Caleb

FFF 10:3 (March 1964)

Caleb

Leslie Rainey

The God-Consistent Life

The name of Caleb is most interesting since it is the same as man’s best friend. Although Mephibosheth referred to himself as a “dead dog,” (2 Sam. 9:8), and Abishai called Shimei the same, (2 Sam. 16:9), it is not a name generally given to children in Gentile families. As we look into the pages of Holy Writ we discover that Solomon depicts the dog as dirty, (Prov. 26:11); the Psalmist as destructive, (Ps. 22:16); Isaiah as dumb, (Isa. 56:10); Paul as dangerous, (Phil. 3:2), and Joshua as devoted, (Joshua 14:8). During his long and loyal life for God Caleb was true to his name and until this day is the symbol of wholeheartedness and faithfulness. In this chapter Joshua gives us the record of —

His Character

The heart of Caleb is revealed in his speech to Joshua. As an old man he was right with God, and though he had thirty-eight years in the desert and several years of warfare in the land, nothing had moved him in his unswerving devotion to the Lord. The expression, “wholly following the Lord” is found six times in the Old Testament, and five of them are linked with Caleb. In the life of Caleb there was zealous loyalty to Joshua even as the men who broke through their enemies and, at the risk of their own lives, procured for their Captain a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem, (1 Chron. 11:17, 18). In his speech Caleb spoke out of his heart in sincerity and in truth. Surely this is the only way to speak. How much display of self and pride of ability is in the public oratory of our generation! How effective the words of an overflowing heart that has been moved by God the Holy Spirit! As Caleb thought upon the events of his life, memory was stirred and the vision of Hebron captivated his whole being. There Abraham had lived in fellowship with his friend; there three of the patriarchs with their wives had been buried; there was the mountain stronghold, fenced and walled, defended by giants, the promised possession. His ardent desire and resolute determination pushed him on until the day he actually dwelt in Hebron. Our desires are but mirrors disclosing our inner selves for good or evil. Caleb could never forget the attitude of the people when he returned from spying out the land of Canaan. Ten of the twelve spies were against advancing into the land. Joshua and Caleb instead of seeing themselves as grasshoppers had their eyes fixed on the grapes and the power of God. By the help of God they felt the land could be invaded and that victory would crown their endeavour. However, this was not the mind of the majority of their brethren, and in their attitude they were unto-operative and unkind. In spite of this Caleb refers to them as “my brethren,” (v. 8). Surely this is another indication of the humility and understanding of this warrior and desert scout. The language of Paul to Timothy comes to mind, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Tim. 2:24, 25). Today there are many giants along the pathway of faith barring the way to the grapes of Eschol. How essential it is to know the evil monsters of pride, passion, sin, lust, temper, fear, despair, discouragement and doubt against which we are no match in our own strength. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ and following on like Caleb that these giants of sin and Satan can be conquered. To reckon ourselves as grasshoppers as the ten spies did, is to fail in driving out the children of Anak. Anakim means, “long-necked” and was the name given to the ancient giants of the stronghold of Hebron. They were called Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai and in these different Hebrew names we have a lesson on, “Who am I?” “What am I?”, and “Where am I?”, indicative of the pride of face, race and grace. To fight the ‘good fight of faith and follow the commands of our Captain, Jesus the Saviour, is the gateway to victory over such foes and the constant attacks of the world, the flesh and the devil. Would God that in our age of fleshly zeal and worldly conformity the desire of our hearts might be as Caleb, wholehearted for God! Let us rise up then and possess our possessions (Obadiah 17), and remember that God records what we do, as well as what we do not (I Kings 22:3).

