Lessons From The Life Of Caleb

Lessons From The Life Of Caleb

JOSHUA 14:6-12

As we embark on all that lies ahead for us at Greenview in 2024, one of our Trustees Nigel Kenny reflects at the end of our 150th Anniversary year and shares some lessons from the life of Caleb, the man who “served the Lord wholeheartedly”. Nigel did very well to stick to the 12 minutes he was given at our recent Watchnight Service, but here he shares a little more than he had time for then:-

This is the time of year when, until a few years ago, we would turn on our TVs just before midnight on Hogmanay and watch a man sitting in a chair, who would greet us with “Hullo…….what kind of year have you had? I’ve had a terrible year…”

For those too young to remember, it was Rev IM Jolly, played by the late Rikki Fulton. It’s actually 45 years since the first “Last Call” went out on our TVs and we’re going to
look over the next few minutes at a man who could also remember what happened 45 years earlier in his life – Caleb – which was the best introduction I could think of to link to our passage!

So let’s read Joshua 14:6-12:-
‘Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 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, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people sink. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 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 for ever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.”   ‘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! 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. 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.’

If you grew up in Sunday school, you probably first heard about Caleb’s story in the chorus Twelve men went to spy out Canaan, ten were bad, two were good. Well, Caleb was one of the good guys, along with Joshua, and he reminds him of that event some 45 years later at Gilgal here in Joshua 14. The first thing that we see about Caleb is that

He was a man of a different spirit (Num 14:24)
It’s fascinating that this wasn’t just what Moses or others said about Caleb – it was God himself, speaking through Moses, who had this assessment of Caleb. He was truly different from others in Israel and we’re told that that difference was seen in that he served God wholeheartedly. He and Joshua had a completely different attitude from the other ten spies, who only saw the obstacles in the way of entering Canaan, but Caleb saw beyond that to trust in God’s great ability to fulfil His promises and as a result, Caleb and his descendants would receive what God had promised them. So we see that

He recalled the promises of God (Jos 14:7a, 9a)
What God had promised Caleb was an earthly inheritance and Caleb never forgot it and it shaped his life for the next 45 years. The promises God has made to us in Christ are spiritual and far greater – Peter describes them as his very great and precious promises – do we recall them? Do they shape our lives and keep us going through all the discouragements in life? It’s interesting that as Peter develops his thinking about these promises in 2 Peter 1, they’re inextricably linked with our being wholehearted in our approach to the Christian life:- Peter says that as we grow in Christian maturity, the qualities that come through that, which are produced by God’s Spirit, will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus. Incredibly, as we persevere in the faith, we’ll never stumble and will receive a rich welcome into Christ’s eternal kingdom (2 Pet 1:5-11)! The next thing we see about Caleb is that

He was a man of conviction (Jos 14:7b)
Caleb brought his report from Canaan back to Moses “according to [his] convictions”. Those convictions went against the grain – but Caleb was burdened to say what was in his heart, no matter how unpopular or “out of step” that was. And it led to great blessing for those who went on and entered the land. Having a different spirit means we will be men and women of conviction – are we prepared to stand up and be counted for all the Bible has to say, no matter how unpopular or “out of step” with our culture that might
be? Caleb showed that

He wasn’t deterred by others’ negativity (Jos 14:8a)
This is a really key point. What the other ten spies said actually wasn’t an exaggeration – it was all accurate, but they left God out of the picture! They walked by sight and not faith. Caleb’s fellow Israelites had tragically been very successful with their negative message of doom and gloom – it was infectious in the wrong way, because the people’s hearts melted with fear. We can so often be discouraged and deterred from following Christ wholeheartedly by the negativity of others and the disastrous effects that can have, but Caleb wasn’t like that. No hint of discouragement. It was almost as if his motto was “Though none go with me, I still will follow!” That needs to be our motto too in these challenging times and the only way we can do that is to be like Caleb

He was wholehearted in his devotion (Jos 14:8b, 9b)
It’s incredible that Caleb is described six times in the Bible as being a man who served God wholeheartedly – what a testimony. This is what he was known for. What did this mean? In a nutshell, it was all about what drove him – his service wasn’t about duty or obligation or habit – he was passionate about serving God and he sought to do so with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. When we think of the greatest commandment, we so often think that it’s the proof that we’re all sinners, because only Jesus has ever
fulfilled it. While that’s true, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to be a wholehearted follower of Jesus, because Caleb was – and we have the fulness of God’s revelation in Christ and His indwelling Spirit, if we are Christians, so we have no excuse! But can it be said of us that we are wholehearted in our devotion to Christ? But we also see that

He was mindful of God’s faithfulness (Jos 14:10)
Caleb wasn’t boasting that he’d made it to 85 – he openly acknowledged that it was God who had kept him alive and had given him the strength to persevere through all of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. It’s interesting that if you were to trace the roundabout route that the Israelites took over those 40 years, it forms the shape of a heart – and that’s what was happening spiritually. Their hearts were wandering from
God but Caleb served the Lord with all his heart. Remembering God’s faithfulness to us – acknowledging that we are dependent on him for the very breath in our nostrils each day – will keep our hearts right before God – we owe our very existence to his faithfulness and grace. Another thing about Caleb that’s truly significant is that

He was faithful for 45 years in obscurity (Jos 14:11).              We never hear of what Caleb did over those 45 years, yet he remained utterly faithful to God. We have many young folk at Greenview who are at school or university and you may well end up leaving Glasgow and getting work and settling in obscure parts of the country. Wherever you end up, make sure you get involved in a good local church and serve God wholeheartedly there and in the community. You don’t need to live in a big city to be a wholehearted Christian! The final thing we see about Caleb was that

He was still a man of confident faith at the end of his life (Jos 14:12).       We have a few folk here at Greenview in their 80s – and beyond – who are still going on faithfully. Their lives, their godliness, their prayers are an inspiration to all of us – their confidence for the future isn’t in themselves or in the rest of us but in God, who is the One who enables us to do great things for Him, if we will but trust Him.

Ultimately, Caleb is a type of the Lord Jesus – let’s see the similarities:-

  • He had a different spirit – “He taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law”
  • He recalled the promises of God – “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross”
  • He was a man of conviction – “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”
  • He wasn’t deterred by others’ negativity – “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
  • He was wholehearted in his devotion – “I always do what pleases Him”
  • He was mindful of God’s faithfulness – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”
  • He was faithful in obscurity for many years – “Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about 30”
  • He still had confident faith at the end of his earthly life – “Not my will, but yours be done”

But what of ourselves? Do we desire to serve the Lord wholeheartedly? Maybe it would help us to think of the opposite of whole-hearted: half-hearted, apathetic, indifferent – lukewarm. That was the word Jesus used to describe the church at Laodicea in Rev 3, wasn’t it? Being half-hearted is a dangerous place for any of us to be.

So what’s the remedy? Well surely it’s to be of a different spirit like Caleb. Do we have
that? Remember what Jesus said in Luke 11. Although we are evil, we know how to give good gifts to our children. How much more will God give His Spirit to those who ask Him? Only God can give us that, but how great is our need!

As we look back at the end of this our 150th year of worship and witness at Greenview, I’m increasingly convinced that in fulfilling His purposes, God uses people – ordinary people like us – we are the body of Christ, after all – to accomplish His purposes. He works in us and through us. We don’t know whether the Lord will tarry for the next 150 years, the next 15 years, the next couple of years – but however long it is till He returns, Greenview will need men and women like Caleb – those who have a different spirit and who serve the Lord wholeheartedly. As we go into 2024, may that be true of all of us and what we are all remembered for most by those who knew us best.