Mr. Leslie S. Rainey (the editor’s uncle) recently returned to North America after many years of missionary work in Africa and presently makes his home in Bermuda. In this devotional article on Caleb he shares with us some helpful thoughts on a man who was truly “devoted” to following God.
Scripture Reading: Joshua 14
The name Caleb is the same as man’s best friend; it means “dog.” During his long and loyal life for God, Caleb was true to his name, and until this day he is the symbol of wholeheartedness and devotion.
The heart of Caleb is revealed in his speech to Joshua. As an old man he was right with God, and though he had 38 years in the desert and several years of warfare in the land, nothing had moved him in his unswerving devotion to the Lord. The expression “wholly following the Lord” is found six times in the Old Testament and five of these are linked with Caleb. In Caleb’s life there was zealous loyalty to Joshua, even as the men who broke through their enemies and at the risk of their own lives procured for their captain a drink of the water of Bethlehem (1 Chronicles 11:17-18). Caleb spoke out of his heart in sincerity and truth. This is the only way to speak. How much display of self, pride and ability is in the public oratory of our generation. Yet how effective are the words of an overflowing heart that has been moved by the Holy Spirit. As Caleb thought upon the events of his life, memory was stirred and the vision of Hebron captivated his whole being. At the age of forty he had seen the walls of Hebron, the city where God and His friend had lived in close fellowship and where three of the patriarchs and their wives were buried. The sight of Hebron had spoiled all other places for Caleb. This was the place of his desire (v. 12). He might have asked for an armchair, or a cottage in the country, but nothing could satisfy him except this mountain-fortress. Our desires are but mirrors disclosing our inner selves for good or evil.
Caleb could never forget the attitude of the people when he returned from spying out the land. Joshua and Caleb, instead of seeing themselves as grasshoppers, had their eyes fixed on the grapes and the power of God. By His help they felt that the land could be invaded and that victory would be the crown of their endeavour. However, this was not the mind of the majority of their brethren who in their attitude were uncooperative and unkind. In spite of this Caleb refers to them as “my brethren” (v. 8). Surely this is another portrait of the humility and understanding of this warrior and desert scout.
The language of Paul to Timothy comes to mind (see 2 Timothy 2:24-25)… Today there are many giants along the path of faith barring the way to the grapes of Eschol. How essential it is to know the evil monsters of pride, passion, sin, lust, temper, fear, despair, discouragement and doubt, against which we are no match in our own strength. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that we can become more than conquerors. To reckon ourselves as grasshoppers, as the ten spies did, is to fail in driving out the children of Anakim. Anakim means “long-necked” and was the name given to the ancient giants of the stronghold of Hebron. They were called Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, and in these different Hebrew names we have a lesson on “Who am I?”, “Where am I?” and “What am I?”, indicative of the pride of face, race and grace. To fight the good fight of faith and follow the commands of our Captain, Jesus the Saviour, is the gateway to victory over such foes and the continual attacks of the world, the flesh and the devil. Oh, that our desires might be as Caleb’s, to rise up and possess (see Obadiah 17), and remember God records what we do as well as what we don’t do (1 Kings 22:3). What a grand man to follow and to aspire toward his desires (Psalm 37:4)!
The life of Caleb was fortified by the promise of God made to him some 45 years before. His soul was stayed on the Word of God. The Gibralter of his faith was implicit confidence in the changeless word of Jehovah. A healthy spiritual life will always have an abiding application on and a growing appreciation of the Bible. Surely it is necessary again and again to test ourselves by this criterion, for if the Lord was sustained by the Scriptures, how much more so we by the Scriptures, as His people. To Christ they were God’s “yea and amen,” and during the long and difficult years in the wilderness and among a backsliding people, the language of Caleb’s soul was that of Abraham’s who was “fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able to perform” (Romans 4:21).
Caleb also knew a good deal about the faithfulness of God. He could boldly say, “The Lord hath kept me,” and his radiant faith and ambitious spirit testified to the truth that “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8). What a witness Caleb was to the truth of 1 Peter 1:5, “Kept by the power of God.” He was kept by the power of God while thousands perished in the wilderness. He was kept by the power of God alive and active in the midst of a disgruntled people. Caleb experienced the goodness of God. Daily he lifted his heart in praise to God for provision and protection during the long desert trek. His motto was, “As my strength was then, even so is my strength now.” The wear and tear of desert life had not dimmed his eye or abated his zeal for God. Over the years he sustained his soul on the sure mercies of God, and he lived to prove, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25b). Of all the adults in the history of God’s ancient people who entered the Promised Land, there were only two — Joshua and Caleb. Though all the hosts of hell should endeavour to hinder us in our forward march toward the Land of Promise, may we say with Martin Luther, “I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.”
Caleb’s faith and courage were not forgotten and he did not go unrewarded. We read, “Joshua blessed him” (v. 13). The blessing of the captain of the Lord’s host was given to him with all its enjoyment and enrichment. Boldly and wholly Caleb had followed his commander-in-chief, and in the day of victory he shared in the spoil. Such is ever the way with men of courage, consecration and consistency. So for all who follow the Lord as Caleb, how richly Christ rewards. Moreover, Caleb learned that in being blessed, the blessing could be passed on to the family (Judges 1:15). How refreshing to know that the blessing of the Almighty can reach out to those who are near and dear to us, as well as to those who are afar off. Caleb had a cool head and a warm heart, and in his devotion to the Lord nothing moved him and nothing was held back. His whole life was out and out for God and for the honor of His name.
For an inheritance Caleb was given” Hebron” (v. 13). It was necessary for him to drive out the three sons of Anak who had been such a source of terror and trouble. Nothing stopped Caleb and he triumphed in obtaining his possession. Hebron means “fellowship,” this suggesting to us as Christians that the pathway of blessing is the pathway of fidelity and obedience to all that the Lord has commanded in His Word. It is a fellowship of life, love and light, as the Apostle John records.
Caleb also enjoyed another good thing from the hands of his leader —namely, “the land had rest from war” (v. 15). This was the beauty of peace. The word “rest” conveys in the Hebrew language the thought of inward peace, spiritual tranquility, and complete repose. It was gained, not given. The prosperity, possession and peace of God are open to all who are willing to renounce the fleshpots of this modern world and by faith claim their God-given heritage as revealed in the New Testament. To the Jew the sphere of rest was a place; to the Christian the sphere of rest is a Person (Ephesians 1:3). To the Jew it was earthly; to the Christian it is heavenly, without boundaries and for eternity.
Oh, the graciousness of God to give to His people the blessing of heaven, the bounty of fellowship, and the bliss of peace! What Caleb possessed we may also possess, for the Word of God assures us that “A faithful man shall abound with blessings” (Proverbs 28:20a).