40 years after the spies returned from their mission (Numbers 13), the people of Israel reentered the Promised Land. For 5 years, they battled the nations who lived there, until the land that God had promised them was theirs. Then Joshua gave the different tribes and clans their share of the land as their inheritance as God had directed.
By this time, Caleb was 85 years old, quite probably the oldest man in Israel, and still fighting with his sons in the front line of battle. His faith had led to a promise from God, that he would inherit the parts of the land that his feet had walked, and he had held on to that word from God for 45 years. This man of faith had remained faithful in his faith.
In Joshua 14:6-15:19, we see that Caleb’s faith comes to fruition. This 85-year-old man approaches Joshua, the leader of the people, who was the only other member of the tribes to have been an adult when they had spied out the land under Moses and a witness to God’s promise to Caleb, and asks for his inheritance.
‘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.’ (Josh. 14:10-12)
Such faith! Caleb reminds Joshua of the promise and testifies to the faithfulness that God has shown him. Caleb and Joshua are at least 28 years older than their nearest peers, yet Caleb is still as physically strong as he had been 45 years before. He is also just as strong in his faith as he had been 45 years before.
Caleb’s faith is not passive. He does not simply wait for things to happen, even though he has waited for 45 years. When the moment is right he stands up, steps forward and makes things happen.
When he talks to Joshua, Caleb…
- Asserts the foundation of his faith – “The Lord promised, 45 years ago.”
- Testifies to the truth of his faith – “Here I am, 45 years later, as the Lord promised I would be”
- Seeks his inheritance by faith – “Now give me this hill country, that the Lord promised me that day… it is time”
- States what will happen by faith – “The large people and cities cannot stand in the way of the Lord. With the Lord’s help I will drive them out”
- Moves in faith – He went on from there to defeat his enemies and take the land that God had promised to him (Josh. 15:13-17)
Caleb was patient for 45 years, but when the moment came to act he did so with no hesitation and in total faith. His faith was a living, vital thing and his life and convictions were founded upon it. He waited for such a long time, but he did so actively by preparing himself and his family for the next stage. When they entered the Promised Land, he and his sons were not only ready to fight, but full of faith that God was on their side.
Caleb’s faith is an inspiration and I want a faith like Caleb’s.
It is a temptation, with matters of faith, to become passive.
- Sometimes, we see what God says in faith and we fear that it might be too big for us to achieve. It can be tempting to withdraw or hide. Caleb understood that it was too big for him to achieve, and so trusted in God who was far bigger and more able.
- At other times, we can become impatient with waiting for what God has promised to us and step forward too early. Caleb could have gone with the others, back into the promised land to try and take hold of it before God’s time (Number 14), but he trusted that when it was time God would tell him. He listened for the voice of God telling him to go.
- We can become fed up with waiting and switch off, becoming overly familiar with what we have and coming to believe that it is all God has for us. Caleb never let go, even once, during his time in the wilderness. Even with his peers and friends’ deaths and the passing of the years, he showed awesome faithfulness to God’s word and patience with God’s timing.
Caleb teaches do much about faith. God’s word has its season and faith response to it. Faith should be in God’s word, in God’s time. Faith is never passive. Faith recognises the timing of God because it listens intently for the voice of God. Faith is eager to hear and even more eager to respond. Faith does not fear because in God there is nothing to fear.
Faith demands a response, but that response is not always the same for every situation. The key is to discern what God’s will is. Our faith response might be to wait, hold on, stand up, move, fight, or any number of other things. However, the key is to discern the will of God and move forward in faith.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)