Caleb and Joshua
"We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey . . . Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." (Numbers 13:27, 31)
The Children of Israel had been miraculously delivered from bondage in Egypt under Moses. It was time for them to enter the land of Canaan. The Lord told Moses to send twelve men, a ruler from each tribe, to spy out the land. Do you remember the names of any of these twelve men? Very likely you remember the names of two of them: Caleb and Joshua. Do you remember even one of the other ten? Most students of the Bible would not remember even a single one. Why? They came back with an evil report, and so discouraged the people that they rebelled against Moses, and against God.
Caleb and Joshua were different. They had faced the same challenges as the other ten men, yet these two had that indomitable courage and zeal, and faith in God, that the others lacked, and the Lord honored them for it. They alone were allowed to enter the Promised Land, something denied to all of the adults who refused to obey the Lord.
You may remember the account. When the twelve spies came back from their forty days of inspection of the land of Canaan, they brought with them pomegranates, figs, and a huge bunch of grapes. It was so large that it took two of the men to carry the large cluster between them on a pole. All the spies were agreed on one thing: it was a "land flowing with milk and honey." Joshua and Caleb, though, were the only ones with sufficient faith in the Lord to undertake the conquest of the land.
The other men concentrated on the difficulties they would face. They said: " The people there were strong, the walled cities were very great, and there were giants there! We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and also in their sight." How did they know that? It was their fear they were expressing.
Caleb spoke for himself and Joshua. "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." (Numbers 13:30)
The people wept all night, we read, and when Joshua and Caleb tried to encourage them to obey the Lord and go in and possess the land, as the Lord had commanded, "the people were ready to stone them to death!" (Numbers 14:10) The ten spies and all who took their part could have enjoyed the blessings of Canaan if they had been willing to trust the Lord. As it was, they all passed up that opportunity and died in the wilderness. How tragic!
Many students of the Bible have pointed out that leaving the wilderness and entering the land of Canaan is a great type of the experience of sanctification, or holiness of heart and life. Early in his ministry D. L. Moody was fortunate to have two godly women in his congregation who came to him and said that they were praying for him. He was somewhat taken back at that. People were coming to the meetings and being saved. "Pray for the people," he said, or something to that effect, but they did not back off, and continued to let him know they were praying for him to have a deeper experience in the Lord.
It came one day some time later when he was walking down the street in New York City. It was a deepening of consecration, and of love for the Lord and for souls. He continued to preach the same sermons, he said, and nothing was changed in his approach, but the Lord was able to use him and his efforts in a much more effective way, now that he had had that "Second touch" from the Lord.
Caleb and Joshua were young men when Moses sent them with the other ten to spy out the land of Canaan. Would they be strong and courageous forty five years later, when it was time to take over their inheritance? Let us look for the answer in Joshua 14, commencing with verse 7. Here we find the wonderful testimony of Caleb, now a man of 85 years:
Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.
Does this sound like boasting? St. Paul might have been accused by some of boasting, as we see in II Corinthians 11:10, yet if it was boasting, he was boasting in the Lord, and he continued to give his testimony as to how the Lord had helped him. So Caleb continues his testimony:
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. 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 Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old.
Notice what Caleb has to say about his age. He is now 85 years old! Is he ready to retire and sit in his rocky chair, rocking gently? No. He is eager for follow the commands of the Lord, to enter the land of Canaan and conquer that portion allotted to him.
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.
Caleb was not only strong physically, he might have been saying, he was strong in courage and trust in the Lord, and was ready for war. The Christian must be ready for war against the forces of evil. They are on every side, and would like to defeat and silence everyone and everything that stands for truth and righteousness. Have you noticed that these forces of evil demand tolerance for all their evil deeds, but are most intolerant of anything that is said or done to uphold righteousness and holy living?
Caleb continues with an amazing statement:
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. So Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephuneh Hebron for an inheritance.
You have perhaps heard the recent gospel song based on Caleb's request: "Give Me This Mountain." Is it not amazing that a man of 85 wanted to take on himself such a feat? Yet he was trusting in the Lord, knowing that He had promised him this heritage.
And who were the Anakims? They are described as "of gigantic strength and stature." In other words, they were giants. Wasn't this presumptuous of a man of 85 years, to go out to fight against a tribe of giants, well situated for defense on a mountain? Yes, it would have been foolhardy, if Caleb had been merely trusting in his own strength and prowess. But he was trusting in the Lord! Caleb was given his wish, and he succeeded in driving out the Anakims and taking over the land the Lord had given him. There is an interesting and encouraging verse at the end of this chapter, verse 15: "And the land had rest from war." In His mercy and goodness the Lord allows His people to have times of peace and tranquility. It is not all battles. Thank the Lord!
Then we come to an interesting change. Even a strong and mighty man of faith and courage like Caleb sometimes realizes the need of help from others. He had done great exploits previously, but now he was ready for someone else to give him a hand. Perhaps he was thinking of the one who might rise to the challenge, his nephew named Othniel. In any case he made a challenging offer. Later on King Saul would make a similar offer.
Kirjath-sepher was an interesting city. The name means "city of a book," or "the city of learning." Some think it was a university city of the Canaanites, "like Athens in Greece." In any case, Caleb decided he needed help in taking that city, and he promised to give his daughter as wife to the man who conquered it. That man was Othniel. Achsah, Caleb's daughter, must have been a rather shrewd young lady, for she suggested to her new husband that he ask for a field. Caleb granted the request, and gave them some land in the Negev, a dry, desert-like area. The young lady then asked for some springs of water, and her additional request was granted. We think of the verse that says, and these are the words of Jesus, "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:24)
The young woman received from her father, Caleb, "the upper and the nether [or the lower] springs." It has been suggested that when we pray for "spiritual and heavenly blessings which relate to our souls [these are] blessings of the upper springs, and those which relate to the body and the life that now is [are] blessings of the nether springs." Both are appropriate; both are necessary. Let us ask largely of the Lord, that our joy may be full, and then let us consecrate, or reconsecrate, our lives to Him.