Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
WHO IS CALEB?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
6 November 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Numbers 13:1-2, 6, 17-20, 23, 25-33
Preparation Verse: (Joshua 14:9)
“So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God fully.’
Who is Caleb?
Who is Caleb that we should take note of him?
If we go by the meaning of his name, he could be one that is “forcible” or one “to attack.” The root meaning of his name could also mean “a dog” or “a male prostitute,” neither of which is very flattering.
The people in Caleb’s day were probably very much like us. They would probably make fun of a person’s name, particularly in this case where the meaning is so opposite. Thus he would have had to live through that difficulty.
His name, however, is not why we take note of him. We take note of him because of his character.
If his character is so outstanding, then surely they must have written a hymn
about him; yet I could find none, even though he is mentioned in the Bible more
than twenty times.
Sometimes we seek to make a name for ourselves in certain areas where we feel we should be distinguished, and we may do it for all of the wrong reasons.
If what we do is for the glory of God, then He will take note of it, and that is all that is really necessary, as we shall see from the life of Caleb.
The first time we hear of Caleb in Scripture is in the 13th chapter of the Book of Numbers, where we hear of his selection as a leader by God and Moses. Note verses 1, 2 and 6.
1. Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying,
2. "Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers' tribes, every one a leader among them."
6. from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh;
Who was Caleb? He was a leader of the tribe of Judah.
And more importantly, he was being called of God to do a job. He was to spy out the land of Canaan, the land of promise, with eleven other leaders of Israel.
There probably isn’t one adult or even one youth of understanding in this
room, who hasn't at one time or another been called upon by God to do a specific
Did you rise to the call?
Or did you dismiss the call as one that you just knew you couldn’t do, or thought you would look foolish if you did it, or just didn't want to do it.
Caleb and eleven other men of Israel were selected to go out and do this task together.
Thus they all went, because their peers went with them; but as we shall see,
they didn’t all do as they were commanded
All of those who were sent out had seen the many miracles that God had performed in Egypt.
All of these men had passed through the Red Sea on dry land, and saw the continued miracles in the wilderness.
And note also what the message from God confirmed: “...the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel.”
They were told by God before they went out that He was going to give them the land they were to spy out, and God had done everything else He said He would do; thus there should be no reason for doubt.
God had made this promise, because the people who lived in Canaan did not
follow God, but instead went after other gods, and their punishment was to lose
God has also told us, and continues to tell us, who He is and what will take place if we don’t follow Him; but many don’t believe that either.
Caleb and the other eleven were told what God desired of them, as we shall see in Numbers 13:17-20, but the truly important task was the unspoken one.
See if you can discern this important task, as we look at these verses:
17. When Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, he said to them, "Go up there into the Negev; then go up into the hill country.
18. And see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many.
19. "And how is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are they like open camps or with fortifications?
20. "And how is the land, is it fat or lean? Are there trees in it or not? Make an effort then to get some of the fruit of the land." Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.
Well, we have heard what Caleb and these other eleven men were told to do, but have you been able to discern the true mission?
Let’s look a little further and see what they found on their journey through Canaan. Note verse 23:
23. Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs.
That must have been some bunch of grapes, and in fact they may have named that valley themselves, for its name means “cluster.”
Have you been able to discern their true mission yet?
Let’s listen in on their report, beginning at verse 25, and see if they also understood what God wanted them to do.
25. When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days,
If you will excuse me for interrupting this report for a moment, there is a clue in this verse concerning the true mission of Caleb and these other men.
It is the mentioning of the forty days that they spent spying out the land.
Biblically speaking, forty speaks of a time of testing or trial.
Does this clue help you to discern the true mission?
Let’s continue to listen in on this report.
26. they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land.
27. Thus they told him, and said, "We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.
The expression, "milk and honey", does not refer to real milk and honey, but is an idiomatic expression meaning, "land of plenty".
Let's return to the report.
28. "Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there.
29. "Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan."
The men who gave this report have failed the test, the true mission.
