After the story of Achan and his sin, the story in Joshua continues to describe the conquest of the land of Canaan. The next few chapters describe the victories of Israel given by the Lord and the distribution of the conquered land to the tribes of Israel. In Joshua 14 we are told more information about a man named Caleb. We have not seen much about Caleb since the days of Moses, 40 years earlier. Recall that after Israel came to Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments, the people went to go conquer the land of Canaan. Moses sent in twelve spies. Only two of those twelve spies returned with a favorable report that they can conquer the land with God’s help. The other twelve spies said that they could not take the land. The two spies who said they could take the land were Joshua and Caleb. Israel listened to the other ten, rather than Joshua and Caleb. Caleb quiets the crowd and says, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). But the people of Israel did not listen to Caleb so God did not allow them to take the land, allowing the generation to die in the desert. Joshua and Caleb were the only men of war that lived because they believed that God would give them the land. “For the LORD had said of them, ‘They shall surely die in the wilderness.’ And not a man was left of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (Numbers 26:65). Forty years have passed by and it is this next generation that has conquered the land with Joshua as their leader. We pick up the story in Joshua 14:6-15 and we will look at some important lessons from the words of Caleb.
Strong, Wholehearted Service To God.
Notice how many times we are told that Caleb wholly followed the Lord. In verse 8, in the face of the people of Israel turning against the Lord and desiring to go back to Egypt, Caleb says, “yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.” Caleb is not speaking arrogantly about himself or making up a story. In the very next verse, Caleb recalls the words of Moses who said the same thing: “because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.” God said these very words himself when the decree was given that Israel would not enter Canaan for their disobedience: “But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it” (Numbers 14:24). Caleb received his inheritance in verse 14 “because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.”
This was not an easy time to be serving the Lord wholeheartedly. Caleb served the Lord even when all of Israel wanted to go back to Egypt and appoint a new leader. Caleb continued to serve the Lord for the 40 years of wandering in the desert. I have to believe that was very difficult to deal with for Joshua and Caleb. Forty years of their lives could not be spent in the promised land but wandering in the desert because the rest of the nation rebelled against the Lord. Yet we do not read about griping or complaining out of Caleb. He faithfully continued to serve the Lord though he suffered because of other people’s sins.
We do not like this fact, but it is a reality of life. Why do we experience suffering? Many times the reason we suffer is because of the sinful actions of others. Joshua and Caleb had to suffer 40 years of walking in the desert, not because of their own actions, but because of the sins of the people. We so often fail to think about how the sins of others affect our lives. Last Sunday morning we talked about how the sin of Achan affected the lives of other people. We saw how far-reaching the effects of sin truly are as Achan’s family and the men of war of Israel died because of Achan’s sin. We suffer because of other people’s bad decisions. We suffer because of other people’s sins. But this was not cause for Caleb to give up on God. Caleb does not throw in the towel because he is suffering for the sins of others. Caleb wholly served the Lord throughout his life.