CALEB: FAITH ENDURES

 

Week of June 4, 2006

 

Bible Passages:Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9; Joshua 14:6-14.

 

Biblical Truth:Believers who trust God wholeheartedly remain strong in faith throughout their lives.

 

Meet Faithís Challenge: Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9.

 

[30] Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ďWe should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.Ē [14:6] Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; [7] and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, ďThe land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. [8] If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us Ė a land which flows with milk and honey. [9] Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.Ē[NASU]

 

The narrative of the spiesí expedition into Canaan is the prologue that leads to the story of the divine judgment upon Israel at Kadesh Barnea. Twelve men, one chosen from each of the twelve tribes, are sent in to spy out the land. The spies were all men of rank in their tribes, heads of the sons of Israel [13:3]. The instructions given by Moses to the spies are recorded in verses 13:17-20. The commission was definite and specific. They were to penetrate the Negev (the south), and the hill country, and seek to make some assessment of the possible military strength of the people, and their aptitude for war, and estimate the economic resources of their land. This was an astute and businesslike proposal, with both the more immediate objective of conquest, and the longer term prospect of settlement in the land, in view.

 

The twelve spies went in and for forty days they searched out the land, obtaining in the course of that time a fairly clear and coherent picture of conditions there and of what would have to be faced by the people. In verse 21 we are given a summary of the expedition, with what follows in verses 22-24 giving a particular detail of great importance to the congregation of Israel, as will be seen in what follows these verses, when the spies returned and made their report.

 

On their return the spies reported back to Moses. Their testimony was unanimous; it was a good and fruitful land, flowing with milk and honey, and the grapes of Eshcol, a fertile valley north of Hebron, were produced as evidence of this. A note of great reserve, however, was sounded by the majority of the spies in verse 28: the land was inhabited by a very strong people, and their cities were large and well fortified. In addition, the descendants of Anak were there, a giantlike people calculated to spread dismay and dread among the Israelites. The people seem to have gotten word of this gloomy report, and became agitated and discouraged by it. This is implied in verse 30, in the statement that Caleb quieted the people before Moses. Caleb was positive and optimistic over against the report of the ten spies. Their defeatist attitude is underlined again in verses 32 and 33.

 

The effect of the ten spiesí report as it circulated among the people was to spread their defeatist attitude throughout the whole congregation of Israel. A movement of mass hysteria seems to have swept through them. The grumbling reached an ominous level, and broke out in open rebellion against Moses and Aaron, as they opted for new leadership to take them back to Egypt. The reaction of Moses and Aaron to this is one of great distress and grief, and they fell on their faces before the assembled congregation.

 

Joshua and Caleb, the other two spies, made an eloquent but vain appeal to the people, urging them to trust in the goodness and providence of God to fulfill His promise to them, and warning them of the danger of rebelling against Him. The congregation, however, were too far gone in their revolt to be influenced by this most eloquent of appeals. They were all for stoning Caleb and Joshua, and would have done so but for the intervention of God, through the appearance of His glory in the tabernacle, to deal with the situation Himself.

 

All in all, this is one of the saddest and most tragic experiences of Israelís long history, and one fraught with the most serious and far-reaching consequences. Tore their clothes [6]. This was the symbol of hearts rent with grief and astonishment because of impending disaster. To the Israelites their only hope appeared in retracing their steps. To Caleb and Joshua this was the summary and utter extinction of a great opportunity. The multitude looked on Canaan as worse than the grave, a scene of vain struggles and harassing privations. Caleb and Joshua looked on the multitude as threatening the unutterable folly of drawing back from certain and inestimable blessings when they lay within their reach. Caleb and Joshua was sure that God wished to delight in his people, if only they would allow it. They emphasize the necessity of submission to God. Unbelief is not only separation, it is rebellion. This was the real danger of Israel Ė rebellion against Godís appointments and restrictions.

 

Believe Godís Promise: Joshua 14:6-9.

 

[6] Then the sons of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ďYou know the word which the Lord spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea. [7] I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart [8] Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the Lord my God fully. [9] So Moses swore on that day, saying, ĎSurely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God fully.í †††[NASU]

The orderly dividing of the land was not only a wise provision, but a necessary arrangement, so that the particular section of each tribe should be clearly defined. In Joshua 14-19 a full and detailed description is recorded of the boundaries of each one. That was done by the immediate appointment and direction of God, and not by any human wisdom, still less by the dictates of partiality and greed. All was regulated by the lot [14:2]. This was done long before the whole of Canaan was actually conquered and possessed by Israel. There was to be no waiting until all the tribes had secured their respective portions. Instead, they were now informed of the exact section to which they had been given a Divine title, so that they might go forward and possess their possessions. Thus were they called to the exercise of faith and full confidence in God as they set about the performing of their respective tasks.