The Confidence Of Caleb

The life of Caleb was fortified by the promise that God had given him some forty-five years before. His soul was stayed on the Word of God. The Gibralter of his faith was implicit confidence in the unchanging Word of the Lord. A healthy spiritual life will always have an abiding appreciation and a growing appetite for the words of God. Surely it is necessary again and again to test ourselves by this criterion, for if the Lord was sustained by the Scriptures how much more so we as His people. Another feature of Caleb’s life was his assurance in the promises of God. To him they were God’s “yea and amen,” and during his long and difficult years in the desert and among a back-sliding people the language of his soul was, “being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Romans 4:21). Caleb also knew a good deal about the faithfulness of God. He could boldly say, “The Lord hath kept me,” and his radiant faith and his ambitious spirit abundantly testified to the truth. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Ps. 118:9). What a witness Caleb was to the truth Peter stated, “Kept by the power of God.” Kept by the power of God whilst thousands fell in unbelief in the wilderness. Kept by the power of God alive and active in the midst of a disgruntled people, discouragements, doubts and a people who departed from the living and the true God. Caleb experienced, the goodness of God. Daily he lifted his heart in thanksgiving to his God for provision and protection during the journey through the wilderness. His motto was, “As my strength was then, even so is my strength now” (v 11). The wear and tear of desert life had not dimmed his eye or abated his zeal for God. For years he had nourished his soul on the sure Word of God, His promises, His keeping power, His goodness and thus he had endured. His secret was possessing his soul in patience knowing the truth of, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward” (Heb. 11:35). Of all the adults in the history of the children of Israel only two entered the promised land, Joshua whose name means, “Jesus,” and Caleb whose name means, “dog.”

What a lesson for us today that we might take sides with God and be unmoved, undismayed and unyielding in our Christian testimony in this present evil world! Though all the hosts of hell should endeavour to hinder us in our onward march to the Promised Land, may our confidence be so steady and loyal that the confession of our lips re-echo the words of Luther, “I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.”

Compensation

The faith and courage of Caleb was not forgotten and neither did it go unrecognized or unrewarded. We read, “Joshua blessed him” (v. 13). The blessing of the Captain of the Lord’s host was given to him with all its enjoyment and enrichment, even so for all who follow the Lord Jesus, how richly He rewards! Caleb followed the Lord fully, that is, without keeping anything back. His whole life was out-and-out for God and the honour of His name. As a result of his abiding loyalty, years later with Joshua he entered into the land of God’s promise. What a thrill must have possessed his whole being as he recorded the hand of God and His help down through the years! God has not changed, and it is possible in our generation to experience the blessing of the Lord and the riches of His grace. Today all who follow the Lord dog-like in fellowship with Joshua (Saviour), there is even “much more” (2 Chronicles 25:9 compare with Romans 5:1-11). Caleb was given for an inheritance, “Hebron (v. 13). It was necessary for him to drive out the three sons of Anak who had been such a source of terror and trouble to the hosts of Israel. Nothing stopped Caleb, and he triumphed in obtaining his possession. Hebron means, “Fellowship,” and surely this is suggestive to us as Christians that the pathway of blessing is the pathway of faithfulness and obedience to all that the Lord has commanded in His Word. It is a fellowship of life, love and light as John records. It is sharing things in common. It is harmony in the things of God whether it pertains to the corporate witness of the Assembly, the conduct in the home or the consistent witness in the world. The lesson for all to learn is that while forgiveness of sins is a gift, fellowship with Christ is a goal. Caleb as an old man esteemed the cost of Hebron. Do we in our day value the preciousness of fellowship and our possessions in the Lord Jesus Christ? Nothing less than Hebron would satisfy Caleb, and nothing short of personal intimate daily fellowship should satisfy us as the people of God. The final thing we read is, “the land had rest from war” (v. 15). Not only did Caleb enjoy the blessing of Joshua, the battle for Hebron, but also the beauty of peace. The word “rest” conveys the thought in the Hebrew of inward peace, spiritual tranquility, and of complete repose. In the life of Caleb it was gained not given. In our lives as Christians it is something that is given (John 14:27); something that is gained at costly effort (Heb. 4:11); and something that is God-like (Matt. 11:29). The prosperity, possession and peace of God are for all who have forsaken the fleshpots of Egypt, and by faith and following have entered into their God-given heritage. To the Jew the sphere of rest was a place, but to the Christian, it is a Person, “in Christ in heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). The sphere of God’s ancient people was earthly, marked by borders, and at best temporary. The lot of the child of God is heavenly, without boundaries, and for eternity. Surely the life of Caleb is an inspiration for all whether starting out or well on in years, to possess our possessions.” If we would possess we must “trust and obey,” and be marked by implicit faith in the promises of God. There is nothing so much appreciated by our Lord as faithfulness.