The first to report to take possession of their part of the land are the Judeans. Yet we do not hear of the desire of the whole tribe, but of only one man. Often it is only one in a family or a few in the local church. But this can also make others enthusiastic. As one of the heads of the households (verse 11Now these are [the territories] which the sons of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel apportioned to them for an inheritance,) Caleb not only supervises a fair distribution, but also asks for an inheritance for himself.
It is understandable that Caleb comes first. He has been looking forward to this moment for forty-five years. He is now eighty-five. His enthusiasm has remained unabated. The hope of the fulfilment of what has been promised to him has given him strength to experience the wilderness journey without complaining. He is an example that expecting the Lord, and of what He has promised, gives strength for the walk (Isa 40:3131Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up [with] wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.).
His strength does not lie in past victories. He doesn’t lean on passed glory, by telling impressive stories from a grey past. No, Caleb is still full of energy to achieve new victories of faith. He is still as strong as he was then. When one grows old it is not necessary that the spiritual strength diminishes. On the contrary. The testimony that Caleb gives to Joshua is not only about the past, but also and especially about now.
He is a Kenizzite. In Genesis 15 the Kenizzite are mentioned as a tribe living in Canaan (Gen 15:1919the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite). But it is also possible that it is the indication of a family in Judah. His ancestors have presumably entered in the people of God. And precisely this man is such a great example. Many who did not grow up in the midst of God’s people often show a greater desire for spiritual blessing than those who grew up in it. That can embarrass us. Caleb is still called the Kenizzite.
Caleb first reminds Joshua of the word the LORD has spoken to Moses about him (verse 77I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as [it was] in my heart.). Then he recalls that Moses, in accordance with what the LORD has said, has promised him an inheritance as a reward for his faithfulness (verse 99So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.’; Deu 1:3636except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the LORD fully.’). For Caleb, all these are not empty words. He is now going to claim what has been promised to him. This is language to the heart of the LORD.
Caleb means ‘wholeheartedly’. That’s how he did everything and that’s how he still does it. Nor should we be lukewarm Christians. He recounts how he did it, forty-five years ago, when he was sent out to spy out the land and his co-spies has let melted the hearts of the people. He has remained devoted to his mission with all his heart (verse 88Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully.). Moses has confirmed that he has followed the LORD completely (verse 99So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.’). That dedication is still there when he stands here before Joshua. Because of this dedication he receives Hebron (verse 1414Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite until this day, because he followed the LORD God of Israel fully.).
Caleb is mentioned many times together with Joshua. All those who are so dedicated are also always united with the true Joshua, the Lord Jesus, and mentioned in one breath with Him. Joshua is also a picture of the leader. The connection between Joshua and Caleb also shows the combination of dedicated leadership in the church. Leader of the people is he who has taken possession of the blessings through battle and lives in heavenly things. It is not a question of a strong personality, of reasoning talent or organizational ability, but of dedication to and connectedness with the Lord Jesus.
Caleb has perseverance. He has seen many people fall in the wilderness. All of his age have died. He is an exception, together with Joshua. He is now an old man, but not tired of days. It will not always have been easy for him to wait, but he has lived by the word the LORD has spoken. God’s Word has worked in him perseverance and the confidence that God is working for him (Isa 64:44For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear,
Nor has the eye seen a God besides You,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
). Now he still has to persevere, because he doesn’t have it yet. He has yet to conquer it. But he confidently declares that he will succeed.
He wants the territory with giants and fortified cities. He sees the reality, it is not proudness. But he counts on the faithfulness of the LORD. In modesty, he speaks of “perhaps” (verse 1212Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim [were] there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.”). He does not count on his own strength, however strong he feels, but on the LORD. But if therefore the LORD is with him, there is no doubt whatsoever about the outcome with him.
Caleb is not haughty. Pride is a danger that increases as the years go by. The warning “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1Jn 2:1616For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.) is addressed to young people in faith. But although these three dangers are especially true for the young men, a broader application is certainly permitted.
It is dangerous to say that others have nothing to do with what is special for a particular stage of growth. Fathers and children in faith should also take to heart the warning to the young men. In connection with the phases of spiritual growth which John speaks about in his first letter – little children, young men and fathers (1Jn 2:12-1812I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.14I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.17The world is passing away, and [also] its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.18Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.) – we can say the following: for the little children of faith, “the desire of the flesh” is particularly dangerous; for the young men, it is “the desire of the eyes”; and for the fathers in Christ, the adult believers, it is the “pride of life”.