After 400 years of Egyptian captivity, Israel was miraculously delivered from bondage. The Lord commanded Moses to send a representative from each of the twelve tribes to search out the land of Canaan before inhabiting it.
The spies returned with a mixed report. All agreed that Canaan was a good and fruitful land flowing with milk and honey; nevertheless, the people were strong and great, living in walled cities (Num. 13:27–29). The spies lacked faith to believe God would deliver the land into their hands. They said, “We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we… a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants… and we were like grasshoppers…” (Num. 13:31–33).
By contrast, Joshua and Caleb presented a positive report, boldly stating, “nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” (Num. 14:9).
Caleb and Joshua were kindred spirits; only these two had faith in God’s promise and power to deliver the land to Israel. Caleb is given a more prominent place within the context because of his strong and courageous faith. Let’s examine Caleb’s faith for lessons we can learn for our own spiritual lives.
Caleb was the son of Jephunneh (Num. 13:6) who had been chosen as a spy to represent the tribe of Judah. He is called the son of Kenaz (Judg. 1:13; 36:11) or the Kenizzite (Num. 32:12). The Kenizzites were originally from Edom, meaning they were outside the covenant promises made with Israel. Caleb’s ancestors either married into a family in Judah, or became a proselyte and associated with that tribe before Israel went to Egypt. Scripture reveals that Caleb was the son of Hezron who descended from Pharez (I Chron. 2:5), thus putting him in Christ’s earthly lineage (Matt. 1:3). His first wife Azubah bore him three sons, his second wife Ephrath bore him one son, and numerous sons by his concubines (I Chron. 2:18, 19; 46, 48).
How can we see God’s grace manifested to and through Caleb? First, Caleb’s family became identified with the tribe of Judah; then he was born into slavery in Egypt, but delivered from bondage through the Passover blood atonement; wonderfully chosen to represent the tribe of Judah as a spy; given an inheritance in the land of Canaan; and finally is recorded in the lineage of Christ.
The leadership of Judah must have seen in Caleb the qualities of leadership, courage, confidence, conviction, and, above all, faith to have chosen him out of all Judah to represent their tribe as one of the spies. As we study Caleb, everything about him proved He was a man of faith. Caleb is one of few men that we read about in Scripture that manifested such a strong faith.
We who are believers in Christ have much in common with Caleb. We have been chosen by God, delivered from the slavery of sin through the blood of Christ, must live our pilgrimage on earth by faith, and have been promised an eternal inheritance.
Scripture stated that Caleb had “a different spirit” (Num. 14:24) than the other spies. He did not go along with the herd mentality but thought for himself and stood independently from those who showed no faith in the promises of God. His spirit was quick to exhibit faith in God and always ready to obey and follow the Lord. He had an honest heart, great integrity, and never compromised his commitment unto Lord.
Caleb had the courage of his convictions to stand against the ten spies who provided an evil report. He boldly stepped forward to still the voice of the rebellious people and said, “Let us go up at once, and take possession [Canaan], for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30). Caleb went on to say, “If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey’” (Num. 14:8).
When Moses chose Joshua as his replacement to lead Israel, Caleb never exhibited a spirit of rivalry, jealousy, or envy. He wholeheartedly supported Joshua and loyally submitted to his leadership. Caleb was humble, did not seek personal honor, position or possessions, nor was he greedy for reward. Christians are encouraged to manifest these attributes in their own character and conduct.
Joshua and Eleazer parceled out portions of the land of Canaan to each tribe by lot (Josh. 14:1-2). When it came time for Judah to receive its portion, Caleb reminded Joshua of the promise Moses had made to him, “You know the word which the Lord said to Moses… concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea… Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever… Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day” (Josh. 14:6, 9, 12; cf. Dt. 1:36). Caleb had spied out and was promised Hebron. After blessing Caleb, Joshua gave him Hebron for his inheritance as Moses had promised (Josh. 14:13–14).
Never once did Caleb question, murmur, or doubt God during the forty years he waited for his reward. During this time he had to suffer the same trying difficulties of wilderness existence with other Israelites.
