Courage Like Caleb

I want to be like Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. We think of him as the side-kick of Joshua and unintentionally diminish his individual contribution of faith.

He was one of the twelve men sent to spy out the promised land of Canaan in Numbers 13. These spies reported seeing a land flowing with milk and honey but filled with large, fortified cities inhabited by the “descendants of Anak” (13:28). The sons of Anak were part of the Nephilim, which meant that they were great warriors or physical giants or both (13:33). But to Caleb, it was immaterial: “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it” (13:30). Unfortunately the people rejected Caleb’s courage and spent the night crying, complaining against Moses, and trying to appoint a leader to take them back to bondage in Egypt. When Joshua and Caleb tried to strengthen the resolve of the congregation, they were nearly stoned – saved by the visible manifestation of God’s glory (14). The Lord’s judgment against the spies was immediate death by plague (14:36), for the nation, forty years of wandering in the desert while the generation older than twenty years died off (14:29) – all except Joshua and Caleb.

I never really thought about it until recently, but Caleb was forty years old when he spied out the land. That’s older than I am now. He was physically, mentally, and spiritually courageous. But what’s inspiring is that he remained so into his golden years. Zoom ahead forty-five years – Moses is dead and Joshua has led the nation into the promised land. Caleb comes to claim that hill country where the sons of Anak dwelt.

He says “I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and brought word back to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the Lord my God fully. And now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were here, with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the Lord has spoken” (Jsh 14:7-12).

What a remarkable old man. Eighty five and still filled with strength for fighting. Not with technological weapons, but with hands and swords against the Anakim (giants?). His secret was not his strength of arms, but his strength of spirit. The Lord commends Caleb: “My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it” (Num. 14:24). “Spirit” is ruach, a Hebrew word that speaks of the power of that which is unseen. Caleb was different in his heart, following the Lord completely, and receiving the blessing of his God.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but resolve in the face of it. There are some men that have staked their lives to take a chance on God. The result is a life of courage whose victories can only be accounted as derived by the power of God’s hand. I want to live like Caleb – strong in spirit and dependence till the very end…or at least til I’m eighty-five.

Like to hear more stories of valiant men of faith? Read your Old Testament.

Post any other great heroes of faith you think of..