Caleb - The Whole-hearted
W. J. Burrows, New Zealand
BEFORE we attempt to draw some spiritual lessons from the history of the man whose honoured name is found at the commencement of this article, we must ask the forbearance of the reader while we detail some of the circumstances which form the background of his inspiring testimony.
We must go back to the days when the nation of Israel was moving in wilderness scenes. The bondage of Pharaoh and the servitude of Egypt were memories of the unhappy past. Moreover, thus " redeemed from the hand of the enemy," they had witnessed a further manifestation of the mighty power of God when the waters of the Red Sea had parted before them. By crystal walls protected, they had walked through the Red Sea " as on dry ground " (Ex. 14. 21, 22). The pursuing Egyptians, assaying to follow them in tins supernatural pathway, were engulfed in the returning waters as the Red Sea flowed in its normal course." Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord " (Ex. 15. 1-19). It was The "Song" of a Redeemed People who had known years of "groaning" by reason of their bondage (Ex. 2. 24). Surely such a deliverance was worthy of a song, and they did well to extol the power and grace of the One who had wrought so wondrously on their behalf.
But there was " more to follow." The purpose of God was to bring this delivered nation right into a glorious land of bounty and beauty. What a " goodly land " it was ! Note how it is described in Deut. 8. 7-9, also ch. 11. 10-12, and remember that these statements are not the fantastic musings of imaginative thought. God does not taunt His people in such a fashion. Had Israel but pressed forward to possess the land, they would have found the divinely-given description correct to the most minute detail.Yet it is sadly true that they did not do so, and we shall find that the Word of God, with unerring accuracy, points out the reasons for their failure, as recorded in Deut. 1. 19-36. It would be well to read this portion carefully and prayerfully, for it contains heart-searching principles to which we may all take heed. We hope to refer to these later. In the meantime we mentally journey with the children of Israel, and arrive at Kadesh-Barnea, the border of the goodly land of promise. Here we meet Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, of the tribe of Judah, and a prince among his people. Cf. Num. 13. 2, 3, 6 ; 34. 16-19.We are introduced to this mighty man of faith, as one of a party of twelve men who are sent by Moses to " spy out " the land that Jehovah had already given in covenant promise to His people. Do we hear the reader express astonishment at such a procedure ? Would it not have been better to conclude that all which God gives must be worth having, and for our highest good ?Certainly this is ever the conclusion of faith, but these men (or, at least, most of them) were not actuated by such a God-honouring principle. This is abundantly clear from the narrative given in Num. 13. The party continue their " searching of the land " for forty days (Num. 13. 25), and finally return to Kadesh, bringing back with them " one cluster of grapes," so weighty that it needed two men for its transport (who were the two, think you ?), as well as other goodly fruits—ample evidence of the fullness and fertility of this wonderful land.Surely they would move forward now ! But they did not, for the Word of God records the fact of their rebellion, and Deut. 1. 26 tells us they " would not go up." Ten of the twelve spies had brought back "An Evil Report of the Land," in that its inhabitants were men of giant stature, its cities walled and great, and its general appearance such as would suggest the impossibility of conquest.And what of Caleb at this juncture ? He was a man of " another spirit " (Num. 14. 24). True to his name, which means " whole-hearted " (Josh. 14. 6, Newberry margin), it is recorded of him, at least six times, that he " wholly followed the Lord." (Trace out the Scriptures). His word in the crisis was, " Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it " (Num. 13. 30). What was " dread " to Israel (Deut. 1. 29) meant " bread " to Caleb (Num. 14. 9). The bigger the giant, the larger the loaf! And why ? Simply—" the Lord is with us." (Num. 14. 9). Blessed resource for faith in all circumstances ! Now hear the conclusion of the whole matter. " And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, Hebron for an inheritance " (Josh. 14. 13)—the place of communion and fellowship (Gen. 13. 18; 35. 27 ; 1 Chron. 12. 38). Fitting reward for the man of faith, who, though despised by his brethren and nearly stoned by the congregation, had nevertheless " wholly followed the Lord." And now we propose to go over these incidents and view them in relation to all who love our Lord Jesus. We know the Blessing of the Blood-sprinkled Door of Ex. 12. We have passed, in figure, through the waters of death, and stand in the place of deliverance and song. Praise His glorious Name !
" When 1 see the blood " (Ex. 12)—Redemption.
" When Israel saw the Egyptians dead " (Ex. 14)—Liberation.
Then Israel sang (Ex. 15)—Exultation.
So far, so very good ; but have you stopped at Kadesh-Barnea ? What do you know of the fruits of the " goodly land," translated in every-day Christian experience ? Does your life testimony give a " good report of the land," or does it discourage your brethren (Deut. 1. 28) and distress those who " watch for your souls"? A walking spiritual skeleton is no commendation for the gospel! If you are a heavenly pilgrim, the world will expect to see the fruits of the goodly land. You have not been saved from eternal doom to live in perpetual daily gloom ! God would have You Enjoy the rich, immeasurable fullness that resides in Christ. In one word that means appropriation, and it should be a matter of heart-searching for us all, as to how far we have possessed our possessions. When speaking upon this subject to a fellow-believer some time, the writer was met by the remark, " I have Christ as my Saviour, and 1 am going to heaven ; what more do I want ?" This is perfectly and blessedly true of all who have trusted Christ, but is it not equally true that heavenly things should be enjoyed now ? And that is just what we mean by entering the " good land." It would not be correct to think of Canaan as typical of heaven, for there will be no fighting and no opposing forces in that glorious Home of the Redeemed. Rather, Canaan, for us, represents the