Biography

Caleb—The Endurance of Faith

"Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fenced; if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said."—Joshua 14:12

By Tim Thomassen

The Old Testament covers 1500 years of Israel’s history. Then, as now, much of that history included valiant battles by courageous soldiers.

The Warrior—The Spy

An outstanding example of Jehovah’s warriors was Caleb. He earned his greatest fame as a spy who had confidence in the power of his God.

Caleb was 38 years old at the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. He belonged to the tribe of Judah. His cousin was Bezaleel, master craftsman of the Sanctuary of God, the Tabernacle. As we compare and contrast the differing skills of these two consecrated men, we are reminded of the varied talents God has always supplied and used among his people of every dispensation.

Ten Were Frightened

Two years after the exodus, Israel was camped along the southern border of the Promised Land. They were assured that they only had to walk over the boundary-line and take possession of the land. There would be no resistance by the existing inhabitants.

The people of Israel requested that Moses delegate a few representatives to check the conditions they would be facing.

God told Moses to appoint a team of twelve men to explore the land—its size, characteristics, growing crops, cities and towns, and people.

When a spy from each tribe was sent to appraise the situation in Canaan, ten returned to Moses with a terrified report: The land was verdant, but its inhabitants were forbidding—unduly strong and impossible to defeat. The walled cities seemed impregnable.

Two Trusted God

Caleb counted the pessimistic spies. Stalwart in his faith in divine power, "Caleb stilled the people and said, `Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.’" (Num. 13:30) Only Caleb and Joshua gave an evaluation prompted by faith in the Almighty.

Caleb never doubted the verity of the promises of Yahweh. He believed with all his heart and soul that Israel would inherit the land which God had promised them. "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isa. 55:11)

"I am the LORD, I change not" (Lam. 3:23,22).

Fear Not, Neither Be Discouraged

An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity. A pessimist finds a calamity in every opportunity.

Caution is prudent if followed by action. But fear doubts the supremacy of the divine arrangement; it questions the wisdom and love of the LORD. Fear paralyzes.

Israel had heard much about the land of milk and honey. They were now at the borders of this Promised Land. Their yearning for Egypt was past. All that remained was the conquest. The spies gazed upon the vineyards and olives groves. They saw the richness of the grain in the fields. They pictured their own farms dotting the valleys. They were excited about each wonder before them. Then they saw the Canaanites! Some of them were eight feet tall. They looked like the dreaded Nephilim of antediluvian days. In sheer panic, ten spies returned to the camp of Israel with their faith shattered, bearing a message of utter and hopeless despair. Only Caleb and Joshua remembered to "Fear not, neither be discouraged" (Duet. 1:21).

All Things Are Possible

Jesus later said (Mark 10:27), "With God, all things are possible."

Luke recorded this statement (18:27): "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." As the risen Christ told Thomas, "Be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:27).

Afraid, Discouraged, Angry

The congregation believed the ten. [They] bade stone [Caleb and Joshua] with stones (Num. 14:10). They abandoned their faith in the Almighty’s promise. They cried all night.

There is a mentality which says, "Blame it on the leader." The people decided to depose Moses and set up another leader who would take them back to Egypt.

Faith Requires Action

In Numbers 14:6-9, we read that Caleb and Joshua "rent their clothes." They urged the people, "Do not rebel against the LORD. Do not be afraid of the people of the land. We will swallow them up. The LORD is with us."

Nor did Caleb’s boundless faith deter him from exerting his physical prowess when waging war against Jehovah’s enemies.

"What doth it profit . . . though a man say he have faith, and have not works? . . . As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith, without works is dead also" (Jas. 2:14,26).

Caleb’s Reward

God said, "No one who has treated me with contempt will see [the Promised Land]. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me whole-heartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it" (Num. 14: 23,24).

The ten explorers whose report caused Israel to grumble against Moses’ leadership—these ten were struck down and died of a plague. Only Caleb and Joshua survived (Num. 14:36-33).

The principle was later expressed, "The just shall live by faith . . . if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (Heb. 10:38).

"Without faith it is impossible to please [God]...he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6).

"And Joshua blessed Caleb, and gave him Hebron for his inheritance" (Josh. 14:13).

The Strengths of Caleb

At the age of 85, Caleb was still a strong soldier. He drove out the Anakim from Hebron. (Josh. 14:6-15; 15:14) He then attacked Debir, southwest of Hebron. This conquest was a difficult challenge, so Caleb offered his daughter Achsah in marriage to the valiant warrior who would obtain the victory. Othniel won Achsah and a southland and upper springs and nether springs. (Josh. 15:15-19

Caleb lived a life of discipline and self-control. He never permitted himself to become soft. He maintained his assurance in the presence and power of Yahweh; this perspective prevented him from frittering away his physical well-being through tension and stress. The sterling faith which characterized his life remains a beacon light, shining for the encouragement of all lovers of God forever.