Yes, they did go up and spy out the land; and yes, they did give an accurate report of what they saw; nevertheless, they still failed to carry out the true mission.
But note how Caleb reports:
30. Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it."
Do you see the difference in the two reports?
Caleb has fulfilled the true mission, and it wasn’t what he was to discover on the spy mission; it was what he was to take along with him.
Caleb took along his faith in God.
He didn’t go on the mission alone.
He didn’t just go along with the other leaders of Israel who went on the spy mission, and give a fearful report in direct opposition of God's promise to give them the land.
He went on his mission with God, and in the strength of knowing that God is faithful to perform all that He says He will do.
God said He was going to give the land to Israel, and as far as Caleb was concerned, it was already accomplished.
What about us here?
Are we living by faith, or are we behaving like the men who gave the bad
31. But the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us."
We can do anything and everything that God tells us to do. It is only our own fear that holds us back.
32. So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size.
33. "There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."
So the people listened to the bad report and forgot about all the things the Lord had done in their very presence.
They grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and they grumbled against the Lord, and they even blamed the Lord for bringing them out of Egypt so that He could destroy them in the wilderness.
So, what happened to the faithful four? What did Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb do in the face of the millions who were rebelling? Note the answer recorded in Numbers 14:5-9.
5. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel.
6. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;
What these faithful believers are doing is to show outwardly that they fear God, and that they are attempting to repent for the people for their great sin of disbelieving God.
7. and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, "The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.
8. "If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us – a land which flows with milk and honey.
9. "Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them."
These are the kinds of leaders we need in this country: people who will believe all that the Lord says, not just the parts that suit their particular political purposes.
Did the people heed the cry of these strong leaders? Let’s look at verse 10.
10a. But all the congregation said to stone them with stones.
Try to relate to this in more simple terms.
There is a family in the neighborhood you have been very close to for many years, and they are about to move away. You have been planning to give them a very expensive and very valuable gift.
A few days before they move, you give them the gift; and all but one of them spit on it, curse you, throw the gift on the floor and break it, and kick you out the door.
How would you feel?
That is how God felt.
10b. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.
God was angry, and He wanted to destroy them, but Moses intervened and pleaded for them, and the Lord relented to a point.
The entire nation of Israel was condemned to stay in the wilderness for forty years until every man in Israel, twenty years and older, died, that is except Caleb and Joshua, for He would not let them enter the promised land.
How do you think Caleb felt about all this?
He is like that one member of that family who wanted to accept your gift when all the others rejected it and you; but he stood his ground. He stood upon his faith in God.
Perhaps as we come before the Lord’s Table this morning, having repented of our own sins, we should also repent for those who have not accepted God’s Word, and pray for them and our nation as a whole, just as Caleb did.
And the problem we face, today, is that most of the people who profess that they believe and accept God's word, are not really doing it, but rather working against it.
God's creation and heavenly intent is that we love Him and the whole of His creation, and protect it from all harm; yet, most of these so-called believers are working against God's will.
Instead they support all those who rape the land an destroy our beautiful environment, and cause so much pain, suffering, and death to million of our fellow human beings, and billion of animals every year.
These are not unlike the people of Israel when Caleb gave his report and repented for the people.
And perhaps there are some of you octogenarians out there who need some added encouragement. Listen to the words of Caleb five years after Israel entered the promised land, as recorded in Joshua 14:10-11.
10. “And now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today.
11. “I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.
We may not have to fight a physical war, but we most assuredly are in the midst of a spiritual battle, and our spiritual strength should be even stronger with age.
And as a confirmation of this, let’s take a look at our New Testament lesson for this morning, Hebrews 3:14-19.
14. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end;
This means that we are always to remember the day of our salvation, and not to let doubt creep in. We are to stand firm against the devil and his lies.
15. while it is said,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”
16. For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?
17. And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
18. And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?
19. And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
But Caleb believed and entered, for he held on to the faith of God.
Will each of us?
I pray we will!