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Messages for Calebs I: A teaching for the Special Forces of the Kingdom
Preached tirelessly from the pulpits of churches today are messages for the tired and the weary—those who have been beaten up in life and are in sore need of God’s help, strength, wisdom, healing, and provision. They generally lack faith, have failed in some way, or are beset by sins. Jesus came to bring God’s mercy and grace to them.
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Other popular messages focus on God’s love and goodness, and how He wants to bless His people while they are in this world. Some messages teach believers how to experience a delightfully intimate relationship with God. Unfortunately, however, there is very little taught about what we can do for the Lord in terms of living a holy life and obedience to His commands. Such teachings are understandably not popular and likely will not draw crowds to church on a Sunday morning with their offerings.
Very few are the teachings directed to the soldiers among us who are ready to obey the Lord’s command to attack the enemy kingdom. His final command to us is to disciple all nations and to teach them to obey everything He has commanded us. Serving the Kingdom of God in such a way as a soldier requires crucifying the self, denying oneself, and self-sacrifice. This is plainly not a popular teaching in churches, especially in the west.
This present series of messages is for the soldiers in our midst who are not interested in what this world has to offer. They live in this world for the grace to be given to them when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Some Old Testament scholars believe that God delivered as many as two million Israelites from slavery in Egypt through the blood of the Passover Lamb. Out of these the number of people who actually entered the Promised Land was but a fraction. Those who succeeded in entering Canaan included the families of Joshua and Caleb, Israelite women, and males who were under twenty years old when they came out of Egypt. The women and boys were not accountable in the sight of God. All the other Israelites, in particular the adult men, died in the desert during the forty years of wandering and tragically did not make it into Canaan.
Why is this of significance to us? It is because this history is a “warning for us on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” It is a warning for New Testament believers.
1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. 6 Now these things occurred as examples [or types] to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. …11 These things happened to them as examples [or types] and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
According to the words of the Apostle Paul above, the Lord Jesus Christ accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt into the desert. Nevertheless, most of them died in the desert and failed to enter the Promised Land. The Israelites in the Exodus account are a type of the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ. The significance is that New Testament believers can also be “scattered over the desert” and fail to enter the Promised Land as Paul warns us in verse 12. It would behoove us to look into this possibility.
In this study we will focus on what was different about Caleb the Israelite soldier. What made him only one of two adult men who had come out of Egypt to enter Canaan? After the Israelites were set free from slavery in Egypt, they headed immediately to the border of Canaan. After arriving, Moses sent twelve spies to cross the Jordan to explore the land.
Numbers 13:25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land. …27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan. …31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”
Canaan proved to be a wonderful land of milk and honey, but according to ten of the spies, attacking the inhabitants of the land would invite certain death for the entire community. These ten spies were afraid of the powerful Canaanites and thus had grave doubts that the Israelites would survive if they invaded. But Caleb had a different spirit.
30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
In stark contrast to the others, Caleb was not afraid of the Canaanites and had no doubt that they could take possession of the land. From where did Caleb get such unusual boldness and confidence? Let’s look at the subsequent words of Caleb and Joshua.
Numbers 14:8 “If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
Caleb’s boldness and confidence came from the fact that the Lord was with them. God had in fact commanded them to invade and possess the land as part fulfillment of His promise to Abraham. It did not matter to them how big and powerful the Canaanites were. God Almighty was with them. Listen to Caleb’s own words as he recounted the desert rebellion forty-five years later after taking possession of the land.
Joshua 14:6 Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly [fully].’ 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly [fully].’
The other ten spies, although acknowledging that Canaan was a good and fertile land, feared the Canaanites and subsequently succeeded in spreading that very same fear into the hearts of the people. That fear paralyzed the people with doubt and caused them to disobey God’s command to attack the Canaanites. It was tantamount to rebellion against God. But Caleb had a different spirit in him. He followed the Lord wholeheartedly. Most versions of the Bible render this word as “fully.” Since Caleb followed the Lord with his whole heart and without reservation, he had no fear in obeying the command of the Lord. He did not have the spirit of fear which had been imparted to the entire community by the ten other spies. He had no doubt that they could succeed in taking the land.
Joshua 14:10 “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. …13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly [fully].’
Because he followed the Lord fully and wholeheartedly, Caleb was the beneficiary of an amazing physical miracle from the Lord. At the very advanced age of eighty-five years, He had lost none of the physical strength that he had had when he was forty years old and ready to invade Canaan. God had promised Caleb that He would bring him into the land. Thus God had been faithful not only to keep him alive, but to preserve his physical strength through the forty years of wilderness wandering and then through five years of invasion. This amazing blessing was Caleb’s because he had a different spirit and followed the Lord wholeheartedly and fully. We will examine this physical blessing further in a later installment of this series.
Numbers 14:24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.
Not only was Caleb preserved physically into advanced age, he received his reward from God in full. Not only did he enjoy an earthly blessing, he received his inheritance from God for himself and for his descendants.
Joshua 14:14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly [fully].’
So what do present-day disciples of the Lord learn from Caleb?
In order to receive our earthly and heavenly reward from the Lord in full, we must follow the Lord wholeheartedly and fully. This means that we are determined to obey His commands at any cost. One can enjoy an intimate relationship with God and enjoy His benefits on earth, but these earthly blessings will mean little in the light of eternity if we do not obey His commands.
What are God’s primary commands to His front-line troops? We are to live a holy life and to disciple all nations, teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us.
We will have a different spirit from those who end up dying in the desert. That spirit in us says, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” There will no spirit of fear or doubt in us, but rather boldness and confidence. God has commanded us, therefore He is with us as we go. He gives us supernatural power and authority to succeed in taking possession of the land. We have been given power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons as we proclaim the kingdom of God to the lost, and to destroy the works of the enemy. We will definitely get the job done.
The good news is that God’s troops can now be taught how to heal the sick and cast out demons as Jesus taught his disciples two thousand years ago.
A final word to those who dare not to follow the Lord wholeheartedly:
Numbers 32:10 The LORD’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath: 11 ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— 12 not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the LORD wholeheartedly.’
What happens to those who dare not follow the Lord fully because of fear and doubt? Ultimately they will rebel against God’s commands and invite His holy anger. They will die in the desert and fail to enter God’s rest.