Are You a Caleb?

Joshua 14-15

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
November 2019

We have been studying the book of Joshua.  It is a book all about the conquest of Canaan.  The main character of the book, humanly speaking is Joshua, the leader.  He is Moses successor.  Today, we want to talk about someone else.  We want to talk about Joshua’s friend Caleb.  We are going to do a little character study on Caleb.  He is one of the more underrated and overlooked characters in the Bible.  He is not mentioned that many times in the Bible

He is not as famous as Joshua.  He is not as famous as Moses or David.  He is not as famous as Abraham or Noah.  Everyone could tell you stories about Moses or David.  Not too many could tell you any stories about Caleb. There are not as many verses in the Bible about Caleb but there is more here than we might think.

The Bible mentions the name of his dad (Jephunneh)[1].  It mentions the name of his daughter (Aksah).[2]  It mentions the name of his sons (Iru, Elah and Naam)[3].  It mentions the name of his brother (Kenaz)[4].  It mentions the name of his son-in-law (Othniel)[5].

The Importance of Caleb

We are told about Caleb’s family but what we will be focusing on today is his character.  Caleb is one of the greatest characters in the whole Bible.  He is one of the godliest men in Scripture.  He received a special blessing that no one else in the nation, besides Joshua, received.  Only two adults out of two million who came out of Egypt were faithful enough to see the Promise Land.  Everyone else in that generation died.

21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 NOT ONE of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 NOT ONE of them will EVER see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. NOT ONE who has treated me with contempt will EVER see it. 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. (Numbers 14:21-24 NIV)

Caleb was also the first one to receive an inheritance in the Promise Land.  The first tribe to receive an inheritance in the Promise Land was the Tribe of Judah (Joshua 15).  Before that happened, Caleb was given the city of Hebron.  Why does he get it?  Caleb gave a speech in Joshua 14:7-12.

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.’

10 “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! 11 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. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. (NIV)

Caleb gives his personal testimony here.  He tells them what happened forty year earlier.  He wanted to do the right thing, but he was outvoted.  He was given a promise that he and his descendants would inherit the land, because of his faithfulness.  He is now eight-five.  He is still alive and has not received his inheritance yet and Joshua gives it to him (Joshua 14:13).

The Spirit of Caleb

Today, we want to ask one question:  Are you a Caleb?  To answer that question, you have to know what he was like.  We are going to look at the spirit of Caleb. We are going to look at eight characteristics or eight signs of a Caleb Spirit in Scripture.

1. STRENGTH – Caleb was physically strong.

“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! 11 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. (Joshua 14:10-11 NIV)

How many of us could say what Caleb said?  I can’t.  I am not as strong and flexible as I used to be. In my twenties and thirties, I used to do martial arts.  Recently, I began trying some of the exercises I used to do when I was a lot younger and I found I couldn’t do any of them.

Most people at eighty can barely move.  They can barely walk.  Some have to use a walker or are in a nursing home.  Caleb was strong at eighty.  In fact, he was as strong at eighty as he was at forty and he lived long before the time of modern medicine.  It is one thing to be strong when you are young.  It is another thing to be strong when you are old.

Caleb was still doing battle in his eighties.  He was still climbing mountains in his eighties.  He was the eighty-year-old mountain climber.  He was still killing giants in his eighties.  He was the eighty-year-old giant killer.  He was eighty years young.  Are we strong or weak?  Are we young at heart, even if we are physically old?

2. OPTIMISM– Caleb had hope about the future

Many people as they get older become negative and critical.  They become cranky.  They become grouchy and grumpy.  Caleb was different.  Caleb is old but he is positive.  He is optimistic.  Every time you see him in Scripture, he has this characteristic.

Twelve men were sent in to spy out the land in Numbers 13.  See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”  It was the season for the first ripe grapes. (Numbers 13:18-20 NIV)

Caleb and Joshua were two these spies.  Caleb represented the Tribe of Judah.  Joshua represented the Tribe of Ephraim.  The twelve spies did their job and forty days later, came back with a report but there were two reports because the spies could not agree.  They agreed on the facts.  They disagreed on the interpretation.  If you need an example of that today, all you have to do is to look at the impeachment hearings of Donald Trump.

Democrats and Republicans agree on the basic facts.  We have the transcript of the phone call of the president but there are two completely different interpretations of what that transcript means and what should be done about it, so two reports came in from the spies.

There was a majority report and a minority report.  One report focused on the problems and one focused on God.  The majority report focused on the problems.  It was negative and pessimistic.

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 BUT the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there…the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”

And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:27-28, 31-32 NIV).

Caleb was part of the minority report.  This report was the exact OPPOSITE of what the first report said.  The first report said, “what God said is true about the land.  It does flow with milk and honey but we cannot conquer it, because they are stronger than we are.”

