“Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.” – Joshua 14:9
In his book, In His Image, Dr. Paul Brand writes about his mother. She was seventy-five years old and still walking miles every day, visiting the villages in the southern part of India, teaching the people about Jesus. Then one day, she fell and broke her hip. After two days of lying there in pain, some workers finally found her and put her on a makeshift cot. They loaded her into their jeep and drove one hundred and fifty miles over deep rutted roads to find a doctor who could set the broken bones. But the very bumpy ride damaged her bones so badly that her hip never completely healed.
He said, “I visited my mother in her mud-covered hut. At age seventy-five, with a broken hip, unable to stand on her own two legs, I suggested that she retire … She turned around and looked at me and said, `What value is that? If we try to preserve this body just a few more years and it is not being used for God, of what value is that?’” So she kept on working. She kept on riding her donkey to villages until she was ninety-three years old. At age ninety-three, she couldn’t stay on her donkey anymore. She kept falling off. But she didn’t stop preaching. Indian men would carry her in hammocks from one village to another. And she continued to tell people about Jesus Christ until she died at age ninety-five.
Joined With Israel
Caleb was such a man who was determined to fight the good fight until he drew he last breath. He was in a fight against his giants to the finish, and God was going to enable him to finish well.
The book of Joshua records Caleb’s legacy, noting his unwavering faith in God:
“Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: ‘You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, “Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.” And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.” And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.” (Joshua 14:6-13)
After reading this, it may surprise you to find out that Caleb was not an Israelite by blood. He was the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite (v.6). Genesis 36 reveals that this legacy means Caleb was a descendent of Esau and therefore born into a family that was an avowed enemy of Israel.
If that was not bad enough, he had been given a name that no good Jew would ever have. The name Caleb means “dog” in Hebrew. In Semitic culture, dogs were considered unclean. Deuteronomy 23:18 says, “You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the Lord your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.” However Caleb got the name he did, it would not have endeared him to the people of Israel.
Somewhere in Caleb’s life, however, a great change had been made in his life. At some time, he had joined himself to Israel and embraced the one true God. Though he was a Gentile and an outcast, he became a child of the promises of God. In Hebrew culture, if you joined Israel, you were adopted into one of its tribes and your family name was added into their genealogy. It was as though you had always been a part of God’s family. 1 Chronicles reveals that Caleb was adopted into the tribe of Judah. Judah was the tribe from which one day would be born the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ. (It is interesting to note that two other famous Old Testament Gentiles, Rahab and Ruth, were also adopted into that same tribe of Judah.)
Caleb was a man whose heart had been changed (v.7). And because his heart was changed, Caleb became a man who trusted in the person and promises of God rather than man.
There are many lessons we can learn from Caleb as Christians. We too were outcasts from the people and promises of God before we became believers. “Remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12).
However, despite our lowly beginning, we too have been adopted into the family of God—also into the line of Judah. Christ has grafted us into His family. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). “You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16).
When a person comes to know the person of God and believe the promises of God, it changes their perspective on life. Caleb and Joshua stood out forty-five years earlier because they were the only two spies who affirmed God’s promise that they could conquer the land of Canaan. Numbers 14:24 records that the reason Caleb chose to believe God when he and the other spies went into the Promised Land was because he had a different spirit in him. Caleb knew there could be no half-hearted following of God. He would follow God with his whole heart (v.8).
Caleb’s perspective on life changed because God had given a different standard to live by. He learned, as we should as well, that there are only three standards by which any of us can order our lives. These three are described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court.In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.”
Breaking this verse down, we find three standards that we can try to live by:
- External Standards (What others say we need to be and do) – “it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court”
- Internal Standards (What I say I should be and do) – “I do not even judge myself”
- Eternal Standards (What Christ says) – “He who judges me is the Lord”
Only one of these standards, however, will bring true fulfillment to our lives—the eternal standards given in God’s Word. Caleb recognized this; his perseverance was conceived in the promises of God. His understanding of who he was in God and what God had promised became the compass of his life, and that gave him perseverance (vv.10-11). For forty years Caleb had held on to that compass in spite of numerous doubters, obstacles, and delays. That perseverance made Caleb ready to give all he had, even though he was eighty-five years old.
Fighting To The Finish
Perseverance is completed in the promises of God (vv.12-15). Caleb’s faithfulness meant he had to fight the giants that stood between him and where God wanted him to be. In this case, Caleb’s battle and inheritance were at Hebron, which is where God made His covenant with Abraham and where Israel was first called the people of God (v.14). On the mountain that God had promised him were the Anakim, fierce giants that lived on the very place that God had promised Caleb years before (v.12).
It is interesting to note that Hebron means “fellowship,” as it fits perfectly with the valuable lesson Caleb learned there: often our greatest fellowship with God is found at the place of our greatest trials. While our giants may not always be literal, they are still imposing. They are anything that stands between us and where God wants us to be. But where the giants loom the largest, God is most real—if we trust Him. Fellowship with God is not beyond our giants; it is while we are fighting our giants in His strength.
Have you had the same change occur in your heart that did in Caleb’s? That can only come by being adopted into the spiritual tribe of Judah – trusting in Christ alone as your Lord and Savior. Have you made the person and promises of God the compass of your life? That is all that will enable you to persevere in faith. There will be giants to fight, even at the place of your fellowship with God; but God will fight those giants for you if you let Him!
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