Bible Studies in Book of Joshua

Joshua Chapter 14: Caleb – Wholehearted unto the end

By Fraser Gordon

 

Introduction

 

In this study I want to look at one of those really faithful characters in the Bible and that is Caleb.  We looked at him briefly when we came through the wilderness wanderings and can't really go past Caleb in the land claiming all that has been allotted to him.  He is a real picture to us of the perseverance of faith.  He is a strong character of one who wants to obtain everything that God has for him. 

 

Who was Caleb?

 

Joshua 14:1-6  Now these are the areas the Israelites received as an inheritance in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel allotted to them.  (2)  Their inheritances were assigned by lot to the nine-and-a-half tribes, as the LORD had commanded through Moses.  (3)  Moses had granted the two-and-a-half tribes their inheritance east of the Jordan but had not granted the Levites an inheritance among the rest,  (4)  for the sons of Joseph had become two tribes--Manasseh and Ephraim. The Levites received no share of the land but only towns to live in, with pasturelands for their flocks and herds.  (5)  So the Israelites divided the land, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.  (6)  Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me.

 

So here we are, the land has been divided up, and the first person to come up from the tribe of Judah is Caleb. It says about him that he was the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite.  When you look at Caleb's origins, you find that in biblical commentaries there are differing thoughts on Caleb because the Kenizzite is not a Jewish family name.  The Kenizzites were actually Edomites and there is some thought that even though Caleb was from the tribe of Judah, when you trace back his ancestry, it is just a little vague.  But here in the book of Joshua it says in about three places that he was the son of this person the Kenizzite.   So it is possible, and I say possible, because it is not actually clear, that Caleb was actually a gentile who through faith had been brought into the tribe of Judah.   We know also that Rahab was another person that pictures faith even though she was a gentile; she was brought into Israel and married an Israelite of the tribe of Judah. Edomites were actually the enemies of Israel - they traced their ancestry back to Jacob's brother Esau, and through Esau came Edom and from him came the Edomite race.  The other little clue in chapter 15 says that “the inheritance, or a share of the inheritance was given to Caleb among the children of Israel” so it almost infers that he was slightly separate from the tribe of Judah but he was in there.  Caleb's name means “dog”, and in that day a dog was treated completely differently from how we treat dogs today.   Back then they were a pest, something that just wandered from place to place, but now they are so much part of the family that sometimes they are treated like another child.  Can you remember the woman came to Jesus for the healing of her daughter and He said to her “My message wasn't sent to the dogs, or the gentiles, it was sent to the house of Israel?”  She had great faith and said “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.”  He commended her for her faith but almost implied that same term, that a dog was a gentile, someone that was unclean.  So it is quite possible that Caleb represents that as well.  It is interesting that when you look at the wilderness wanderings you have two main men that stood for faith, you have got Joshua and Caleb.  Which one is the most important out of the two?  Actually it is Joshua that takes the prominent position.  He becomes the ruler.  He is the main man. We know that Joshua is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in many ways.    And Caleb always walks alongside Joshua.  He is in his shadow but he walks by faith with this man all through the wilderness and into the land of Canaan and obtains an inheritance.  He is full of zeal for this inheritance, so you could, in some ways, see a picture or type of Jesus and His church, or the Jew and Gentile. 

 

Jos 14:6-8  Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me.  (7)  I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions,  (8)  but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.

 

Do you remember the story of when the twelve spies were sent into the land of Canaan?  Each man represented a tribe, and all brought back a report, but only two said that “God is able to take us into this land” and they were Joshua and Caleb.  All of the other spies only saw the negative and they were afraid because of what they saw; they saw the giants in the land.   The result was that the people actually wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb for believing in God.  Not only was there opposition in the land to them inheriting God's promises but there was opposition among those that were their brethren.  That tells us that sometimes our battle is twofold.  It can be from those who are the closest to us, and also from enemy forces who oppose us from claiming our inheritance.