There was no dividing of the land into twelve equal parts. The whole of Scripture makes it plain that it is the Divine will that there should be distinctions both among nations, in the territory which they occupy, and among individuals, in the property which they possess. Likewise, it is required that each shall be contented with what the Lord has assigned them. The benefits to be derived from the dividing of Canaan to Israel by Divine lot should at once be apparent. It precluded any occasion for strife and wrangling between the several tribes, determining as it did the precise location assigned to each of them. Thus all ground for jealousy and misunderstanding about their respective territories was obviated. The tribes of Israel were also taught to submit themselves to the good pleasure of the Lord.

Before the lot was cast for the determining of the portions of the respective tribes, Caleb appeared before those who had charge of that business, and presented his claim to Hebron for his own possession. Caleb was himself one of those who had been Divinely appointed to serve as one of the commissioners to see that the lot was carried out in a proper manner [Numbers 34:17-19]. Lest it might appear that he was seeking unduly to use his authority in furthering his own interests, he brought with him some of his brethren to act as witnesses. It was in Calebís heart that God was fully able to give what He had promised. Caleb was strong in faith, and therefore he was quite sure that God would make good His word.

But I followed the Lord my God fully [8]. The other ten spies walked by sight instead of faith and consequently they were occupied with the obstacles which stood in the way. Full of distrust themselves, they infected the whole of the congregation with fear. But Caleb refused to be influenced by them and boldly withstood them. He was neither daunted by the power of the enemy nor swayed by the skepticism of his brethren. It signified that on that occasion he had faithfully discharged his duty, remained steadfast in his faith in God, assured that He would enable His people to overcome the mighty sons of Anak. The meaning of Calebís I followed the Lord my God fully is made clear by the contrast of Numbers 32:11 where the Lord complained of the unbelieving people: for they did not follow Me fully. The great value which God set upon His servantís steadfastness appears in His having recorded it in His Word no less than six times: Numbers 14:24; 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8,9,14.

 

Remain Loyal: Joshua 14:10-14.

 

[10] Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. [11] I am still 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. [12] Now then, give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken.Ē[NASU]

 

Here Caleb ascribed his preservation in the forty years of wilderness wanderings and the five years of fighting in Canaan entirely to grace of God: the Lord has let me live. Caleb had something more than a general realization that his times were in Godís hands. His faith had laid hold of a special promise from God to him. He was resting on the word of One who cannot lie.

 

In verse 11, Caleb is forestalling an objection which might be made against his appeal. Others might claim that Caleb is too old for such a difficult and dangerous venture as the removal of the giants from the mountainous district of Hebron. Caleb here pressed his physical fitness for the task. The One who had preserved his life throughout the years had also renewed his youth like the eagleís. Caleb fully believed that God would not leave his promise unfulfilled: perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken. Caleb knew that his success would be dependent upon the Lord equipping and sustaining him for the task. Faith inspires resolution and courage. He who had enabled His servant to hold fast for so long to His promise also removed all hesitation and fear so that Caleb was just as ready and eager to set about the task which lay before him as he was forty-five years earlier.

 

The perhaps of verse 12 does not indicate doubt on Calebís part. He had spoken without the least hesitation of Godís presence with Israel in general: the Lord is with us [Numbers 14:9]. But for himself, from a humble sense of his own unworthiness of such a favor, he chose to express himself in this way. Even though he has received Godís promise and is confident that God will fulfill that promise, he does not presume that God is in his debt and must be present with him. Just as the giving of the promise was an act of Godís grace so too will be Godís enabling power to bring the promise to full realization. Note also here Calebís recognition that the fulfillment of the promise called for his active obedience and participation. He was not to take a merely passive stance and wait for God to carry out His promise. Once the time for the fulfillment of the promise had arrived, Caleb was to use all the strength and abilities that God had given him to drive them out.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†† What lay behind the opposing views expressed by the spies in Numbers 13:30 and 31? Were Caleb and Joshua being unrealistically optimistic and refusing to face facts? Notice how quickly the fear of the ten spies spread throughout the people. Look at the frequent occurrence of the word ďallĒ in 14:1-10. Compare these verses with Hebrews 4:1-2.

 

2.†† What do you think enabled Caleb to have followed the Lord my God fully [14:8]? Think about the forty years of suffering in the wilderness for the sins of others and yet still remaining faithful to God. Note how Calebís confidence in Godís faithfulness to His Word enabled Caleb to be active in his obedience and participation in realizing the fulfillment of the Godís promise.

 

3.†† What can we learn from Caleb about how to follow God fully in our own lives?

††††††

 

References:

Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry.

Gleanings in Joshua, Arthur Pink, Moody Press.

Numbers, James Philip, Word.