Strong As I Ever Was

January 17, 2011

in The Good Word

I often get excited when I come to the section of the book of Joshua where the Israelites are finally entering into the Promised Land. They spent such a long time waiting and wandering, it’s exciting that the thing this people had been waiting for — a land of their own — is finally becoming a reality.

Leaving Doubtful Behind

After a summary of the conquests with Joshua at the helm is given in chapter 12, the last of the land still to be conquered is allotted to specific tribes in Joshua 13. So this land is promised as theirs and designated as theirs, but the conquest has yet to be carried out –

They still have to fight for what God is giving them.

You might know some of the story, that the Israelites failed to drive out all of the inhabitants of the land, and that they were often led astray by the people who lived among them for centuries.

But one of my favourite parts of the story is recounted in Joshua 14, when Caleb inherits the land he’s been patiently waiting for. Back in Numbers 13, Caleb and Joshua were among the twelve spies who spied out the land Israel was meant to inherit. They were the only two out of those twelve who came back with a good report. Caleb was the one who said,

“Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it!”

But the people were more convinced by the fear of the ten than the faith of those two, and did not go out to receive what God had promised them. The Lord decided that that generation would die out in the wilderness, wandering for 40 years, and the next generation would get another shot. Only Joshua and Caleb, who held onto hope and believed, would be among those who would inherit the land out of that entire generation.

I wonder what Caleb’s heart must’ve felt like, knowing his people were shirking their God-given inheritance because they were afraid to grab hold of it. And I wonder what those forty years were like for him, wandering among the people who cost him his first shot at taking the land.

In glorious goodness, Caleb’s day finally comes. And he reminds Joshua of God’s promise to him, that the land his feet tread when he was scouting it out forty years before would be his. There is such a catharsis in his soliloquy, I am often almost in tears when I read it. {From Joshua 14:6-12, I’ve slightly shortened it here for the sake of brevity.} Caleb says:

“You know the word which the Lord said to Moses concerning you and me: I was forty years old when Moses sent me to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you’ve wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day… It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

I love picturing 85 year old Caleb, standing in front of Joshua, strong and strapping, though I feel sure, still obviously aged, raring with sword in hand to go out and take what God had promised him. The day he’d been waiting for had come. The days he had to wait because of other people’s fear were gone: it was time to take the land.

Although the time scale is a lengthy one, the story remains the same: God promised Caleb something, and he had to go out and fight to receive it.

In Joshua 15, Caleb drives out the inhabitants of the land that was promised to him — the land with people that everyone else was most afraid of — and he and his family lay hold of what God had promised him. When I think about what it must’ve meant to him, I want to stand up and cheer for Caleb, strong as he ever was, settling into the place that was promised him, to live there and to see his children living there, till he closed his eyes and breathed his last.

I think God makes us a lot of promises that we cannot lay hold of without a fight. Not a sword in hand, trudging up the mountain sort of fight, but rather a Word-of-God sword in hand, overcoming our own fears to lay hold of something kind of fight.

Fear stops us from believing that we can receive the promises of God. And I am certain that sometimes we don’t receive the blessings God intended for us to receive because we don’t do our part to receive them.

Have you ever felt like God promised you something, but been afraid to go after it?

xCC

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