The minority report said, “The land does have giants in it but we SHOULD go up and take possession of the land, for we CAN certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30 NIV).  He said, “We are WELL ABLE” (KJV) to do it. God is with us.” The first report said, “We cannot conquer them because the land devours its inhabitants” (Numbers 13:32).  The second report said that if they attacked the, they would devour the Canaanites (Numbers 14:9)

Caleb was not unaware of the dangers or problems.  He did not pretend that the giants did not exist. All of us have giants in our life but he was still optimistic.

Forty-five years later, Caleb was still optimistic.  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.” (Joshua 14:12 NIV).

In both situations, Caleb did not deny the problems but there was an optimism about him.  Are we primarily optimistic or pessimistic?  People who know us, would they say we are mostly positive or are we mostly negative and critical?  If you were one of the twelve spies sent on this special mission, which report would you give?

3. FAITH – Caleb believed God

Caleb had optimism because he had faith.  He trusted God.  He did not have confidence because of his own abilities.  He had confidence because of God.  Caleb was not optimistic because he had a great life. He had all kinds of problems.

Caleb was born a slave in Egypt and remained a slave for forty years.  He experienced all kinds of abuse and mistreatment.  His back probably bore scars from beatings.  He saw the wickedness of his own people.  His own friends kept dropping dead but there is no sign that Caleb was angry with God or bitter.

He was optimistic, not because of his circumstances, but because of his faith in God.  He could not do this on his own, but he could do it with God’s help. “THE LORD HELPING ME, I will drive them out JUST AS HE SAID.” (Joshua 14:12 NIV).

The ten spies did not have faith because they looked at their problems.  Caleb had faith because he looked at God and what He could do.  He had faith in the POWER OF GOD.  He saw the plagues of Egypt (the frogs, gnats, locusts).  He knew about the angel of death.  He saw God split the Red Sea and saw Him dry the ground.  He saw pillar of cloud by day and night.

He saw manna coming out of heaven every day to feed them and water coming out of a rock.  He heard God speak audibly on Mount Sinai.  He saw the walls of Jericho coming down.

He had faith in the power of God.  He also had faith in the PROMISES OF GOD.  He believed that God would keep His promises, the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the promises He made to Moses.  Even though he had to wait forty years and was eighty-five, he believed that God was still going to keep His promise to him.  Do we have faith in the promises of God, like Caleb did?

4. COURAGE – Caleb was not ruled by fear

When you are focused on God you will not fear anyone.  When you focus on your problems, you will have all kinds of fear.   Caleb was not afraid of giants.  They were tall.  They were strong.  They were dangerous but Caleb was not afraid of them.  He was afraid of them at Kadesh-Barnea and forty-five years later, he is still not afraid of them.

He was not afraid of saying what he believed, even if it was unpopular.  He wasn’t afraid of taking a stand for truth, even if he was alone.  He wasn’t afraid of taking a stand for what was right, even if it meant losing his life for it.  After Joshua and Caleb gave their report, people wanted to stone them (Numbers 14:10).  They wanted to stone them just for suggesting it.

It did not look good for Caleb and Joshua until God showed you and the other ten spies dropped dead.  Does this describe you?  Are you afraid of what people think?  Are you a people pleaser?  Are you willing to stand alone?  It takes a certain type of person to do this.

5. AMBITION – Caleb wanted to do big things for God

We think of the word ambition in a negative way.  The Bible does talk about selfish ambition but there is also such a thing as a holy ambition.  Paul had an ambition to preach the gospel where Christ had not been named (Romans 15:20).

Forty years ago, Caleb had an ambition to conquer the land of Canaan. He believed that the Israelites could conquer the land of Canaan.  It would not be easy, but he believed that they could do it.  He told the people not to be afraid of them and said that they would devour them (Numbers 14:9).

Forty-five years later, there are still some things he wants to do.  Some of them are big things.  He is not going to let age stop him from achieving them.

Caleb is eighty-five.  He is not a spring chicken, but he still has some things to do for God.  At eighty-five, he is not retiring.  He has some more giants to defeat.  He still wants to take out giants at eighty-five.  Eighty-five is generally not a good age to fight anyone, especially giants.  Are there some things you want to do for God?  Are there some things that God has put on your heart to do?

6. BOLDNESS – Caleb asked for the hardest assignment available

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.” (Joshua 14:12 NIV)

This is interesting.  Most of us choose the easy path. It is more comfortable and requires less sacrifice.   We complain if what we have to do is hard.  We complain if we have trials or difficulties.

Caleb was promised an inheritance in the Promised Land, but he did not want just any inheritance.  He wanted the most difficult part of the land.  He wanted the most dangerous area occupied by people the Israelites feared the most.  He wanted the hardest spot in the land.

He did not want an easy spot.  He could have said, “I am eighty-five.  I am slowing down.  Give me something easy and comfortable, so I can retire and take it easy.”  Are you afraid of trials or difficulties or do you trust God?

Caleb not only has a bold REQUEST (difficult spot), he has a bold CHALLENGE.  From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 16 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher” (Joshua 15:15-16 NIV).

