Imagine with me for a moment. It is a dry and dusty day on the border of the Promised Land. 40 days earlier, Moses sent 12 men to look at the land of Canaan to see what was waiting for them there. Tension is high as everyone keeps looking to the hills to see if they can see any sign of the scouting party.
Finally, there they are! As they draw closer to camp, you can see that they are carrying a huge cluster of grapes. The fruit is so large it is being carried by two men! As questions begin to fly, the men report that the story God had told them was true! This truly is an amazing land that holds vast resources for all the people of Israel.
As excitement fills your heart, you see another man step forward waving his arms. He begins to speak, and you are told that there are also giants there. Formidable armies encamped in huge cities that you would never be able to overthrow. There are enemies wherever you look. Defeat fills your heart as you hear those words. How can God do this to you after He promised this paradise? Anger begins to rise. Some of it is directed at God, some at Moses, some at these men. Your doubts and fears are carried along with the rest of the people and soon the noise is palpable.
Wait, who is that? Another person is stepping forward. Is that Caleb? He was one of the men that went to spy out the land. He is waving his hands and getting people’s attention. The crowd dies down and Caleb speaks,
“Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
Caleb came from the tribe of Judah. I have found a couple listed meanings of his name. One meaning is “dog”, – not that flattering – but the other is “whole-hearted” or “all of the heart”. As names in that culture usually carried great meaning in the individual’s life, I have to wonder if the name “dog” might have had something to do with a tenacity that he showed as a very young boy. Maybe when he set his teeth in something, he just would not let go. I’m not sure, but if you continue to read about Caleb’s life (and we will, Dear Reader), you will see a Relentless determination in him. He is definitely an “all-in” kind of guy.
Think about what he must have felt as he walked back into the camp with that big cluster of grapes. The people were all looking at these 12 guys with excitement. The Bible doesn’t say who spoke first when the scouting party returned. Caleb was the first speaker identified in Numbers 13:30, but I wonder if he and Joshua were the two carrying the grapes. I wonder if Joshua spoke up with Caleb and told the people about all the good things that were there. What did Caleb think when another member of the scouting party gave the doom and gloom message? “What are you doing? Don’t you see you are going to scare them? We don’t have anything to worry about because we are God’s people!” Did he throw down the grapes and rush forward yelling for their silence? All I know for sure is that when Caleb stepped up to speak, the people got quiet enough to hear him.
As we know, they didn’t listen for long. The people turned on Moses, decided they would ask for a new leader, and it looks like Moses and Aaron appeared to be afraid for their lives as you read the beginning of chapter 14. It says they fell to their faces in front of the congregation. Things were looking pretty dicey, and then:
“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 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. 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.” – Numbers 14:6-9 (ESV)
What boldness to step out like that! These guys knew that God had the entire thing under control. They knew that He would lead them and that they would have everything God had promised. They didn’t hesitate to stand up. They did and said the right thing.
So, as you would expect, the people decided to stone them. I’ve had days like that… Just as it looks like they are going to die, God Himself steps in to stop the people, and He is not happy. God is ready to wipe out the whole bunch of them, Moses ends up begging for the lives of the people, and God lets them live. He punishes the people by telling them that because of their unbelief, everyone over the age of 20 will not see the Promised Land. Instead, they will wander around the desert for the next 40 years until every last one of them dies. Well, almost all of them.
“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
Caleb had a different spirit. I think it was that Relentless tenacity of a pitbull that was whole-heartedly determined to follow God. As God saw Caleb’s heart and actions, He rewarded him for the stand that he had taken for God. Caleb may fade into the background a bit, but whenever we see him, he is still standing strong and giving it all. Eventually he did enter the Promised Land with Joshua. He fought for God, and he claimed the promise of God for his family. The best part is he did it with that same tenacity!
Caleb has been a hero of mine since I was a little guy. As an adult I see the lessons in his life more clearly, and he has grown even more significant. He showed a Relentless pursuit of the things God promised, and as he followed God, he was blessed with health and strength for the journey that took him even into his eighties. I want to be that kind of man. His name resonates in my heart as a man’s man. Even more, as God’s man. One day I would like God to say of me that I was a servant of His with a different spirit because I had followed Him fully.