In Israel’s heyday, to call someone a “dog” was an insult, not a stage name in the rap game. Some say the name “Caleb” meant “dog.” Well, not anymore. The Caleb of Israel changed all that.
We know Caleb as a warrior, a man of faith, a faithful believer in the power of the God of Israel. He was no dog. Like Christ, he came from Judah. And like Christ, he was a lion of Judah. No dog in Caleb whatsoever.
Caleb, of course, had been one of the original spies sent by Moses into Canaan some 40 years earlier. He had, along with Joshua, had faith in the ability of the God of Israel. Sure, the inhabitants of Canaan were a force to be reckoned with, but God was on their side. Caleb and Joshua believed God; they believed in His power.
Caleb “with Joshua” didn’t buy into the grasshopper logic. You know the kind: “We are like grasshoppers in their sight! We will surely be defeated!” They bought more into a Pauline logic: “If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31).
Yes, from the very beginning Caleb appeared as a man of faith. Because he believed God, he did not die with the other spies. He and Joshua lived. Joshua replaced Moses, leading the people into the Promised Land. Caleb supported him; Caleb went along for the ride. Caleb was all in.
Finally, once in the land, after 40 years of wilderness wandering, Caleb approached Joshua. They had come to the land. Caleb had never forgotten it. He had dreamed of this day. He had looked forward to getting back into that land he’d spied out so many years ago. He wanted to take it. And he had a specific piece of the land in mind.
“Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, “Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God'”(Joshua 14:6-9).
We first note the faith of Caleb. The original faith from 40 years earlier still pulsed through his body. With intensity, he reminded Joshua of Moses’ promise to him. According to Moses, Caleb had “wholly followed the LORD,” a phrase oft-repeated about Caleb. He was a devoted man. His faith was still alive. He still believed.
Caleb had seen the bodies fall in the wilderness. He saw God’s promises unfolding. With every funeral he attended, his faith grew. He aged. At 85 years old, he saw how God had kept His word towards Caleb. He was alive. This built up the faith that was already there. Then, he went to Joshua, overflowing with belief in what God would do.
Caleb’s faith was astounding. It was a faith that grew. It was a faith that had been tested. It was a faith that was alive. May this faith dwell in us.
“And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming”(Joshua 14:10-11).
Secondly, we note the strength of Caleb. The claim he made was incredible. It had been a total of 45 years since the Kadesh Barnea tragedy. They’d come into the land at this point and, after a few years of fighting, Caleb was 85 years old. But you must fight against all images of all 85-year-old men you’ve ever met. Caleb was not like them. Caleb was just as strong then as he was at 40. I do not think he was self-deceived. I think God had powerfully worked in his life.
Others died, but Caleb thrived. He was more than alive; he was living. His joints and muscles and bones all radiated God’s glory, for he was still as strong as the day he spied out that land originally. He could war, no doubt about it.
Caleb’s strength was astounding. It was a strength that remained, a strength that grew. Does this not remind us of the inward strength we long to feel increase within us? Do we not want to be 85 years old with an internal power that is more than we had in our youth? Though the outward man perishes, the Spirit can make the inner man renewed day by day. May this strength fall upon us.
“So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.’ Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:12-15).
Thirdly, we note the love of Caleb. He loved the mountain. That’s what he wanted from Joshua: the hill country of Hebron. Others in the book of Joshua would faint at the sight of the mountains; they were occupied by powerful forces with heavy weaponry. The hill country was hard to overcome, hard to defeat; but Caleb wanted to take it. To him, it was the best opportunity. He was a mountain man, and he couldn’t wait for Joshua to release him upon it.
But it seemed there was more to Hebron than the difficulty of the terrain. Sure, Caleb looked forward to crushing the Anakim there, but there may have been something else. Hebron was historical. Abraham had built an altar there after Lot’s departure. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob all sojourned there. It seemed to have been a place of fellowship with God. Caleb wanted the mountain, but more so, Caleb wanted God. He wholly followed God. He loved His Lord.
Caleb’s love was astounding. It was a love and devotion rarely found. Hebron means “association” or “league”; may we crave an association with God as Caleb did. Let us be in league with Him. Let us become a people whose hearts are captured by the mountain. Mount Calvary opened up Mount Hebron to us. The blood made way for friendship with God. May this love develop within us.
Caleb was an outrageous man, a far cry from the norms of his day. Bold, full of faith and in love with God. He did not war for war’s sake, but for God. He wanted to see God’s kingdom advance. The likeness of Christ was found in Him, for Jesus wanted His mountain most of all. Like Flint, His face was set towards His cross, toward His mountain. He did not grow complacent, satisfied with what was. No, he battled for more. May we do the same.
God, give us our mountain!