Caleb is one of the studliest men in Scripture. There is not a ton dedicated to Caleb, but the short narratives in Numbers 13/14 and Joshua 14 provide a convicting picture of faith for any Christian. If Joshua is the example of a faithful General and leader, Caleb provides us an example of a faithful soldier and disciple. SOME OF US will be called to be Joshua’s, but ALL OF US are called to be Caleb’s.
We first read about Caleb well before he was a battle-hardened 85 year old; when he was a young sprite of 40 in the wilderness on the edge Canaan. He was among the 12 men chosen by Moses, representing the 12 tribes, to spy out the Promised Land for 40 days. He represented the tribe of Judah. Joshua also went to represent the tribe of Ephraim. When the group returned, a faithless majority reported that, though the land was FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY (As God had said), Canaan was also FLOWING with giant men (Sons of Anak) who looked too big and powerful for them to conquer (Not as God had said). As verse 7 says, Caleb brought a report from his heart. In Numbers 13, we hear Caleb’s minority report:
“Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Num. 13.30). “
Though Caleb expressed a fear the power of God, the majority convinced Israel to fear the power men. And again, a faithful Caleb speaks to all Israel saying:
“8 If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them” (Num 14.8-9).
Israel responds to his public descent by picking up stones to kill him. The only thing that stops them is God showing up. He tells Moses he is going to kill everyone and make a great nation with him. Moses intercedes and God relents, promising judgment for the entire generation, namely, that they will die. Then he tells Moses about Caleb:
24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it (Numbers 14.24).
There are many things that can be said about Caleb’s different spirit. But I’d like to consider the fact that he took a stand. I realize that when I say, “take a stand” we all get delusions that being different like this means proselytizing at every opportunity, speaking at every lunch table, or preaching on every street corner. For those who have genuinely encountered the gospel in a transformational way, a different spirit is not something we try to obtain–it is something we possess. And that spirit moves us to live a differently. We take a stand because we believe in Jesus. And if we truly believe in Jesus, we have a different Spirit dwelling in us. And that different spirit COMPELS us to pursue different marriages, different finances, and different work ethic; to hold to a different view of suffering, different purposes, a different source joy and different source of hope.
What is most intriguing is not that Caleb WAS different, but WHEN he chose to be. We will often take stands when are convinced that we will benefit from doing so–or if the benefits of NOT doing so outweigh the alternative. In other words, we’ll take a stand if by doing it we will gain something materially, whether that be the approval of men or, better yet, the approval of God. But Caleb had not been promised jack-squat and the only guaranteed “benefit” would be isolation, hatred .from his brothers, and potentially death. Caleb took a stand for God’s Word (not his own opinion, perspective, or personal regard). And though God later promised a blessing for Caleb, that is not when he actually took a stand. Caleb didn’t stand for God’s Word because of some expected benefit to himself–but rightly to uphold the glory of God’s name and the trustworthiness of His Word. The moment he took a stand, God had not promised him anything. Without the promise of blessing or guarantee of success, without the assurance of security, he followed God. Faithfulness is not following God’s Word when you can point to the immediate fleshly benefits. Faithfulness is following God’s Word when you can’t.