The wars of Canaan were largely at an end. Israel had to a great extent found at least temporary rest in the land that God had promised them. We know from the history that follows that this condition, however, did not continue. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we are told, “If Jesus had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another rest.” Many, perhaps, have not realized that Jesus and Joshua are the same: that is, Joshua is the Hebrew form of the name that our blessed Lord bore here on earth. Jesus is an anglicization of the Greek form. So the passage in Hebrews is referring to the rest into which Joshua led the people, which did not prove to be lasting because of the faithlessness of Israel, and yet in the beginning of their history there was certainly much to give them confidence as they saw how marvelously God undertook for them.
As the thirteenth chapter opens we hear the Lord addressing Joshua, now an aged man. God said to him:
Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.
Then in the rest of the chapter we have pointed out vast tracks of the land not yet settled by Israel, even though they had to a very large extent overcome their enemies and taken possession of many of their cities and villages.
We learn too of the judgment meted out to Balaam, who sought to destroy Israel by giving evil advice to Balak. Verse 22 tells us also,
Balaam did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.
Several of the tribes had already obtained their inheritance, but the others had not yet taken possession of the land that was to be allotted to them; and so the challenge was given: “There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.”
Surely these words may speak loudly to our hearts. Many of us have known the Lord for years. To what extent have we really entered into the enjoyment of the precious things of Christ which are ours by title? Have we not been content to know that our souls are saved and that we shall spend eternity in heaven, while failing to enter into the reality and blessedness of a “life hid with Christ in God” as we pass through this scene? Then, too, think of the great treasure committed to us in the Word of God. Those of us who have given the most time to careful study and meditation over God’s blessed Book must realize that still there remaineth very much land to be possessed. Large portions of Scripture are still to most of us a kind of a literary terre incognita. We are familiar, perhaps, with the great outstanding truths of Scripture, and certain precious chapters have ever been our joy and delight, but there is so much more in the Scriptures that we need to make our own by careful study in dependence on the Holy Spirit of God. In the energy of faith we are called upon to take possession of that which is already ours through the gift of God. In the story of Caleb we see this energy of faith blessedly illustrated. We read in chapter 14, beginning with verse 6:
Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea. Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God. And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God. And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet 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. Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said. And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. And the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-arba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims. And the land had rest from war.
There is something very stirring in this record. Caleb, as we know, was one of the two spies who brought back a minority report when the ten spies discouraged the people of Israel. The ten admitted that the land was all God said it would be, and the grapes of Eschol bore witness to its fruitfulness, but they were terrified as they beheld the walled cities and the sons of Anak, mighty giants, in whose sight they were but as grasshoppers, and so they declared it would be impossible to overcome these people of Canaan. But Caleb and Joshua brought back a good report, exclaiming, “Let us go up and take the land, for we are well able to overcome it.”
But the people refused to listen and so, as we know, were turned back into the wilderness, there to wander until all that generation, except Caleb and Joshua, had passed away. Now their children had entered into and taken possession of the land. Caleb, though eighty-five years of age, came to Joshua to remind him of the promise that Moses had made, that because he had wholly followed the Lord he should have whatever inheritance his heart desired. He did not look about for some secluded valley where he would be safe from the prying eyes of enemies, nor did he ask for some town or village from which the Canaanites had been driven out already, but he requested Joshua to give him the mountain on which Kirjath-arba was located. Arba was a great man among the Anakims. Kirjath-arba meant the City of Arba. The Anakims still dwelt there, but strong in faith Caleb declared: “If so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said.” Acting upon Caleb’s request, Joshua blessed him and gave him the hill for which he asked as his inheritance. Caleb took possession of it, drove the Anakims out of the city and changed its name to Hebron, a word that means fellowship or communion. The name Caleb means wholehearted and aptly describes this doughty warrior and faithful servant of God. He did not immediately get possession of Hebron, but he fought stubbornly and determinedly until he had driven out the ancient inhabitants and so took possession of it. Later it became a Levitical city and a city of refuge, but the suburbs belonged to Caleb and his descendants.
As we contemplate this ancient record it should surely stir our hearts and lead us to act as Caleb did— in the energy of faith taking possession of that which God has declared He has given to us in Christ. No foe can withstand the man of God who presses forward in power of the Spirit and in obedience to the Word.
An old hymn says,
“Faith, mighty faith the promise sees
And looks to that alone;
Laughs at impossibilities
And cries, “It shall be done.”
Such a faith was Caleb’s and in this he is an example for us all. We are too apt to take the line of least resistance, to be content with that which seems the easiest thing instead of valiantly going on in faith to lay hold of the best that God has for us, no matter what difficulties may seem to make it impossible for us to overcome the foe and to enter into and enjoy our allotted portion.