I find Caleb to be one of the most inspiring personalities in the Old Testament. At eighty-five years old, he had not relinquished the spirit that had motivated him when he was forty. He still believed that through the help and power of God great things could be accomplished. Mountains could be possessed!
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.—Joshua 14:9–12
A study of the life of Caleb will yield four lessons that are important for us to consider today.
1. He Was Not Defeated or Discouraged by What Others Thought of Him
I enjoy considering the meaning of names as I study; at times, especially in the Old Testament, they can reveal something to us about the person. The name Caleb does not reveal the character of this man, but may be an insight into some of the obstacles he faced. Caleb literally means “dog.” One scholar says it means “raging with canine madness.” In our vernacular, I think we would say Caleb was a “pit bull.” The truth is that though Caleb was of the tribe of Judah, he was from a clan in Judah that had a lower culture and a poor reputation.
Notice his father was Jephunneh the Kenezite. This was a wild clan that lived as much amongst the Edomites as the Hebrews. They were not a well-thought-of group. My point is simply this: Caleb was not probably the best educated, nor was he the most cultured man, nor did he come from the royal folk; but he did have a heart for God. He was not going to let his education, his culture, or his family history stop him from being all he could be for God. He became a “pit bull” for God. No giant, no negative Hebrew could stop his zeal for serving the Lord.
2. He Refused to Be Influenced by the Negative Majority
And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.—Numbers 13:30
When ten of the twelve spies brought an evil, negative report, Caleb spoke in opposition to them and in favor of entering and conquering Canaan. How easy it would have been for him to just blend in. He could have let those articulate ten princes have their say and just nod in agreement.
Why should he choose to go against such an influential crowd? Because the crowd was wrong! Caleb was not going to remain silent while the majority was doubting and disobeying God. Thank God that Caleb was willing to take a stand for what was right even when that stand was unpopular.
3. He Remained Steadfast throughout His Lifetime
Caleb said the Lord had kept him alive for forty-five years from that fateful day when the majority ruled. For forty-five years, Caleb had wandered in the wilderness through no fault of his own. He suffered the same hardships and trials as those who had disobeyed God. Yet, his zeal to serve the Lord had not waned.
Our generation needs to learn the steadfastness of Caleb. I am told that the average time a person is passionate to serve God in our churches is three years. May God help us to have the spirit of Caleb to passionately serve Him all the days of our lives.
Dr. John Rawlings played such a vital role in leading me to Christ and in encouraging me as a young pastor. He was a man who possessed an unflagging spirit. I will never forget as I visited with him when he was ninety-six years old, and he showed me his ten-year ministry plan. When he went to Heaven at ninety-nine years old, he was still planning and serving. God help us to be committed to serve until our last day! Age may require changes in the work of our ministry, but it never supplies a reason to quit serving.
4. He Did Not Let Obstacles Keep Him from the Fight and, Ultimately, the Victory
Joshua 15:13–19 tells how Caleb organized his family to fight the enemy and take the mountain, the walled city, and overcome the giants. Everything in life that is worth accomplishing has obstacles. But knowing God’s will allows obstacles to become opportunities for Him to work through us.
One of the greatest soulwinners I have ever known was a man named Carlos Demarest. He led thousands to the Lord and encouraged so many Christians to be better witnesses. He was stricken with ALS, and the last stages left him unable to speak and greatly restricted in movement. In his last days of life, he felt led of the Lord to get the phone book of Mexico City, Mexico, and put a letter explaining the gospel and a gospel tract in an envelope and mail it to every listing. Many churches gave to that project; and in his last days, I went to Cincinnati and sat at the table with him and worked with him as he labored, trying to get the letters and tracts into the envelopes.
Though he could not speak, he wrote in an almost illegible note, “Pray, Mike, maybe these folks will get saved!” No obstacle could keep him from serving. I have no doubt that in Heaven we will meet people who got envelopes in the mail and met the Saviour because of a severely handicapped man’s untiring efforts to “take that mountain.”
May God give us the spirit of Caleb. There is still so much to be done and more mountains to conquer!