 

But it says in this verse about Caleb that he “wholly followed the Lord his God” and it states this   three times.   There was something about Caleb's character that was different.  Back in Numbers, when God was talking about Joshua and Caleb, God said “but Caleb, who has a different spirit in him to the others.”  Here in the book of Joshua it says that “he wholly followed the Lord.”  What do you think it means to “wholly follow the Lord?”  This is something that is specifically spoken about Caleb and distinguishes him from others.  He does not compromise, he is fully committed to the purposes of God with all his being; this is what it really means.   If God wants to act in a certain way Caleb would be in there boots and all; he fully wants to be involved in what God has for him and for the nation of Israel.  If you contrast this with many other people; I was thinking of Solomon...he started off well and was the wisest man in all the earth.   However, what does it say about his last days?   It says that he didn't fully give his heart to God.  He didn't fully commit himself to God and his last days are really messy.   He started off well, but he didn't finish well.   But in Caleb you have this picture of a man of God who perseveres with faith all the way through and is consistent all his life.  The bible shows most people in all their blemishes.  But Caleb doesn’t really show a blemish in his life. 

 

The Lord’s faithfulness to the end

 

Jos 14:10  Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!

 

I love the first part of verse 10 where Caleb is recorded as saying “Now behold the Lord has kept me alive as He said.”  Caleb is saying here that what God said way back then, He has actually fulfilled, it has come about.  What He said was true and here I am this day!   So you have to think that for him this would have been incredibly hard because Caleb and Joshua actually believed God.  They were innocent but they had to undergo 38 years' of continual wandering because of the unbelief of the nation.  They believed God, they deserved to go in and inherit at that time, but they had to walk round and round in the desert for 38 years” while all the moaners and the complainers and the wingers and everyone from the age of 20 died off.  That is a long time that Caleb actually had to wait for God's word to be fulfilled in his life. There were 38 years' of wandering and then 7 years' of battle until he reached this point where God was about to fulfill His promise.   So think about that in light of us.  How long have we had to wait for things?  Waiting is one of the hardest things we actually have to do in the Christian life.  Is this true of us?  God has promised you something and it can be all sorts of different things.  Do you feel sometimes as if you have been put to one side?  Put to one side and everything is dry, everything is crusty.  There is nothing much happening and you are surrounded by people who do nothing but moan and complain, because this is what it would have been like for Caleb.   He didn't deserve all this but he had to undergo it. This is what I love about Caleb's life, that yes, he believed God but the promise wasn’t fulfilled straight away, it actually came to pass after a long period of time. 

 

We see in Romans 3 and 4 that “tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope.”  So as much as we hate those periods of waiting they actually have a purpose.   For Caleb this would have been tribulation.  Tribulation has its purpose because it produces perseverance and when you look at the life of Caleb this is what you see.   He is one that perseveres in faith. God sets us aside for lots of different reasons.   Things that we believe that God has got for us sometimes just don't come straight away.   We expect them to come immediately but it just doesn't happen that way.   We don't understand it.  Caleb wouldn't have understood it but he had to persevere and believe that God was going to fulfill His word to him.   This is why he said “Behold the Lord has kept me alive.”  Everyone else around him had died for 40 odd years as God said they would, but God made a promise way back then that Joshua and Caleb would survive and He was true to His word.  I love the story of Adonira Judson.  I was reading a little bit about him the other day.  He was a missionary who was sent to Burma and for 12 years' he went and preached every day in the market place and never got one convert. That’s a long time to not see any fruit!  It would have been incredibly hard for him not to see anyone saved. The missionary society that he was with sent him this message “What are the prospects in Burma?” which is a nice way of saying “what on earth is going on? 12 years' and you haven't got one convert. Shall we bring you home and put you through a course; shall we send you to a different mission field, what is happening there?”   And he sent back the reply “The future is as bright as the promises of God” What an amazing response...and that is something that Caleb would have said in the wilderness wanderings. If he had been asked that same thing I am sure his reply would have been the same “the future is as bright as the promises of God.”  At the moment there is nothing outward that you can see that is saying “I am in the right place,” but God's promises remain true and His word remains true.   Adonira Judson   was persevering in faith.  He was looking to God to fulfill His word.  Towards the end of that time there were tribal men from the Karen tribes coming down into the market place and they would talk to him and want to get him back up into the mountains to come and preach to these people but he didn't believe that this was God's will so he would stay where he was.  However, one day he went with them.  Unbeknown to him, the Karen tribes had this tale they had known for ages. They believed that one day a man would come into the tribe sitting on a donkey carrying a black book with him and it would lead them out of darkness and into the light. They did not know who the man was, but we know now that it was Adonira Judson.  He went up into the hill country with these people and there were just tens and tens of thousands of these tribal men waiting for him.  He came in on a donkey and he came carrying a black book and he preached his first message to them; they reckon there were just thousands and thousands who repented on the spot and gave their hearts to the Lord. From this there was a great revival amongst the Karen tribes. An amazing story because Adonira Judson knew nothing of that.  He knew nothing of God's purposes.  He just faithfully persevered where he believed God had him.  12 years' and not one soul and then all of a sudden in one day there were thousands!   He had no idea what God was doing and that is the same for many of us.   A lot of the time we don't understand what God is actually doing in and through us.   But I love that quote “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”   

