier who won't, even can't, let go. In human sport terms it means to keep at it when exhaustion is near, not taking a backward step, never giving in either to fatigue or to the opponents.
And we have just seen Caleb's character described to a tee. Just like Joshua, he was not prepared to wilt seeing the Anakim giants of the Amaleks, the great but decaying civilisation of the Hittites and the rest of the Canaanites. But in Numbers 13:30 we read it was Caleb, not the younger Joshua, who told the other ten spies, the weak ones, to shut up, before urging Moses and the people, 'Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it.'
But Caleb was ignored, and a whole generation was condemned to wander for forty years in the wilderness. The frustration in Caleb and Joshua must have been unbearable. They could see what could be done, if only the people would follow them. How they could have felt bitterness against the doom-mongers, the ones who said it couldn't be done, and that compared to the giants 'we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.'
MORE THAN CONQUERORS We can never do anything in our own strength, of course, 'for without me ye can do nothing' (John 15:5) but 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me' (Phil
). It cannot have been that Caleb thought the Israelites could do it on their own, but he saw that with God, and in faithfulness to God, going out by His grace and in His power, nothing would be impossible, 'but with God all things are possible' (Mat 19:26).
We have the wet blankets today in the Church, of course. Sometimes they appear to be wonderful spirit-filled Christians, but when a bit of adversity hits, or they might offend against political correctness, or something is proposed which is outside their comfort zone, a contrary spirit of fear comes in, and whatever language it is dressed up in, it is not of God. 'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind' (2Tim 1:7). Such men suddenly at that point become worldly and their trust in the power of Almighty God deserts them. And I have to say it is the same spirit which crept into the ten scared spies. 'We were like grasshoppers.'
But with God and the doggedness of Caleb in us, we become and stay as overcomers, not under-achievers. 'And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death' (Rev 12:11). We become Christ's church militant here on earth, as the Prayer Book puts it. 'We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us' (Rom
NO DISCHARGE IN THE WAR It is good to remember that at the time of Joshua 14, Caleb was the oldest Israelite man alive. All the unbelievers of his generation had died in the wilderness. Only he and Joshua were left, and that was because of their faithfulness to God's word. And I just love the way this tough old man puts it in verse 11. I am praying to be like it in thirty years time. He says, 'I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me', which for him was of course forty-five years ago. Then, in case they haven't got it, he says, 'As my strength was then, even so is my strength now.' Wonderful.
And nobody argued with him, especially when he added, 'for war, both to go out, and to come in.' And, lest we forget, the people of Christ are in a spiritual war today. The giants, figuratively speaking, still need to be slain. We have no power against the Secularists or the Islamists, for example, ourselves, but our eyes are on the Lord, and with Him, we can defeat them. Taking the 2 Chronicles 20 analogy further, we may not even have to fight, but we need to be prepared to. For even though we do not war after the flesh and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (2Cor 10:3-4), we are still in a war. We are the Lord's soldiers (Phil 2:25; 2Tim 2:3) and we have to endure the hardness of the life that comes with it. And for the soldier, there is no discharge in war (Eccl 8:8 cf 2Tim 2:4).
KEEP ON DOGGING IT OUT
So we are not retiring, indeed we cannot retire. Too many people retire and die. They lose their whole reason for being. Caleb never did that. He didn't retire, he kept on fighting, and he kept on dogging it out. He is not the only one, for the Apostle Paul did the same, and gained his reward, as we read in 2Tim 4:7-8. But Caleb is the one who really inspires and challenges me. And by God's grace I'll follow his example, and I hope and pray, if you are a Christian, you will too.