Need inspiration? Check out 85-year-old Caleb’s story
“I must have done something to get on his radar because these past two weeks have been really hard.”
I only- assume my colleague meant Satan when she said that as we brewed coffee and set up condiments for the building.
She voiced the fear that had kept me from following God wholeheartedly until recently. Whole-heartedly as in serving Him in a way that would put me on Satan’s radar as an enemy who could do him damage. I’ve read what he did to Job, after all, and I had suffered enough personal loss to hold my heart close.
If I hadn’t decided to embrace God’s call and go all-in for Him, I think the story of Caleb might have pointed me in that direction. Even with a renewed commitment, his story challenges me.
Ready to act on faith
Caleb had audacious faith. Faith enough to silence the naysayers all around him. Faith enough to speak his mind. Faith enough to stick to his story even when everyone around him wanted to stone him for it. Faith that God — and his spry 85-year-old self — could win the battle for a prize piece of land. Promised land.
I know. He had me at “spry” and “85,” too. But it’s Caleb’s audacious faith I want even more than a strong, fit, rarin’ to go body well into my 80s. (Although I want that, too, of course.)
This week I’m reading the book of Joshua, and the Israelites (more than 40 years late) are divvying up the Promised Land. It’s all about the tribes, but suddenly Caleb inserts himself as an individual into the conversation. He reminds Joshua that Moses had promised him the land of Hebron.
“I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land,” Caleb reminded Joshua. “And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.
“So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly'” (Joshua 14:7-9, MSG).
You might remember the back story to this conversation Caleb had with Joshua.
Have a faith-filled perspective
At God’s request, Moses sent a member from each of the 12 Israelite tribes as spies into the land God was giving to them. They were to scope out the situation — the land, the people, the produce — for 40 days and then report back to the people. (Story in Numbers 13-14.)
The 12 returned after their 40-day trek with a cluster of grapes so large it took 2 men to carry it. The land, 10 of the 12 reported, “does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:27b-28, MSG).
The Anak were giants. This was pre-David, so the Israelites didn’t realize they could kill giants with a stone, a slingshot, and big faith. But Caleb didn’t need David’s guidance. He had audacious faith on his own.
“Silence!” yelled Caleb (or however he quieted the people so he could speak). “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30, MSG).
But the other spies continued to cower in fear, declaring the people of the land were stronger, bigger, and would devour the Israelites, who were like grasshoppers in their own eyes and the eyes of the giants. Their fear was contagious, and all the people — save Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua, who was also a spy — wept and fed their fear.
“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good,” Caleb and Joshua told the people. “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us” (Numbers 14:7-8, MSG).
The two faith-filled spies implored their people not to be afraid or rebel against the Lord.
“And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them,” they said. “Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:9, MSG).
But instead of rejecting fear and rebellion, the people threatened to stone Caleb and Joshua. It would be their undoing. Instead of harming the faithful spies, the people burned their bridge into the Promised Land. There, on the very precipice of entering the land God had promised them, they chose fear and rebellion instead of faithfulness.
For at that moment, the glory of the LORD appeared before the people and declared that none who had seen His glory and the signs He had performed in Egypt and in the wilderness would see the land He had promised. Instead, they would die in the wilderness as their children suffered for their unfaithfulness for 40 years — one year for each of the 40 days the spies explored the promised land.
God rewards the faithful
“But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it,” the LORD said. “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun” (Numbers 14:24, 30, MSG).
(I can imagine Joshua panicking between verses 24 and 30.)
So while Caleb enjoyed numerous honorable mentions from God Himself, the rest of the Israelites turned back from the glorious valleys flowing with milk and honey back into the desert where those who had seen the miracles in Egypt would die instead of receiving what God had promised them.
Think about it. They were on the very precipice of taking ownership of the land God had promised them. (They just had to conquer a few people who lived there first.) Instead, they turned away from the lush land and went back to the desert where they would wander for 40 years.
(Well, some of them tried to repent by doing what God had asked them to do before his sentencing — and died because God wasn’t with them in the battle. That story in Numbers 14:39-45 is a great way to teach your children “delayed obedience is disobedience.”)
Battle for the ‘promised land’
Here’s the thing: Caleb suffered with them. He, too, meandered through the desert for 40 years before he got to claim the land God had personally promised to him. Even then, he had to battle the giants who lived there to possess the land.
Caleb inspires me. He trusted God would enable him and the rest of the Israelites to win the battles against opponents who were bigger and stronger. He trusted God enough to silence the naysayers. He spoke his mind. He stood his ground even when his peers threatened to stone him.
At 85, Caleb remained vigilant in his faith and strong despite his older body. He was willing to possess the land — because he knew he didn’t fight alone.
“And here I am today, eighty-five years old! I’m as strong as I was the day Moses sent me out,” Caleb told Joshua. “I’m as strong as ever in battle, whether coming or going. So give me this hill country that God promised me. You yourself heard the report, that the Anakim were there with their great fortress cities. If God goes with me, I will drive them out, just as God said” (Joshua 14:11-12, MSG).
Possess the land
When I was a teenager, my church wanted to purchase the land surrounding it to build a school and many other facilities to broaden its ministry. The fund-raising (offering raising?) campaign was named “Possess the Land,” and it made an impression on me as a youth. My parents and many others gave their “widow’s mite” to possess the land.
Whenever I visit my hometown and my childhood church, “possess the land” continues to make an impression. My church did manage to possess the land, from the street of its address all the way to a main thoroughfare. It built a school, and then more classrooms, a cafeteria, and a gymnasium, and then a larger worship center, a youth building, and, most recently, housing for the elderly.
Just as it had felt called to do so many years ago.
What “land” has God called you to possess? What giants must you conquer in order to possess the land?
My “land” is a book written this year. My giants? Mostly myself and my limiting beliefs. It had been fear of getting on Satan’s radar. No more. Even so, I am taking the truth from Caleb today. “If God goes with me, I will drive them out, just as God said.”
How about you?