 

How is your zeal?

 

Jos 14:11  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.

 

Here you have got the words of an aged man, he is 85, and yet what you see in his life is someone who is full of faith, full of zeal, full of courage, and full of vitality for life.  How many 85 year old people do you hear talk like this?   “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me.”  How long have we been in Christ?  Is there anyone here that has been saved 40 years, 60 years?   Could you say that you are as strong now as when you first began?   When I read this, I thought, this is a real challenge to me.   When you first get saved you are full of zeal, do you have the same zeal for those that are unsaved as you did when you first began?   Do you have the same zeal for discipleship, for the church, for the purposes of God?   Do you have the same zeal to inherit everything that God has for you as when you first began?  Caleb is a picture of someone who said “I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me.” Can you say about yourself such as this; everything that concerns me, the purposes, the will and the inheritance that God has for me, nothing has changed?  It's a real challenge. 

 

Caleb had a real vitality for life, a real ‘get up and go’. In my workplace I am surrounded by aged people.   There are lots of them playing golf and you get a real mixture among the aged.  I was thinking about this and it came to me that in the natural sphere your body starts to break down.  I was talking to a man on the golf course the other day; and he must have been in his late seventies, who said that there are two men that play golf every morning and we call them the speed golfers.   They are in their seventies and they can do 18 holes in the time that everyone else takes to do 9.   These two old guys just motor, hit and run, hit and run.   They get out before everyone else and they just keep going.”   I was talking to him and I said “what are you doing this Waitangi weekend?”  “Well” he said “I have wrecked my Achilles tendon and I can't tramp” (because he is right into tramping).  “However, I am going to bike it.” It was a three day bike ride and he said “I can't walk, but I am going to ride.”  When he said that, I thought he had just the type of character that Caleb had, they are just into it.   One little hindrance doesn’t stop them; they just find another way to do things.   I think Caleb would have been like that.  He just had a zest for life, a zest for God, and vitality about him.   At 85 he is saying “I am as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me.  As my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.”   That term there is used quite a bit in scripture.  You need to be strong for going out to war, and we can all understand that.  If you are going to go out into battle you need strength in God and you need human strength.  We can understand going out for war, but for coming in, what is that about?  Why do you need strength for coming in?  That term is spoken about a few times in scripture.  The only thing I could come up with is that when you return from war you are coming back into normal life.  You are back to all the responsibilities you have, the mundane things.  You need strength to go out to fight for God but you also need strength to come in.  You need strength for both.  There are times of waiting; periods of time when you are not actually at war.  The same faith is needed for both, and this is what Caleb is saying “I am strong for both going out and for coming in.” 

