27. A Noble Sample of the True Inheritor.
"In nothing terrified by your adversaries." — Phil. 1:28.
It is not without purpose that the divinely-inspired historian places on record the bright and brave spirit of the true possessor before detailing the extent and the boundaries of the inheritance of the nine and a half tribes in the land of Canaan. The soul requires fire within, strength and courage in God; and with these we shall make our own what God has given us.
From the fourteenth to the end of the nineteenth chapter we read of the apportioning of Canaan to the nine and a half tribes. The incident of the noble purpose of Caleb to possess Hebron introduces this important history.
These nine and a half tribes had to make their own foothold in their inheritance, though the situation of their possessions was determined by Jehovah Himself; "By lot was their inheritance," but upon themselves, as upon the Christian in spiritual things, depended their foothold of the possession. Israel had reached that stage in their history in Canaan when they stood where the two ways of slothfulness and of earnestness met. At this stage how many would be Calebs? How many would be true possessors who would arise and pursue the path of earnestness to victory?
"As the Lord commanded . . . . the children of Israel did . . . . they divided the land" (ver. 5), and then it was to Joshua, at the camp of Gilgal — Gilgal with its grand associations of Jehovah-given freedom — that the men of Judah came. Caleb stood up before the leader and all Israel, and, in the burning spirit of the true possessor, put in his claim to the mountains of Hebron, and the great and fenced cities thereof.
Caleb's words must have stirred every faithful soul as, addressing Joshua, he said, "Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea." The Lord was the same unchangeable Lord to Caleb, though forty-five years had gone by, and a new dispensation had arisen for Israel; and though Caleb's old associates were dead and gone — buried, because of their unbelief, in the wilderness, for he alone believed in the faithful promise of the Lord. Forty-five years previously, in the dark hour of Israel's rebellion against Jehovah, Caleb had stood firm for his God. When the faint-hearted spies urged the people to unbelief, brave Caleb stayed himself upon God, and, regardless of the favour of his old associates, he answered their mean and unbelieving words by "Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it," while, to the wails and despondency of Israel, his firm heart answered, "If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey" (Numbers 14:8).
The Lord had said of him in that day: "But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it" (ver. 24). Caleb's faith lifted him out of the murmurs of Israel, their cowardice and their reproaches of the Lord. He trusted in God, held on to Him and left in His hands difficulties and giants; one thing only he sought — the Lord's delight in him.
And Moses sware on that day, and promised Caleb the land whereon his feet had trodden. God grant His people the courage to put down their feet upon His promises, for every one shall be made good.
From that day in Kadesh-barnea Caleb occupied a peculiar position in Israel. In the darkest hours of the wilderness, in the dreariest nights of Israel's wanderings, amid pestilence and divine displeasure, Caleb was sustained by the promise of his God. He had to suffer with the unbelieving host, to be afflicted with them (which principles are as true today as then, for all suffer together, and the unbelief and rebellion of one affects others); but while Israel's warriors might perish, Caleb knew that his feet should stand upon the mountains of Hebron; and while thousands might die at his right hand, Caleb knew that his family should possess the great and fenced cities of the children of Anak, for the Lord had said it.
Caleb is an example to us in our day of weakness and murmuring. In him we behold a sample of the finest qualities of Christian soldiership: whole-heartedness for God, unabated strength through God, and continual dependence on God. Forty-five years of habitual reliance on God had not elated his soul in his old age to self-reliance, nor had forty-five years of God's continued favour in any wise diminished in Caleb the sense that in God alone is our strength, as his words declare: "If so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said." How this noble possessor shames the feeble, nerveless soul! To have lived for thirty-eight years in a very chorus of murmurings and yet still to sing "the Lord is my strength and my song," is a miracle indeed, and a miracle it was, as Caleb owned, "And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as He said." "As He said"; three great words, greater than the accumulated murmurings of all Israel for eight and thirty years; "As He said," for Caleb had not dropped down like other men of war and died.
All his wilderness way, and all his soldier life, the Lord's delight in His people was Caleb's source of courage — courage which, when he was eighty-five years of age, impelled him to battle with the families of the giants of Canaan with ardour equal to that which had enabled him, when he was forty years old, withstand greater giants than they, even the murmuring and unbelief of Israel. "Now therefore," said he, "give me this mountain," for "I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in." Few soldiers of Christ can so speak. Too many an aged Christian soldier seems to regard his long term of service as a plea for immunity from that hourly dependence on God, which at the first won him his victories; and "if the Lord be with us" becomes exchanged for the vainglorious and the degenerate, "I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself" (Judges 16:20).
Joshua blessed Caleb as he spoke; and a special blessing from Christ, our Leader, rests upon every Caleb-like Christian. The Lord honoured Caleb's dependence on Himself; He drove thence the three sons of Anak and smote Kirjath-arba, and restored to the city its old name of Hebron, which associated the locality with the father of the faithful, and not with the great man among the giants.
Caleb is a name of rude signification, for it means a whelp. Some regard this as an index to his faithfulness, for as the dog follows his master, so did Caleb follow the Lord with true purpose; some regard the name as indicating the special glory of Judah, for, "Judah is a lion's whelp" (Gen. 49:9). Be the true significance of his name what it may, Caleb, the faithful man, had his portion in the great inheritance of Judah — "Praise." And thus it is to this day in things spiritual among God's soldiers; faithful men dwell in praise, yes, and "they shall be still praising Thee." His brave spirit arose to its greatness among the murmurs of Israel, and he inherited in the noblest portion of the promised land God, as it were, granting to the man who spoke well of His Name in the place of murmurings a home in the land of Praise.
The Spirit of God wakes a joy-note after recording Caleb's faith and victory, "And the land had rest from war." When a Great-heart rises up in the church of God and smites the giants, there is rest from war.