Caleb patiently waited for the Lord’s timing to claim his inheritance. How easy it would have been for Caleb to doubt and become discouraged concerning God’s promise, especially at eighty-five years old. Never once did he question, murmur, or doubt God during the forty years he waited for his reward. During this time he had to suffer the same trying difficulties of wilderness existence with other Israelites. He had to listen to his countrymen as they murmured and complained of their plight and were critical of Moses’ leadership. Unlike his fellow countrymen, who would die in the wilderness, Caleb was promised an inheritance in Canaan. There is no indication that his faith wavered as the years passed. Instead he kept his eyes on the Lord and mentally envisioned that someday he would enjoy the inheritance of Hebron where his feet had trod.
Christians are pilgrims on earth and must pass through the wilderness of this life. Though promised an inheritance, like Caleb, we must wait for years to possess it. Unlike Caleb, Christians, if not caught up in the Rapture, will face death, but like Caleb have an eternal inheritance awaiting them.
When Caleb said to Joshua, “Give me this mountain” (Josh. 14:12), he was not asking for an easy task. To conquer Hebron took a commitment of courage and strength. First, the area was located three thousand feet above sea level between Beersheba and Jerusalem. Second, the Anakites were giants whose cities were large and well fortified. Third, Caleb could have shrunk back in fear, knowing that he was unskilled in war, without proper weapons, and unprepared physically for such a venture, but none of these facts detoured Caleb in believing he could take the mountain. He said, “It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said” (Joshua 14:12). Some forty-five years earlier he had said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30).
Most 85-year-olds are not physically or mentally fit to take on such a flight, but Caleb was. He said, “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” (Josh. 14:10–11). Caleb was fit for the task, not only spiritually, but mentally and physically. What a wonderful testimony Caleb gave before Joshua and the tribe of Judah. He is a claimer who conquers, a man of courage, not a constant complainer like others in Israel. He did not see the obstacles but the opportunities that the Lord put before him. He kept his eye on the promises of God, not the problems he would face in taking the mountain.
Often elderly Christians seek to cut back on responsibilities, minimize the difficulties in their life, seek a trouble-free existence, and often become fearful and unsure of their future. Not Caleb: He was willing to take on mountains, giants, and fortified cities. He viewed the task before him as an opportunity for God to display His power and glory. He did not fear the difficulty before him because he was assured of his future inheritance.
Caleb faced the fight of his life with spiritual vision, physical vitality, and an attitude of valor. Such attributes produced in Caleb the faith and confidence needed to take on the inhabitance of Hebron and win the victory. Caleb defeated the giants and drove out the three sons of Anak (Josh. 15:14). He successfully conquered each obstacle in taking possession of the land promised to him. Caleb kept his eyes upon God, His Word, and the promised reward, not the giants.
In the spiritual warfare of life, the believer’s faith should not focus on his own ability to conquer the enemy, giants, or mountains of difficulty but in the spiritual provisions provided by the Lord. Victory in Christians’ lives comes by trusting in God’s Word, resting in His promises, and keeping their eyes on the Lord.
Caleb’s spiritual success was no secret; he yielded his life unto the Lord and rested in His promises. Six times Scripture states, Caleb “wholly followed the Lord” (Num. 14:24; 32:12; Deut. 1:36; Joshua 14:8–9, 14). He was not detoured by overwhelming circumstances, obstacles he would face in reaching his goal, opposition from tribal leaders, nor opinions of the masses. He was not fearful of his own inability but had faith in God’s ability. The decision Caleb made affected his posterity for years to come. In other words, Caleb’s commitment was total. He never wavered in his belief that what the Lord promised, He would also provide the power to perform the task.
All Christians face defining moments that will determine the direction their lives will take for decades to come. Decisions made without being wholly committed to the Lord could mean years of wilderness experiences in our lives. Like Caleb, it is important that each of us examine ourselves and decide to be a person of faith, no matter how great the opposition might be in accomplishing what the Lord has called us to do. Remember Caleb’s secret: “Caleb wholly followed the Lord!”