Friday, March 22, 2013

Caleb, A Man Of God

In my continued reading of Joshua, I came into contact again with my namesake, Caleb the Kenizzite. I find Caleb to be one of the most interesting and awesome people that are in the Bible, perhaps I am a bit biased, but the way he lived his life is a great example to me, and to Christians in general.

In some ways his story begins long before he was born. Genesis 6:1-4, "When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.  Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown."

Not much is known about the Nephilim, other than that most of them where descended from Anak, and the where children of angels and women. The Bible tells us that they where large men, strong, and most likely powerful warriors. "Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there." -Deuteronomy 1:28. The descendants of these "heroes" would play an important role in Caleb's life.

The defining moment of Caleb's life came about when he was selected by Moses to represent the tribe of Judah in spying out the Promised Land. (Numbers 13) Moses commands the twelve spies to,"“Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 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? 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.” (13:17b-20a) The spies depart on their reconnaissance mission; "So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai,the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land."

The spies have a successful mission and return to the Israelite camp. This is the moment when Caleb showed his true mettle in standing with his God trusting compatriot, Joshua. "They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 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.  But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.
 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
 But 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. 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 13:26-33

Joshua and Caleb would be the only two men of the unfaithful generation who had faith that God was calling them to take the Promised Land, and would protect and guide them. Not even Moses, the servant of God, would be allowed to partake of God's fulfilled promise of Canaan. "The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth,  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 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.  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. Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea." Numbers 14: 20-24. In Numbers 14 God tells the people of Israel the consequences of what they have done by not listening to Joshua and Caleb. Verse 30 says,"Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun." 

The Israelites would wander aimlessly in the desert for 40 years following their grevious mistake, until all the men of military age had died, and a new generation of faithful men had arisen. Again in Deuteronomy 1:36-37, “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors,  except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.Now this is Caleb's #1 character quality, that he followed God wholeheartedly. The Bible mentions this fact four times or five times. He obeys the Great commandment (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.") without hesitation. Because of his wholehearted faith and trust in God, God blessed him. 

After the Israelites under Joshua crossed over the Jordan and conquered the promised land, God fulfilled the promise he had made to Caleb in Deuteronomy 1:37. "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 melt in fear. 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 forever, 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.”
 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly." -Joshua 14:6-14.  Not only did God bring Caleb into the Promised Land, but he kept him in terrific health, so that when he was eighty-five years old he could still fight in battle just as well as when he left to spy out the Promise Land. Caleb had been promised the land of Hebron, the fertile mountainous region. The land, prior to the Israelite invasion, had been controlled by the descendants of Anak, the Anakites. Now the time had come for Caleb to follow God in taking over that region. "In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.”  Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage." -Joshua 15: 13-17. 

Thus Caleb was rewarded for his following after God, and the second part of God's promise "I will give him and his descendants the land" is shown to come true in 1 Samuel 25:2-3, "A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite." The Bible does not mention Caleb's death, but we can assume that if by the age of 85 he was still in good health, he probably would have lived for quite some time following his war against Hebron. Although Caleb is gone now, his legacy still lives on. No matter how much time goes by his wholehearted, God-oriented, childlike faith will always be an example to me and to others who read the Bible. I pray that we all might be able to seek after our Maker with the same zeal that Caleb the Kenizzite did.