Lessons from Joshua
- Numbers 13:26-14:9
- Joshua 14:6-15
Dear brother and sister in the Lord Jesus Christ,
As most of you know by now, I served for some time as padre in the Presbyterian Inland Mission. When working in the area of Wedderburn and Charlton in Victoria, someone asked me if I had been to the birthplace of John Flynn. It was not far away, west of Bendigo in Moliagul. I jumped into my car and made my way there. To stand next to the monument of a mostly forgotten man who changed the face of outback Australia, was just something. Up the road were the remains of a timber cottage, which most probably was his birthplace. Then, over the bridge were the ruins of the school where his father was the teacher, and across the road what remained of the church were they worshipped.
Me, a migrant to Australia stood on almost holy ground: it was the closest I would ever get to the human being I admire for this dedication to the Gospel, his love for the Lord and his love for the people of the outback.
Caleb, the foreigner
A very interesting fact about Caleb is that he comes from a line of people who were not originally Israelites. Caleb is known as the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite. Some time up the family tree of Caleb a son was born to Esau whose name was Kenaz, whose descendants became know as Kenizzites. During the course of history they occupied some parts of the south land, maybe in the southern districts of what eventually become known as the portion of Judah. Some of Caleb’s family identified with the Jews and worshipped the God of Israel. When exactly they ended up in Egypt during their 430 years sojourn there, we do not know, but the Bible tells about this young man, Caleb, who was amongst those who were now on their way back to the Promised Land. About very time his name is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to the way in which he followed the Lord: “with his whole heart”
He had heard of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was somewhere there back in land of his forefathers that this Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried. The place was Hebron. Abraham has bought a piece of land there as a family burial plot in the cave of Machpelah. There Abraham buried Sarah. Later, his son Joseph, then governor of Egypt, brought the remains of Abraham to the same place to be buried. It was the place where Isaac, Rebekah and Joseph were buried. Still, with them the Israelites had the bones of Joseph whose wish it was to be buried there.
It is not impossible that Caleb, from his early years, had heard from his parents about the Anakites, a boorish and brute group of people, physically strong, almost gaintlike. They at some stage occupied the town of Hebron and renamed it Kiriath Arba, after Arba, the greatest hero of the Anakites. I think it was quite possible that Caleb had it in his mind, that if God would give the land to the Israelites as He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he wanted to reclaim it for God, and in the process he would go back to his roots: as his father who turned away from idols to worship the true God, so Caleb would go back to the land of his forefathers in the southland of Judah to conquer it for the worship of the true God; but he would go back as member of a new family, that of the Covenant family of God, where the father of all who believe was buried. He wanted to reclaim God’s land, he wanted to reclaim the honour of the One he serves wholeheartedly.
One of the scouts
Forty five years earlier he stood with Joshua before Moses to report on the Promised Land. Moses had sent 12 scouts out to come back with an exploration report. There was a minority report. Ten reported about the land and how good it was, but they also reported about the people, specially the brutal, barbarous Anakites.
And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:32–33, NIV)
The minority report:
“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 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. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:7–9, NIV)
What was the difference between these two reports. Let’s hear the Lord’s own evaluation:
The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Numbers 14:11–12, NIV)
Unbelief. Contempt. The of the Hebrew word translated here as contempt root signifies the attitude whereby someone who provide a service is consciously treated with disdain. There are verse in the Bible where this word is translated as blasphemy.
Some comments on the majority report and says, “Preachers can sometimes proclaim the truth, lying all the way and as such lead the church of God to unbelief. Truth can sometimes be presented in such a way that believers begin to turn away from the truth.” This is what happened here.
Last week we stood before the miracle of the sun stopping mid-air for about a whole day while the people of God routed the enemy and God fought for them. Now, if for some reason I did not believe that God is omnipotent, that He does not hold the stars, the sun and moon in his hand to control it as He sees fit, and tried to present what happened there in such a way that it does not say what the Word of God explicitly says, I would have sown into your heart seeds of disbelief. You would then very quickly down the track find yourself asking if God can indeed do what the Bible says. And thousands of people walked away from the faith exactly because of that.
