Caleb’s Enduring Faith
Caleb and Joshua were kindred spirits when it came to faith. Of the twelve men Moses sent to spy out the land, only these two had faith that God would deliver Canaan into Israel’s hands (Num. 13:26—14:10).
Caleb was the son of Jephunneh (Num. 13:6) and, at age 40, was the spy chosen to represent the tribe of Judah (Josh. 14:7). He is also called the son of Kenaz (Jud. 1:13) or the Kenizzite (Num. 32:12).
The Kenizzites were originally from Edom, meaning they were outside God’s covenant promises to Israel. Caleb’s ancestors either married into a family in Judah or became proselytes before Israel went to Egypt. Caleb was a descendant of Hezron, who descended from Pharez (1 Chr. 2:5), thus putting him in Christ’s earthly lineage (Mt. 1:3).
His first wife, Azubah, bore him three sons; his second wife, Ephrath, bore him one son; and he had numerous sons by concubines (1 Chr. 2:18–19; 46, 48).
Caleb must have evidenced leadership, courage, confidence, and conviction to have risen to leadership within the tribe of Judah. But more important, he manifested a compelling faith.
Scripture says Caleb “had another [different] spirit” (Num. 14:24) than the other spies had. He did not go along with the crowd but thought for himself and withstood those who disbelieved God’s promises. He was quick to exhibit faith and obey the Lord. He possessed an honest heart, great integrity, and never compromised his commitment to God.
Caleb also had the courage of his convictions. He boldly attempted to still the voice of rebellious Israel: “Let us go up at once, and possess it [Canaan]; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30). “If the LORD delight in us,” Caleb said, “then he will bring us into this land, and give it us: a land which floweth with milk and honey” (Num. 14:8).
When Moses chose Joshua as his replacement to lead Israel, Caleb never exhibited a spirit of rivalry, jealousy, or envy. He wholeheartedly supported Joshua and loyally submitted to his leadership. He was unselfish and humble; did not seek personal honor, position, or possessions; and was not greedy for reward. Indeed, these are attributes that Christians are repeatedly admonished to manifest.
His Land Claim
Joshua and Eleazer the priest parceled out portions of Canaan to each tribe by lot (Josh. 14:1). When it came time for Judah to receive her portion, Caleb reminded Joshua of the promise Moses had made to him:
Thou knowest the thing that the LORD said unto Moses…concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea….Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s forever….Now, therefore, give me this mountain, of which the LORD spoke in that day” (Josh. 14:6, 9, 12; cf. Dt. 1:36).
Caleb had spied out, and was promised, Kiriath-arba, which today is Hebron. After blessing Caleb, Joshua gave him Hebron for his inheritance, as Moses had promised (Josh. 14:13–14).
Caleb had waited patiently for the Lord’s timing to claim the land he desired. How easy it would have been to doubt and become discouraged, especially at eighty-five years old. Yet he never questioned, murmured, or doubted God during the forty years he waited for his reward while suffering the same difficulties of wilderness existence as the other Israelites. He even had to listen to his countrymen as they complained of their plight and criticized Moses. Yet, unlike them, who would die in the wilderness, he would receive an inheritance in the land.
There is no indication that as the years passed Caleb’s faith wavered. The opposite, in fact, seems true. He kept his eyes on the Lord and envisioned the day he would enjoy the inheritance of Hebron, where his feet had trod.
Like Caleb, Christians, too, are pilgrims on Earth and must past through the “wilderness” of this life before receiving the eternal inheritance God has promised.
To conquer Hebron took a commitment of courage and strength. The area itself was located three thousand feet above sea level, between Beersheba and Jerusalem. And the Anakites were giants whose cities were large and well fortified.
Caleb could have shrunk back in fear, knowing he was old, unskilled in war, and without proper weapons. But none of those factors deterred him from believing he could take the mountain: “If so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said” (Josh. 14:12). Some forty five years earlier he had said something similar: “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30).
At eighty-five years old, Caleb told Joshua,
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 (Josh. 14:10–11).
Caleb was fit for the task, not only spiritually, but also mentally and physically. What a wonderful testimony he gave before Joshua and the tribe of Judah. He did not see the obstacles, but the opportunities that the Lord put before him. With his eyes on God, not the problems, he faced the fight of his life with faith, spiritual vision, physical vitality, and an attitude of valor. And Caleb defeated the giants and drove out the three sons of Anak (Josh. 15:14). He successfully conquered each obstacle and took possession of the land promised to him.
In the spiritual warfare of life, Christians can learn a lesson from Caleb. We must not focus on the “mountains” to be overcome or our own ability to conquer the enemy or the “giants” that need to be defeated. We must look instead to the spiritual provisions provided by the Lord. Victory in the Christian life comes to the one who trusts in God’s Word, rests in His promises, and focuses on the Lord.
The reason for Caleb’s spiritual success is no secret; he yielded his life to the Lord. Five times Scripture says Caleb “wholly followed the LORD” (Num. 32:12; Dt. 1:36; Josh. 14:8–9, 14). And the decision Caleb made affected his posterity for years to come. Caleb’s commitment was total. He never wavered in his belief that what the Lord promised He would also provide.
Each Christian faces defining moments that determine the direction his or her life will take for decades to come. Decisions made without being wholly committed to the Lord could mean years of wilderness experiences in our lives. Like Caleb, it is important that each of us decide to be men and women of faith, no matter what—or how great—the opposition may be in accomplishing what the Lord has called us to do.