Joshua continues the mission he was given by God through Moses to grant to each tribe of Israel and inheritance of land. In Chapter 13, he grants to Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh the territory they requested from Moses on the east side of the Jordan. Chapter 14 continues the narrative of distributing the land among the tribes.
These are the inheritances that the people of Israel received in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel gave them to inherit. Their inheritance was by lot, just as the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses for the nine and one-half tribes. Joshua 14:1-2
When the tribe of Judah approached Joshua, Caleb presented his request on their behalf. Remember that years earlier, it was these two – Joshua and Caleb – who were the only two among the twelve spies that Moses sent to spy out the land, who gave a good report to Moses. So Joshua and Caleb are old friends, distinguished by their wholehearted devotion to the Holy One of Israel.
And Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenitzzite, said to him [Joshua], You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-Barnea concerning you and me. 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 him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses swore to me on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as He said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.’ The Joshua blessed him and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Joshua 14: 1b-12
God identified three things about Caleb that distinguished him from the crowd and explains God’s blessings on him, three things that speak to us all these centuries later.
First, Caleb saw opportunities where others saw problems.
Joshua and Caleb saw the same facts in the Promise Land as the Ten other spies. But they came to an altogether different conclusion because they saw it from a different perspective.
The ten spies saw good things that they wanted but the Bible clearly teaches us that these ten spies were not pleasing to the Lord. Why? Because the main things they saw were obstacles and problems. They saw giants in the land. Were they there? Yes. Did Caleb see these problems? Yes he did.
The difference was in their attitude. Caleb understood the challenges. Yes, there are enemies. Yes, they are formidable. If we were in this by ourselves, it would be too much for us. But the deciding factor is not how big the giants are. The deciding factor is God!
If you leave Him out, then you may very well agree with the ten spies. But Caleb saw something in the equation that the 10 spies ignored. He saw God’s involvement. God had already told them through Moses that He had given them the land. That alone should settle the matter.
Secondly, Caleb followed the LORD when others did not.
Caleb’s faith at Kadesh Barnea stood in contrast to the others. He was a person who could stand in faith when surrounded by unbelief, a man who can stand by his convictions regardless of what those around him were doing.
In our democracy, there is a tendency to validate things by majority vote. At Kadesh Barnea the majority certainly voted wrong, and it cost them dearly. Majority agreement doesn’t necessarily make something right. You cannot define morality by popular vote. Morality is not something that shifts with the tide of society. Right and wrong is rooted in the nature of the eternal God Who does not change (Mal. 3:6). You either take what God has declared in His word or you are a ship adrift in a raging sea of chaos.
Decades earlier, God had said this about Caleb: “But My servant, Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Notice how Caleb’s choices affected his posterity. The decisions you and I make today, will affect our tomorrows and even that of our children and grandchildren.
Notice three things God says here about Caleb. He was God’s servant which means he didn’t live life for himself but for God. He had a ‘different spirit’ – while the majority rebelled against God, he remained faithful. And Caleb ‘followed the Lord fully’ – Caleb was radically committed to God.
Thirdly, Caleb finished well and left a godly legacy to his descendants.
It is one thing to start out with zeal, with spurts of excitement and consecration. It’s another thing to consistently and faithfully follow the Lord throughout life. That means we follow Him when it’s difficult, when we’re tired and when there are other things we would rather do.
All of Caleb’s generation died in the wilderness because of their sin and unbelief. But Caleb kept plodding on. I can envision him encouraging them to trust the Lord just like he did at Kadesh Barnea. Some days his lips were dry and cracked. Some days his feet hurt. His journey was no easier than the man beside him. But he was not complaining. He continued to trust God to fulfill His promises to him. His journey was longer than he had hoped it would be; but he kept walking and he kept trusting God Whom he knew to be faithful.
How do you handle it when God doesn’t answer your prayers as quickly as you wish He would? Do you keep going? Keep walking? Keep serving Him?
How do you handle it when those around you speak words of unbelief, doubt and discouragement? Does your faith remain strong? Are you able to withstand negativity around you without succumbing to it?
Let us, like Caleb, remember always that we are the LORD’s servants, that the only reasonable option in life is to ‘follow Him fully’ in light of the manifold blessings He has given us and let us end well, like Caleb, leaving a godly inheritance of holy and righteous living to our children and grandchildren.