By J.R. Miller
The story of Caleb is interesting. He was a man of the heroic type. He was one of the twelve men sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. Ten of the twelve spies brought back an evil report. They spoke enthusiastically of the wonderful richness and fruitfulness of the land of Canaan--but they were discouragingly impressed with the warlike character of the inhabitants, their fortifications, their armor, their military equipment and the fierce giants they saw among them. The feeling of these spies, was that the Israelites were not strong enough to conquer the country.
Two of the spies, however, made a different report. They said that they could conquer the Canaanites. They had faith in God, who had given them the land and would help them take possession of it. The two believing spies were Caleb and Joshua. The people of Israel were dismayed by what the spies reported. Ten men by their unbelieving words, alarmed and discouraged more than two million people, and led them to rebel against Moses and to seek to return to Egypt. The result was the sentence of death on the whole generation, that none of those who had rebelled, should enter into the promised land. Joshua and Caleb alone were excepted, because they had believed.
It was now forty-five years after the return of the spies. A new generation had grown up. At last the people were in the land of promise, and the country was being divided among the tribes. Caleb comes to Joshua to claim the portion which Moses had promised him. He is eighty-five years old--but he is every inch a man and a hero still.
Forty-five years was a long time to keep a promise in remembrance--but the old man had a good memory. Not only did he remember the promise--but he believed it. He had no thought, but that the promise would be fulfilled. We should remember what God has promised us, and in its own time expect it to be fulfilled. Often we forget the things the Lord has said concerning us. Indeed, some of us do not seem even to know that God has ever said anything concerning us--has made any promises to us. How can we know--if we do not look into our Bible and search there for what God has said?
The memory of a good act is a sweet comfort to one's heart in after years. Caleb had been faithful when sent as one of the spies, and that good and brave deed when he was a young man, was a joy to him all through his life and in his old age. It would have been very much easier at the time just to vote with the majority of the committee of search, and not to stand out alone, as Caleb and Joshua did. But the easiest way is not always the best way--it never is, unless it is the right way. "Nothing is ever settled--until it is settled right."
Sometimes the majority is wrong, and then it is far better to be in the minority and right, however small the minority may be--than with the wrong majority. Doing right always makes happiness in the end. It gives joy to the conscience, and peace in the conscience sheds a holy blessing throughout the heart and life. It makes sweet memories, too, through the after years. Caleb never forgot that day when he made a true and loyal report to Moses, while the other spies were reporting their cowardly fears. Forty-five years afterwards, he speaks of it with great satisfaction.
All young people are making now in their bright and happy days--the memories amid which they must live in their mid-life and old age. If they do wrong things, if they do evil things--because the right things are hard and would require sacrifice, if they go against their consciences, they are making bitterness for themselves by-and-by. But if they do the right things at whatever cost, if they follow the Lord wholly, though they go alone, if they do brave, noble, unselfish deeds--they will walk all their after days in the light of their early faithfulness, and their hearts will be blessed with sweet recollections.
The good thing in Caleb's noble act, was that he "wholly followed the Lord." That was a great thing to do. It cost much at the time--it almost cost Caleb his life--but he never was sorry for it. There are too many who follow the Lord only partially. They follow Him while it is easy, while the crowd runs that way, while no great sacrifices have to be made, and no dangers encountered. But the moment the first hard pinch comes, when something has to be given up, when friends have to be parted with, when scoffs and sneers have to be endured--they falter in their following, drop behind, even turn back.
That was the way many people followed Jesus when He was on the earth. One young man ran to Him and kneeled down, eager to be His disciple. But when the Master said: "Go and sell all you have and give it to the poor, and come, follow me--just yourself, empty-handed," the young man got up and went away sorrowing. He wanted to follow Christ--but he could not accept such a condition as that. The only true way--is to follow Christ wholly, with all the heart, without question, evasion, hesitation or faltering, without abating one jot or tittle from what He requires.
Caleb remembered God's goodness to him in keeping him alive all the years, until the time came for the fulfilling of the promise. When the Lord promises to give a man anything in the future, He always keeps him alive to get it. Caleb could not have died in the plague when the other spies died, nor in the wilderness when death was so busy among the tribes, when six hundred thousand men of the nation sank down into early graves. God had promised that Caleb should receive as inheritance, a certain portion of Canaan--and no plague, no sweeping away of a generation, no accident of war, could touch his life until he had actually taken possession of his promised portion.
There is a similar illustration in the promise of God to Paul, in the midst of a terrible storm at sea. He was told that he must stand before Caesar--and therefore could not possibly be lost in the storm. The life of everyone of us, is as truly and safely in God's keeping as was Caleb's or Paul's. The Lord has His purposes for us, blessings waiting for us, and missions for us to fulfill in the future, just as really as He had for these men; and while we are waiting for these purposes to ripen, for the time to come for the doing of these tasks or errands, there is no disease and no missile of death that can touch us. "Every man is immortal, until his work is done."
If God has a piece of work that a boy of today was born to do fifty years from now--that boy will be preserved against all accidents, pestilences and other dangers--until the time comes when he can do the work assigned to him. If a young girl of today is, according to God's plan and purpose, to live in a certain place twenty years from now, found a certain society, or establish a certain orphanage or school--if this is God's plan for her life--she will be preserved alive to fulfill the mission which God has marked out for her, if only she is faithful in doing the Divine will.
Another good thing in Caleb, was that he claimed the promise when the time came for its fulfillment. "Now therefore give me this hill-country, whereof the Lord spoke in that day." If Caleb had not come forward and asked that the promise should be fulfilled, he would not have got his portion. We must claim the things that God has promised us--and must ask for them. If we do not care enough for them to ask God to give them to us, and then also seek to obtain them--we must not be surprised if we fail to get them. People are all the while missing blessings, too, which are theirs by Divine promise and intention--simply because they do not ask for them.
In the post-offices many packages, sometimes valuable ones, lie for a long time, and then are sold because the people to whom they are addressed do not come to claim them. Sometimes great estates are left to heirs--who never appear to claim their inheritance. In the spiritual kingdom, there are many similar cases. There are promises of great good addressed to those who never come to claim them.
Another fine thing in Caleb, was that he was not afraid of hard tasks. He did not seek easy things. He did not ask for an inheritance in some quiet valley, out of which the enemy had been driven. He asked for a mountain which fierce giants still held, saying that he would drive them out. Though he was an old man and had done useful service, he did not ask that he should be given a pensioner's bounty--that his portion should be cleared of encumbrance and given to him without any effort on his part to get it. He was willing to drive out the giants who held it, and with his own hands prepare it for his home. This showed splendid courage in the old man. Some people think of old age, as a period in which a man cannot do much. But Caleb's old age was really one of the best portions of his life. He did not have to be nursed, coddled and taken care of. He never did better work, than after he was eighty-five.
Young as well as old, should get an inspiring lesson from Caleb's independence in wishing to win his own portion. He said he would drive out the giants. We do not prize things that come to us without effort, without cost. Besides, God would have us show our faith--by striving after the blessings. It develops our own abilities and graces--to have to fight to get possession of our inheritances. God puts the gold deep down among the rocks--that we must dig and search for it if we would get it. He gives a man a farm--but the farm has to be cleared and cultivated before it is ready to yield its harvest. He gives a young man the opportunity for a fine education--but he must study hard to get it. He gives a young girl splendid musical talent--but it is only a talent, and to get it developed into its possibilities she has to spend months and years in weary practice. God gives us great grace, holiness, likeness to Christ, power in Christian work, meekness, patience--but we must struggle long with our old nature to obtain these gifts!