A back burner who left an unforgettable touch in our lives- A giant who carried the dream for a long time to its fruition.
A back burner but left an unforgettable touch in our lives- A giant who carried the dream in his heart and strived to ‘close the gap’.
There are quite a few back burner people who appear in the pages of the Bible. Because they were not the front burner ones, typically we don’t hear about them often enough. One of such a person is Caleb in the Bible. Joshua his contemporary, of course, had an extraordinary life and fame, but not Caleb. We usually remember the names together- Joshua and Caleb. But still, the name of Joshua comes first in our remembrance.
Caleb left a big challenge for our life and we cannot simply avoid his marvelous success and close our eyes to Him.
Let us look into his life in three stages.
A young man hitting the borders of middle age in the midst of a national crisis
I am talking about his age of 40. He is still young right? But slowly sliding into a middle aged category. When the Israelites left the bondage in Egypt, Caleb was still there from the very beginning along with Joshua. He witnessed the power of God when he walked on the dryland in the middle of the red sea and God made a way to deliver them for the pursuing army of Egypt. Water stood as walls on both sides. He saw ‘the great power which the Lord had done’ (Exodus 14:31 (a)). Later he has witnessed food falling from heaven and he too picked up the ‘manna’ from the ground. He has seen God providing them water and also he has witnessed the disobedience and rebelliousness of the people. Now they are about to enter the promised land according to the promise of the Lord and Moses send spies to spy the land. Moses sent one leader from each of their tribes – total 12 leaders. Out of 12 people that Moses sent to spy the land were Caleb and Joshua. Caleb was 40 years old at that time. Moses gave specific orders for their exploration. Read below.
He told them, ““Go through the Negev and then into the mountain region. See what the land is like and whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many. Is the land they live in good or bad? Do their cities have walls around them or not? Is the soil rich or poor? Does the land have trees or not? Do your best to bring back some fruit from the land.” (It was the season when grapes were beginning to ripen.).” Numbers 13:17-20. Moses recalls this incident in Deuteronomy 1:21 and said, “The Lord your God is giving you this land. Go ahead! Take possession of it, as the Lord God of your ancestors told you. Don’t be afraid or terrified.”
The crisis incident that turned the history of that generation.
This is the single most important crisis event that turned around the history of the people of Israel in that generation. Forty days later, after their exploration of the land of Canaan, they came back and reported to Moses. Read the reports of the men and Caleb’s response below.
“This is what they reported to Moses: “We went to the land where you sent us. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s some of its fruit. But the people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev. The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountain region. And the Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and all along the Jordan River.”
Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.”
But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!” So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall. We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.” (Numbers 13:27-33).
When all the people heard the bad reports, they raised their voices and cried out all night. The whole community of Israel said to Moses and Aaron, “They complained to Moses and Aaron, “If only we had died in Egypt or this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land—just to have us die in battle? Our wives and children will be taken as prisoners of war! Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” They said to each other, “Let’s choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
It says, Moses and Aaron bowed with their faces, touched the ground in front of the whole community. Caleb and Joshua tore their clothes in despair. They again said to the people, “The land we explored is very good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us. This is a land flowing with milk and honey! Don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. We will devour them like bread. They have no protection, and the Lord is with us. So don’t be afraid of them.” The people won’t listen.
The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to trust me in spite of all the miraculous signs I have done among them? I’ll strike them with a plague, I’ll destroy them,[a] and I’ll make you into a nation larger and stronger than they are.”
Out of all 12 men went to spy the land ten of them who reported bad news in their unbelief in the power and promise of God died from a plague. Numbers 13:37 says they died, “They died because they had returned and made the whole community complain about Moses by spreading lies about the land. [c] 38 Of all the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua (son of Nun) and Caleb (son of Jephunneh) survived.” Only two of them Caleb and Joshua were spared.
In Deuteronomy 1:36 Moses recalls the incident and summed up the whole incident like this, “But you (the nation Israel) rebelled against the command of the Lord your God and refused to go.”
My friend, do you see the consequences of unbelief in the power and promise of God. The Lord punished the whole Israel who shared their unbelief in the power and promise of god. All people of the Israel community who are 20 years of old who complained will die in the wilderness. Their children will be shepherds in the desert for 40 more years. Numbers 13:29-35.
Did you see during this crisis time Caleb stood up and said his belief and confidence in the power and promise of the Lord? At the age of 40, he had a very good estimation of who God is and knew that God is the God who will turn human impossibilities into divine possibilities. He had full faith and trust in the Lord. This is what made him different from others.
Secondly, he stood for the truth courageously. He didn’t water down his report when stones began to fly toward him. He was willing to stand alone for truth. He didn’t swing for people’s approval or reputation. This is the Caleb at the age of 40.
Deuteronomy 1:34-36 reports God’s oath for Caleb because of his faithfulness toward the Lord. It says, “When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and took this oath: 35 “Not one of these evil people will ever see the good land that I swore to give to your ancestors, 36 except Caleb, son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give the land that he set his feet on to him and his descendants because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord.”
The Lord made this promise about Caleb’s blessing. Caleb will see the promised land and the Lord will give the land that he set his feet on to his and his children. This became a dream for Caleb in the later 40+ years while he wandered in the wilderness for the sins of other men.
We can see two things in Caleb- faith in the living God and His promises and secondly courage to stand even alone for God regardless of the consequences. A sweet blend of faith and courage. This is what going to make you and me also different in this generation as well.
