Caleb: ‘Whose Faith Follow’
B. Charles, Consett
Caleb is predominantly the man who wholly followed the Lord. Truly an example for us!
1. Faith is the most obvious characteristic that marks him, in direct contrast to the unbelief of the other ten spies with whom he, and Joshua, had surveyed the land of Canaan, as recorded in Numbers 13. On returning from their mission only he and Joshua exhibited confidence in God to take them safely into the land; the other ten "brought up an evil report", v. 32. Caleb had an implicit trust in God despite the fortified cities, the high walls and the giants. In this we see the nature of faith. Faith does not ignore, overlook or undervalue the problems or difficulties (there is no trying to escape from reality), but it takes full account of God who is above, and greater than all things. The ten unbelieving spies looked at the difficulties which came between themselves and God, and let them blot Him out of their vision, just as a coin held up in front of one's eye can blot out the sun. On the other hand, Caleb looked at the difficulties in the light of, or in the perspective of, God. That is, he put God between himself and the difficulties. Accordingly, the ten spies saw themselves as grasshoppers in the sight of the giants. Caleb and Joshua saw the giants as grasshoppers in the sight of God, Num. 13. 33; 14. 9.
2. Courage is another characteristic that marks Caleb. He was not only bold enough to face the enemy, but also his own faithless brethren, even to the point of death, 14. 10. Despite being in a minority in regard both to the spies and to the whole congregation of Israel, Caleb remained strong in faith. Paul's experience was similar to this: see 2 Tim. 1. 15; 4. 16-17.
The remainder of Numbers 14 illustrates that we reap what we sow, for the spies had not faith to enter the land, and they did not, but died under the hand of God forthwith, 14. 36-37. The congregation who wished that they had died in the wilderness did just that over a period of thirty-eight years, 14. 28-29. Caleb and Joshua who had faith to enter the land fully enjoyed that privilege, 14. 30.
3. Inheritance. As the years passed, Caleb's faith and strength never weakened, and we discover that the God who kept him for forty-five years also kept an inheritance for him, Josh. 14. 10-11. How encouraging for us to know that there not only awaits us an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled and unfading, but that we also are being kept by the power of God through faith for it, 1 Pet. 1. 3-5. All is still in God's omnipotent hands.
Caleb's inheritance was Hebron. Why Hebron? Because he was a man of spiritual vision whose desires were guided by God. Hebron was the place God chose for Abraham, Gen. 13. 14-18. It was where God visited Abraham, and where he received the promise of a son, Gen. 18. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were all buried there. Thus it was a place associated with the people of God, and the promises of God, so Caleb desired it despite the fact that the Anakim were in possession of it, Josh. 15. 14. The enemy will always contest ground which is precious to God and His people. A consideration of these matters reveals the fact that the devil always opposes the truth just as he opposed Caleb's taking of Hebron. He still seeks to rob believers of the enjoyment of their spiritual inheritance, just as he seeks to rob the Lord Jesus of praise and honour due to Him. How sad that in large measure the devil has succeeded in perverting and corrupting the very things for which the saints are exhorted earnestly to contend, as once for all delivered to them, Jude 3.
It may be argued by some that we cannot now enter fully into our inheritance because of the fragmentation and corruption in Christendom which prevent it. A consideration of Joshua 13. 1 and 14. 11 should help us in this. Why did Joshua grow weak, whereas Caleb did not? Was it not that Joshua was publicly associated with Israel, an Israel which was failing to possess its inheritance, while Caleb was not thus associated? Is Caleb not rather typical of the spirit of a faithful remnant? When we come to Judges, we find that not one of the nine and a half tribes fully entered into its inheritance. There was failure through sin and compromise. In marked contrast, Caleb possessed his in full. We must not make the failure of others, individually or collectively, an excuse for failing to possess what God has given us now to enjoy, but see Caleb's driving out the giants, and entering in, as an example for us to follow, Josh. 15. 13-14.
4. Influence. Finally, we see from Joshua 15. 15-19 that Caleb influenced others for God, especially his family. His daughter Achsah clearly had a faith of her own. She had true desires, not just for land, for, particularly in the Middle East, what is land without water, but a desert? Thus she desired water in the form of springs, that the land might be fruitful. Is not this a lovely picture of the believer desirous of a continual filling by the Holy Spirit (the upper and lower springs, Josh. 15. 19) that he might produce fruit for God?
Then Caleb desired a worthy son-in-law, 15. 16. For a man to have Achsah, he must be prepared to risk his life in taking Kirjath-Sepher, v. 16. Clearly he would need to have a very strong love for Achsah to be willing to endanger himself to that degree. If this be a picture of the love of the Lord for His bride, then we are reminded that we too can have nothing really worth having without being willing to pay something for it. And the more precious the possession to be obtained, the greater the sacrifice required, or the price to be paid, to make it one's own.
Caleb certainly was an example to others, and he did not ask of a future son-in-law what he had not done himself with the help of God. How he must have inspired Othniel! Our fervency in the things of God may not be what it once was, and our influence may have waned as a result. May it be that God will yet enable us to say to others, who look to us for a lead, what Caleb was able to say to Othniel, "Do as I do".