Two men who were once very close fiends got together and began Christian crusades which rocked the world. Both of them were extremely talented people, and thousands came to hear them speak, many became Christians as a result of it. One died 13 years ago – a complete and utter atheist. The other, now also an old man, still stands firm in the faith. The one who became and atheist wrote a book Farewell to God, wrote about a discussion he had with his good friend in which he said,
“… it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.”
His friend replied:
“I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me.”
His friend replied:
“You cannot do that. You don’t dare stop thinking about the most important question in life. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.”
The truthful Bible preacher answered:
“I don’t know about anybody else,’ he said, ‘but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me.”
The man who became an atheist though he won the intellectual argument, but he lost his soul and died without God. He was Charles Templeton. His good friend is Billy Graham.
Caleb and Joshua, as one commentator puts it, saw little giants but believed in a great God and their hearts were strong in Him; the others knew a little God, saw giants, and their hearts melted in the face of the enemy. In this they disdained God, blasphemed against Him, and displayed their unbelief.
Caleb, in the language of faith, said, “Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:9, NIV)
Something of the attitude and faith of Abraham lived in the heart of Caleb and Joshua. Hear the what God said about Caleb,
“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.”
The majority of the people listened to the majority report and never saw the Promised Land.
The Lord promised
Then, forty five years later, Caleb stood before his leader and good friend, Joshua. They had fought the good fight, even after the Israelites crossed the Jordan and by the grace of God pulled of the impossible:
Joshua took the the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war. (Joshua 11:23)
For more that five years Caleb fought with the other tribes to secure the land and depose their rulers. But there was so much more to do. But it seems that every tribe had to continue in each of the portions of land the Lord had given them to complete the task of utterly displace the enemy and instate the rule of god over the entire land.
Caleb was by now about the oldest male in Israel; the others died in the desert because of their rebellion, disbelieve and disdain with God. He was with the men of Judah, because he was now reckoned to be one of that tribe.
He stood on the promises of God. In his heart there was a living faith, the flame was still burning because God proved to be faithful to be with them and give them the ability to conquer the enemy. So he stood there with this testimony:
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.’ (Joshua 14:9, NIV)
Because of the faithfulness of God he claimed:
Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:12, NIV)
By God’s appointment
It is so marvellous to see how God worked behind the scenes in all of this. Each tribe got their allotment not be choice, but by God’s choosing. God ordained that the bigger tribes would receive bigger areas. But God would give them their inheritance as He would make it clear by lot.
So, although there might have been a personal desire of Caleb to inherit Hebron, or Kiriath Arba, it had to be confirmed by God’s choice. As from the tribe of Judah they indeed got that potion of land, but then for Caleb, he stood on the promises of God.
Why did he seek this? God said so. Caleb, you’re and old man now, maybe you should just look for a place to with a giant fig tree to sit under and enjoy the last days of your life reflecting on the goodness of God. The fight is over.
No, the fight is not over, the battle lies ahead. God’s glory and honour must be seen by the brutal, barbaric Anakites who though the were invincible. Like a David in the face of the giant Goliath, Caleb stood for the glory of God. No rest till that is done. He got what he claimed in the Name of God and went head. The Bible says:
In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). (Joshua 15:13–15, NIV)
It is more than possible that under Caleb, once the Anakite giants were defeated, that the original name of Hebron was restored. The Bible does not tell who buried the bones of Joseph, but one can only think that in some way Caleb was involved. And I can only in my mind’s eye see Caleb at the cave of Machpelah recounting the words of Joseph, “God surely came to our aid.” (Genesis 50:25)
Serve God wholeheartedly
- trust and obey
- with God’s help
- no retirement
God puts a limit to the ability of our enemy
There’s a world to conquer
I stood at the birthplace of John Flynn and thanked God for a man who served Him wholeheartedly – he took the command of our Lord seriously and made it his business to claim the inland of Australia for his Lord.
In faith I also stand at the open grave of my Lord and Saviour who overcame hell and death. And I can say, “God surely came to our aid.” I look up to see Him disappear into the clouds with the command to go to all nations. And He called me into ministry to prepare his people for their task of evangelism and missions.
The question now is, do we follow Him like a Caleb, always wholeheartedly, faithfully, trusting in Him, single-mindedly, focused, never resting till we draw our last breath? Blessed are those won the Master finds busy when He returns. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 February 2014