There seems to be few courageous men of the faith today. Whenever we talk about courageous Christians they are often people from the past. But I have a dream that one day the people of the faith will recapture a daring spirit for God that follows after Him wholeheartedly.
One of those ancient characters who modeled courage was a man that John Maxwell referred to as the Braveheart of the Bible. He encompassed outstanding courage in the face of physical threat from not only his enemies, but also his allies. He stood out of the crowd. He was a man’s man. Some scholars believe he was even an outsider…a gentile who dwelled among the Israelites. He is my all time favorite warrior from the Bible. However I have to admit that I am extremely bias, because we share the same name. He was known to the Israelites as Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite.
In 1977 when my mother was trying to come up with a name for her firstborn (me), many people tried to detour her from choosing the name Caleb. “He is going to hate that name,” they told her. “No one has ever heard a name like that before.” But regardless of the opinions she named me Caleb without even knowing that it was a Bible character. In 1977 is was ranked number 274 among the “popular” names of boys, however it was recently ranked the 17th most popular baby name for a boy. I am not sure how the trend got started, but I am still the oldest Caleb that I know.
Despite my mother’s advisers, I actually like my name, but it does seem to get a variety of interactions of people.
Numbers 13:17 reads:
17 Moses gave the men these instructions as he sent them out to explore the land: “Go north through the Negev into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like, and find out whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 See what kind of land they live in. Is it good or bad? Do their towns have walls, or are they unprotected like open camps? 20 Is the soil fertile or poor? Are there many trees? Do your best to bring back samples of the crops you see.” (It happened to be the season for harvesting the first ripe grapes.)21 So they went up and explored the land ….
After they returned from 40 days of exploration they returned and gave the following report to Moses and the entire community of Israelites.
“We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. Numbers 13:25-27.
One of these bountiful regions was once known as Hebron. This region was once a favorite dwelling place of Abraham and a burial place for Sarah (Gen. 23:17-20). Now it was the land that Caleb had set his gaze on. But there was a problem. Years prior, Hebron had been captured by a renown warrior of giant stature known as Arba. The city was renamed after him and Hebron was no more. Arba then had a son named Anak, who was known to be the greatest among his people. Anak also had three sons who followed carried on his “giant” reputation – Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai. These sons and their clans now roamed this territory and it would not be taken without a fight.
Some of the scouts then reported the rest of the story to the people and it caused an uproar of panic in the camp. 28BUT the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of AnaK. The descendants of Anak were known as the strong or tall necked people. In fact, their was a popular saying in that region that said “Who can stand against the Anakites?” (Dt 9:2) They were famous because of their unconquerable reputation and legends were told that they were distant ancestors of the most feared men who had ever set foot on the planet…the Nephilem.
The US Army coined the phrase, “there is strong an then there is Army Strong”. Well, I am sure that many in this era would have declared there is strong and then there is Anakim strong. No surprise, that Anakim was the chosen name for Darth Vader in the Star Wars series.
Being a visual learner, I like to try to grasp stories like this. How big were these boys? Was it a hoax or were they really giants.
Here is what we know about a few giants from the past.
The very thought of facing three renown clans of giants stirred a panic among the Israelites and lets be honest it would have probably done the same to many of us. When the odds are stacked against us or the risks feel to high then all we can often see is our inabilities.
Instead of looking favorably in this circumstance ten of the spies calculated the risks by looking at what they didn’t have.
But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!” Numbers 13:30
Caleb’s three second speech didn’t have the effect he was hoping. In defense, ten of the spies quickly tried to set Caleb straight.
“We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. 33 We even saw giants there, NEPHELIM, (The descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” Numbers 13:32,33
Grasshoppers. Ten explorers went to the lowest of lows and labeled their entire tribe after a small easily broken insect. The worst part of the story is that the thousands gathered agreed that they were nothing more than that…grasshoppers.
If you are not careful you will discover that Grasshopper talkers can take you out by plaguing you with fear. Grasshopper talkers have a habit of…
“The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”
Caleb and Joshua did not calculate the risks like the other ten men. They did not look at what they were capable of. They looked at what God has capable of doing through them. They didn’t look at what they did’t have. They looked at what they did have.
Regardless of the urgency and truth of their speech the crowd didn’t budge like it did for Wallace’s men. Infact, the people considered stoning Caleb and Joshua because of their fearless faith.
It’s easy to criticize the ten spies for their cowardly way of thinking, but would you have been any different. Imagine being one of the spies who returned. Your wife and children embrace you before you give a report. Thoughts of entering a barbaric land with those you deeply love would put any man’s faith to the test. It’s one thing to endanger your life…its another to endanger the lives of others.
But Caleb had a different perspective. He had an outstanding amount of courage. I have heard it said that courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to confront it. I agree, but after examining the life of Caleb I seriously don’t think he had fear. He appears to have obtained a level of fearlessness in his walk with God. So how did he get this fearless courage? I think that we find the foundation to his daring valor in the Lord’s definition of Caleb in Numbers 14:24 :
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.
This passage is not a man’s perspective about Caleb, it is uttered from the mouth of God. It is God’s one sentence definition of who Caleb was. Imagine God looking upon you and saying that you have a different spirt than others, because you follow him with your WHOLE HEART. I think those that follow Christ with all their hearts will always be rare. So many of us serve God with part of our heart, but Caleb gives us an example of what it looks like to follow Him with everything.
Here is a challenging thought. How would God define you in a sentence? Could He describe you like he did Caleb? Are you among the few serving Him with all your heart?
It didn’t go well for the Israelites who chose fear over faith. The ten spies died soon after because of their disobedience, their second guessing got some of them killed, and the remnant headed back into the desert as wandering nomads. Forty years later that generation died, except for Caleb and Joshua. Caleb endured wandering aimlessly, persevered through the trials of the desert, and lost many of his close friends.
After Moses died Joshua was put into the leadership role of the Israelites. He led them across the Jordan and into the land of promise. All these years later Caleb had not forgotten about the bountiful country with the giants that Moses had promised him. And at the ripe age of eighty five he clears he presents his final request 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 desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 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. 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.”
Most of us think we have past our prime once we hit 40 or 50. I felt that way when I hit 30. Don’t laugh. I was noticing a few gray hairs and that I couldn’t keep up with the younger guys on the basketball court. I’m passed my prime I thought.
But after reading the story of Caleb. How could I at any age say that to myself. In Christ I am always in my prime. With the Holy Spirit inside of me I am always in my prime. Infact, I have told my self that whenever I hit a new decade I am going to take a look at myself in the mirror and say, “I’m in my prime. This is my season.”
Caleb Bislow the author of Dangerous and founder of Unusual Soldiers..