One of my heroes: Caleb
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And they spoke unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us; a land which flows with milk and honey. Only rebel not against the LORD, neither fear you the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not. (Numbers 14:7-9)
When you ask Christians about their heroes in the Bible (besides Jesus), then you usually get very similar names. For men it's often Paul, Peter, King David or Joshua. When you ask women the same question, you often get names like Esther, Ruth or Naomi.
But there is a person that is pretty high on my list of heroes in the Bible that hardly gets mentioned: Caleb. Let's recap quickly: The Israelites came out of Egypt and stand at the border to the promised land. God tells them: "Send spies into the land to check it out." They spies come back: "It's a great land, it really is. But there are giants in the land. We'll never be able to defeat them. Let's go back to Egypt."
Soon the whole assembly starts to mourn and question God. "Why did He ever bring us out of Egypt?" There are only two people who stand up for God: Caleb and Joshua. However, they are outnumbered. The Israelites refuse to enter the land. And as a result, God tells them: "OK, you don't want to go in? You won't. You'll be wandering through the wilderness for another 40 years, till every adult has died. Only Caleb and Joshua will enter the land".
I don't know about you, but if I had been in Caleb's shoes, I would have hated all my countrymates for the next 40 years. Imagine: Caleb did everything right. He stood up for God. He trusted God. He wanted to take the land, stand on the promise that God had given them, and destroy all the enemies. It wasn't his fault. But other people didn't listen.
So here is Caleb: Having done nothing wrong, he is now sentenced to 40 years in the wilderness that he didn't choose. Plus, let's face it: He was basically waiting for all the other people to die. God promised that anyone who was 20 years old or over at the time they refused to take the land would die in the wilderness. Their children would take the land instead. So every morning Caleb came out of his tent, thinking: "I didn't choose to be here. You guys did. Why didn't you listen to me? And now I have to wait for you to die so that I can enter the promised land. Thanks a lot!" Knowing myself, I would probably have been extremely tempted to help God a bit. "God, if all these people die before these 40 years are over, can we enter the land a little bit earlier? Need some help with that?"
I don't know how Caleb did it, but he kept his faith and faithfully trusted God through the next 40 years. And here's the result:
Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said unto him, You know the thing that the LORD said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and you in Kadeshbarnea. Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to spy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, Surely the land on which your feet have trodden shall be your inheritance, and your children's forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God. And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spoke this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. Even yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain, of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said. And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. (Joshua 14:6-13)
Caleb persevered for 40 years, and the Lord rewarded him for his trust. 40 years. Wasted in the wilderness. Because other people didn't trust God. Because people didn't listen to God or Caleb. Yet, God was with him, kept him, and rewarded him in the end.
So let's talk about perseverance in our lives. Yes, life gets difficult. And more often than not, things don't go our way. Very often other people seem to succeed though they do the wrong thing and we do the right thing. Where is God in all this?
He's right there. It's just that His timing isn't ours. We think that "If I do the right thing today, I will receive my reward tomorrow the latest." But that's not what God promises. God exposes the true condition of our hearts when He brings us in situations where we have to persevere. It's easy to be a Christian when "all goes well". But it's in the times of difficulties and hardshipt that our Faith grows.
We're tempted to look to the outside: "This co-worker is an idiot and should be fired. My spouse does the same things over and over again and never learns. And the guy on my soccer team lost the last game for us. Why does God do all this to me?" But what I try to do now is to look on the inside instead: "God, I feel frustrated. What's going on? What can I learn from this? Is there anything I did wrong that contributed to this bad situation? How can I help these people get better through this mess we are in? And how can I honor you in the way I respond to this bad situation?" Such a different view on the situation has a very, very different outcome.
Caleb is my hero today because he persevered for 40 years. And I'm often looking at his example when "something doesn't go my way today", when I am tempted to take things into my own hands, "helping God" to make things right. Then I ask myself: "How must Caleb have felt? If God could keep his faith strong for 40 years, then of course he can keep me strong today as well!"
I certainly have some growing to do in this area. Caleb kept his trust in God for 40 years when he didn't do anything wrong.
Now it's our turn. Let's keep our trust in Jesus when things don't go our way. The reward will be waiting. And if not in this life, then definitely in the next!
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