 

Do you remember what age Moses was when he was called into his ministry?  He was called at the age of 80, so there is time for us all!   So if you are looking at your retirement thinking this is the time to ease up, you need to look at this picture of these guys; Caleb at 85 full of zeal and life, and  Moses called to start his ministry at 80, so you never know when you might just have a burning bush experience.  God may actually call you into your ministry even though you may think it is time to retire...age is not a factor to Him. 

 

Caleb – Strong in the Lord unto the end

 

Jos 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."

 

Give me this mountain is what Caleb said to Joshua.   He is 85 years' old so you would think that in our natural selves the normal thing to say would be “give me this little plot of land in a quiet little valley by a stream where I can grow vegetables and flowers and listen to the birds tweet.”  At 85 you would be looking for a little bit more comfort and ease, but not Caleb.  He said “Give me this mountain.” And it's not any old mountain; it is actually the hardest place in the land.  When Israel went in and viewed the land this was the place where they saw the giants. The very thing that had scared the rest of the nation, he actually wanted.  So whatever happened, when he first went into the land which captivated his heart didn't change!  It kept him all through the wilderness wanderings and was the place that he wanted. He didn't want the quiet little meadow somewhere where he could put his feet up and say “I have done my part.”  He said “Give me this mountain.” This mountain had fortified cities and we know that it had giants.  When we look further on we see that the giants in the land were of a satanic attitude and principle in order to halt God's people from inheriting the good parts of the land.   

 

Jos 15:14  From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites--Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai--descendants of Anak.

 

The giants whom he faced were the three sons of Anak, so the very place where the enemy was dwelling and the same place that Caleb longed for and desired to have was Hebron.  What do we know about Hebron?    Hebron means communion and fellowship.  Hebron is really significant for the nation of Israel.   It is the place where God met Abraham.  It is the place where he made an altar.   It is a place where the patriarchs were buried.  Sarah was buried there and Isaac, Jacob, Leah and Rebekah.   It is the place that speaks of direct communion and fellowship, where God met Abraham face to face and actually communed with him.  It speaks about a real closeness with God Himself and of all the places for the giants to be this is it.   They were in that place which is really significant and important and they are trying to withhold it from the nation.  So when Caleb spied out the land it was this place Hebron that really captivated his heart.  I believe that it was this that really caused him to persevere in faith until he came into the land.  

 

So can the same thing be said of us? What is it that really captivates our hearts?   Are the times that you have had in the presence of God the thing that you really long for?  Is that the thing that you hope one day that the Lord will bring you into the fullness of?   That He has an inheritance for you.  He hasn't forgotten about you.  Hebron is that place of a close communion with God and close fellowship with God.   And Caleb he wants it, he says “Give me this mountain.” 

 

Do you have something to give others?

 

Joshua 15:13-19  In accordance with the LORD's command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah--Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.)  (14)  From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites--Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai--descendants of Anak.  (15)  From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).  (16)  And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher."  (17)  Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.  (18)  One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?"  (19)  She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

 

So the first thing you see about Caleb is that after he takes Hebron and destroys the giants is that he is encouraging others into the fight.  He says “Whoever takes this place I will give him my daughter as a wife.”  So here you have somebody is trying to produce faith in others around him.  At the end of Caleb's life, not only is he a great man of faith and is spurring others on into the fight, but he has got something to give as an inheritance to others.  Whenever we see springs in the bible it is always a picture of living water and so Caleb was actually giving his daughter that which was most precious in that area in that day; the upper and the lower springs.   Because of faith in God he is in a position to actually hand something on to his children.  Springs of water are a picture of life in the Risen lord.   

 

So when you look at Caleb's life what is it that he really speaks of? He speaks about one that has a zeal for life.  One who has a zeal for God.  One who is whole heartedly into God's purposes and will for himself.  And one that is able to obtain and fight and also able to give and bless when his life gets to an end.  He is one that is able to persevere through faith; age is not a barrier for Caleb.   At age 85 he is still as strong as he was when he was young.   So for me Caleb is just such a wonderful picture of someone that remains steady under fire through all of life's journeys.