2. A middle-aged in his ‘down’ years still carrying the dream and promise in his heart
The second phase of Caleb’s life was a long time span from 40 to 85 years. Not much information is given to us regarding this period. But we are certainly aware of few facts.
The next 40 years he wandered in the desert with other Israelites. He has seen all of the community of Israel except Joshua died out there in the wilderness. I am assuming probably he wandered aimlessly in the wilderness not because of any fault of his own, but because of the wrong choice of other people. He witnessed the consequence of the rebellion of all these people – the whole generation died in the desert.
My friend, do you have such a feeling in your life? I never made that decision that affected my life, but here I am facing the consequences of someone else’s choice. This is the very discouraging and down years of Caleb’s life. A lot of discouragement and dispiritedness.
Dr. Howard Hendricks who was one of the best teachers in the Dallas Theological Seminary, who is with the Lord said like this, “My friend, if you can live for Christ in the midst of the ordinariness of that kind of life, I will guaranty you have got the real view of the Christian life.”
Are you in you ‘down’ years of life? Much discouragement and disillusionment? Apparently our giant, the iron man, never diminished in his spiritual vitality and strength during this long year of aimless wandering.
During these long years, the dream God gave him in his heart, illuminated him, I believe. What was the dream that he was keeping in these down years? Let us see this.
An old man who has finally seen the fulfillment of his dream and promise
Now under the new leadership of Joshua, Caleb and Joshua along with the second generation Israelites entered into the promised land of Canaan. Joshua is dividing the land to them. Listen what this very old man of 85 years said to Joshua at that time.
“Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 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. 9 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.’[a] “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.”
Caleb in his ripe old age came to Joshua and reminding the promise God gave to him at the age of forty and which he was carrying in his mind all these years. He said, Joshua, I was forty years old when Moses sent me to explore the land. I brought him back a report according to my convictions. (His conviction of full faith, trust, and confidence in the power and promise of the Lord). He says I followed the LORD, my God, wholeheartedly. So Moses swore to me (actually God swore to Moses and Moses, in turn, gave the oath to Caleb) the land on which my feet have walked will be my inheritance and of my children forever. Just as the Lord promised he has kept me alive for 45 years more (amazing the faithfulness and the word of the Lord). I am here today, 85 years old. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified but the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Wow, this unwavering faith, trust, confidence, and courage for an old man of 85 years. His faith and confidence in the LORD were never diminished, though he got older.
Caleb kept God’s promise in his heart all these ‘down’ years of his life that the LORD will give the hill country (where his feet touched) one day before he dies. Why? It was the word of God.
Let me ask you, do you have word from the LORD? Do you have a dream God gave you early in your life? Joseph had a dream from God while he was very young and that promise and dream kept him stay focused during his ‘down’ years. What is the Lord’s word in your life? What is the dream God gave you in your life? Do you still remember that? 85 years old Caleb still remembers vividly what happened in his crisis years and God’s promise to him.
Why don’t you ask God to fulfill that promise or dream that kindled your heart in your later years of life so that you can also become a giant of the Lord?
What was the secret of this ordinary man’s extraordinary life?
Bible says repeatedly says six times in the Bible that Caleb followed the Lord wholeheartedly. Three testimonies you can say about him. Caleb himself testified in Joshua 14:7-8, “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.”
Moses stated the same testimony about Caleb in Numbers 32:10-12, “not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’’
God’s testimony in Numbers 14:24, “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.”
All these testimonies agree on one point – Caleb followed the Lord wholeheartedly all his life. That was the secret of his extraordinary life. An ordinary man lived an extraordinary life.
The motto is Close the gap
Do you know the real meaning of wholly followed the Lord or followed the Lord wholeheartedly? This is a phrase that means ‘to close the gap’. It is said that the phrase is used by hunters when following their prey. They ‘close the gap’ between them and their prey. Caleb wanted to ‘close the gap’ between him and the LORD. How can I be closer to God today and how can I close the gap between me and the LORD. Think this in today’s culture. When most people think how can I keep the distance between them and God, Caleb thought how can I ‘close the gap’ between me and God. Fully followed the Lord, wholeheartedly followed the Lord. Don’t you want to ‘close the gap’ between you and God? May we ask this question to ourselves every morning when we wake up – how can I be much more close to my Lord today than ever before? In the midst of a world where people want to extend the gap between themselves and God, let you be different like the old testament giant – Caleb.
My friend, are you trying to keep the distance between you and God? Let me tell you that is going to be foolish decision and not a wise one. Why don’t make up your mind to ‘close the gap’ betwen you and God? That is the correct and wise decision. I want to tell you this now. God was pursuing you all these years. Why? Not for bad but for your good. He has a good future and hope in store for you. He want you to enjoy His love and grace all through your life here and then all through out the eternity. Stop and turn to God now!
You can make a detour to God and heaven right now with a small prayer. Pray after me.
“God, I come to you and I know you have good future, hope, love, joy and mercy in store for me. I believe Christ died for my sins, buried and risen on the third day. I know he paid his blood for my sins. I accept Him as my saviour and Lord. Please save and bless me. Amen”.
If you prayed this prayer now, please go to contact/prayer tab and send me a note. Thank you.A giant who closed the gap and carried his dream to its fruition Click To Tweet