Caleb offers his daughter as a reward for victory in battle.  Apparently, he had only one daughter and in Rabbinic tradition, she is said to be very beautiful.  Caleb offered her as a reward for victory over a city.  Caleb already had Hebron.  This was another city (Debir).  Joshua already conquered it once (Joshua 10:38, 39) but apparently, the Canaanites took it back.

You say that this did not sound very fair to his daughter.  She did not have much choice in the matter but they had arranged marriages in that day.  She did not have much choice in the matter anyway.

Othniel wins the challenge.  Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage (Joshua 15:17 NIV).  He wasn’t just anybody.  Othniel was Caleb’s nephew (Joshua 15:17; I Chronicles 4:13).  He became the first judge listed in the Book of Judges.  He became a hero for the nation but we learn something about his daughter here.

Apparently, Caleb’s daughter was a lot like him.  Caleb had a bold request and so did she.  18 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?” 19 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower spring (Joshua 15:18-19 NIV)

Usually for a dowry, you would get money or jewelry.  The wedding gifts were a large piece of land.  She asks Caleb for more.  She wanted some springs of water also.  She dared to ask for more and go it.  Spurgeon used this to teach on prayer.  We have not because we ask not.

7. OBEDIENCE – Caleb followed God wholeheartedly

The Bible says that Caleb followed the Lord wholeheartedly.  One of the greatest things that could ever be said about people is that they follow the Lord wholeheartedly.  The Bible does not say that Caleb did this one or two times.  Six times we are told that Caleb did this (Numbers 14:24; 32:11, 12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8, 9, 14).

In Joshua 14:8, CALEB says that he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.  In Joshua 14:9, MOSES says that Caleb he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.  In Numbers 14:24; 32:11, 12; Deuteronomy 1:36, GOD says that he followed Him wholeheartedly.

It is one thing if YOU say that you follow God wholeheartedly.  It is one thing if OTHER PEOPLE say that that you follow God wholeheartedly.  It is another thing if GOD says it and He says it three times in Scripture.

Even when it was difficult and he was living in the wilderness, he wholeheartedly followed the Lord.  Even when almost none of his contemporaries were doing it, he wholeheartedly followed the Lord.  Even though he was a soldier, he wholeheartedly followed the Lord. Caleb was a man’s man.  Most military people are pretty rough.  Most are not spiritually sensitive.  Caleb was different.

Do we serve God wholeheartedly?  For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (II Chronicles 16:9 NIV).  God is looking for people like Caleb.  He does not see too many like him in the world or even in the church.

Caleb had a DIFFERENT SPIRIT (Numbers 14:24).  Caleb was not just different from the unbelievers.  He was not just different from the Canaanites.  He was different from the Israelites.  He was different from the people of God.

Here is the reality.  You can follow God and serve Him but NOT do it wholeheartedly.  Many people do that.  You can go to church because you feel you are supposed to, not because you want to go or because your heart is in it.

Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan; she was from Jerusalem. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but NOT wholeheartedly (II Chronicles 25:1-2 NIV).

God wants us to serve him wholeheartedly.  Paul says, “Serve WHOLEHEARTEDLY, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” (Ephesians 6:7 NIV).  He says, “Whatever you do, work at it with ALL your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23 NIV)

Do you have to be sinless to serve God wholeheartedly?  No.  You have to have a heart for God.  You have to be spiritually sensitive.  You have to be sold out for God.  You don’t have to be sinless.  David was a man after God’s own heart, but he was not sinless.

11 Asa did what was RIGHT in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done. 12 He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. 13 He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley.

14 ALTHOUGH he did NOT remove the high places, Asa’s heart was FULLY COMMITTED to the Lord ALL his life. 15 He brought into the temple of the Lord the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated. (I Kings 15:11-14 NIV)

8. FAITHFULNESS – Caleb is a case study of lifelong faithfulness

How many people start well but don’t finish well?  They start the Christian life on fire and do all kinds of things for God, as baby Christians, but they soon fizzle out.  Some give up the faith entirely.  They say, “I used to believe those things but now I don’t.”  We have seen some of those in the news recently.  Some pastors start out great and have a tremendous ministry all over the world but then something happens.

A few scandals take place and they are finished.  They are out of a job and out of ministry.  We don’t want to be one of those that start well but don’t end well.  Caleb is an example of lifelong faithfulness.  He started well and he ended well.

Caleb was on fire for God when he was young and was still on fire for God when he was old.  When you compare the younger Caleb with the old Caleb, you see that he has not changed.  If you read Numbers 14 and Joshua 14, it is clear that Caleb has not changed.  He is the same man.  He has the same faith, the same confidence and even the same strength and Joshua 14 is forty-five years later.

[1]Numbers 13:6; 14:6, 30, 38; 26:65; 32:12; 34:19; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:6, 13, 14; 15:13; 21:12; I Chronicles 4:15; 6:56

[2] Joshua 15:16

[3] I Chronicles 4:15

[4] Joshua 15:17

[5] Joshua 15:17

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