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Jaoshua 14 - Caleb - A Lonely Example

Sun, Nov 08, 2020
Teacher: Mark Juers
Duration:18 mins 28 secs
Caleb is a man with a different spirit from many. He trusted God and was willing to attempt the impossible for God, knowing that God was with him.

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This is my last sermon here at St Hil’s so I’ve been making jokes that this is when I tell you what I really think. I hope that the reality is that this is what I’d say anyway, that there would be no difference between what I say and what I really think.

Anyway, we have a really encouraging example of faith in today’s Bible passage, we have a standout example, a bit of a lonely example in his context.
Let me pray: Lord Jesus would you tell us what you really think today, help us to grow with the mind of Christ, Amen.

Today we don’t so much hear about Joshua but we hear about Caleb. Caleb’s faithfulness and bravery is right up there with Joshua. Caleb is now an older man which means Joshua is too but Caleb gets a special mention here. There are chapters and chapters of how the land is divided up, the start of chapter 14 that we heard read is some of that description, and there are a couple of little extras inside all this land allotment that bring us into the bigger and longer story. Caleb has to be read as a bigger and longer story outside of just this mention.

But Caleb gets a special mention because he’s different. He stood out from the crowd, he went against the majority, he did what was right, he remained faithful and loyal to God’s calling on his life way back when he was younger and now he’s 85 and he comes to Joshua and says hey Joshua, remember that time 45 years ago, remember that incident where we stuck our necks out for what was right and God rewarded us and it means we’re the survivors, we’re the oldest guys left who are standing here and get to see the promised land. We lasted. We made it through. Where everyone else fell away. I’m still here.

Have a look from verse 10 Caleb says this to Joshua ‘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 wilderness. 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.’

How’s that for being sustained by the Lord in a special way. He’s a battle-fit warrior at 85 feeling as ready as he did when he was 40. Ha, 85 is the new 40 friends.
Why? Why was Caleb sustained in this special way? What was different about Caleb. To answer that question let’s go back 45 years to that incident. This is going back to Numbers 13, if you’ve got your Bible there flick back to Numbers 13, this is before Joshua was the leader it was Moses who led God’s people out of Egypt and into the wilderness, as they approach the promised land the Lord spoke to Moses

“Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” 3So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4These are their names:
from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur;
5from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;
6from the tribe of Judah, CALEB son of Jephunneh;
Then there’s Igal, Hoshea son of Nun (which is Joshua son of Nun)
There’s Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, Geuel.

They go and scout out the whole land and they come back. Here’s what they all say:

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. 28But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29The 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.” 30Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” 31But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32And 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. 33 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.”

As the story goes on you can read about Caleb and Joshua pressing the case and saying “don’t be afraid, the Lord is with us”, the whole community then threaten to stone Caleb and Joshua to death, it’s a mess so the path to the promise takes a detour. But Caleb gets a gift, even in the mess, he is rewarded for standing up. If you look at Numbers chapter 14 I’ve got a verse for you to highlight in your Bibles, it’s a lovely phrase, This is Numbers 14 verse 24 God says “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.”

A Different Spirit

Highlight that and ask the Lord God to transform you into that description for yourself!

"Because my servant has a DIFFERENT SPIRIT and follows me wholeheartedly"

Caleb’s different spirit made him stand out from the crowd but 45 years later he gets to cash in on his reward.

But back then it was one messy incident. That one bad report, that whinging and complaining and negative, destructive undermining talk caused so much unnecessary pain and trouble and grief. God still had a plan and a promise to take them into the land which was their inheritance, God’s plans do not fail but when God’s people are disheartened, when their trust falters and they descend into a complaining culture things take longer and harder roads. Anxiety and fear took over, they put on the grasshopper goggles, we feel like grasshoppers and they think we’re grasshoppers, and so everyone and everything is too big and scary and all problems are insurmountable.

I did some IT work for an organisation once and there were all these complexities about getting one system to talk to another system and around this problem the whole organisation was complaining. Every level of management and every department was gossiping and whinging and there were divisions and people’s jobs were on the line. It turned out that all it needed was a username and a password and someone who could speak the right language of database code. But no one dealt with the problem, no one faced the problem, no one stepped forward with courage to fix because everyone had grasshopper goggles on. It was easier and simpler to complain, it became an organisational habit to complain. And complaint culture makes everyone feel like little helpless grasshoppers, jumping around getting nothing done.

So it’s really easy to see the problems in life. It’s really easy to get negative and caught up in fear. As God takes us forward through life there are always obstacles, there are always complications and difficulties. The trigger for anxiety is like the lightswitch that’s right there at every doorway you pass through. Complaining and moaning and whining and whinging is a strong cultural habit that is hard to break.

A Sharp Warning

And so there is a sharp warning for us here. Caleb is honoured but don’t miss the warning. St Hil’s, you’re in a very dangerous position here because you have every reason to complain. You can complain about the joy of the Journey of Fruitfulness and the relaunch of our morning services getting cut short by COVID-19, you could complain about the utter disruption of lockdown life, you could complain about not having a lead minister yet, you could complain about Tim and I finishing up and I’m sure you can add to that list. You have every reason to complain and that’s the danger. Because there is a choice between feeding a complaining culture and standing up like a Caleb, someone who knows the provision and faithfulness of God, someone who acts boldly under the powerful hand of God who raises the dead to life, who brings new life out of ashes and causes us to sing a new song.

Pointing out problems is important and good, of course… but causing yourself and others to lose heart is not. God builds his church, Jesus is the true vine, and the Spirit bears fruit as we trust in the goodness of God. Don’t take unnecessary detours because of the grasshopper goggles because there is a reward for those who live in faith and trust.

The Patient Reward

The reward for Caleb was a house and land package, he persisted for 45 years in faith and hope in God’s promise until he arrived and his children and his children’s children reaped the benefits.

Did you notice that the land had a reward. The last line of that chapter says “the land had rest from war”. When God’s mission is fulfilled, there is the reward of peace on the land, peace for people, peace in all things.

The real reward though is participating in God’s story, whatever that looks like. Caleb knew he lived with integrity, he walked with the Lord, the Lord’s face shone on him with favour, he knew God was with him. For us it might not be a house and land package, in fact Jesus says to store up treasures in heaven, to seek first the kingdom of God. Sometimes the reward is standing alone with very few friends and smiling faces except the face of the Lord. Jesus hung on a cross, completely against the tide of cultural pressure, he remained faithful to God’s story.

So may you each have a different spirit like Caleb, may the Holy Spirit empower you with faith in the greatness and the goodness of God, may you have courage to speak in a way that builds up instead of tearing down, and may we all have patience to receive the heavenly reward found in eternal life

Let me finish with a prayer from St Augustine of Hippo

God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, to Your honour and glory.