|Vol. 1, No. 12||Page 3||December 1999|
Why Caleb Lived On A Mountain
A little background helps us appreciate the scene. The twelve spies Moses sent on a forty-day mission to infiltrate Canaan came back with a report of a rich, prosperous land. They even brought back fruit samples – clusters of grapes so large it took two men to carry them. But ten of them did not think Israel could get over the walls of the cities or oust the giants who lived within them. The other two, Joshua and Caleb, were men of faith “. . .Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30). How did God’s people reward such faith? They decided to silence them with stones (but God intervened, 14:10). The faithless people were doomed to wander for forty years where all over age twenty died except Moses, Joshua, Caleb and some Levites.
Joshua eventually led the new generation across Jordan, where they won victory after victory. The time came for the people to claim their share of the inheritance. Forty-five years had passed by this time, and Caleb had been thinking all along about a mountain he had seen. He wanted a place called “Hebron” (14:24). The time had finally come when he could move into the Promised Land. He was eighty-five! Why did Caleb get such a choice location in the land of promise?
CALEB LIVED ON A MOUNTAIN BECAUSE . . . HE REFUSED TO TAKE THE EASY WAY OUT. Caleb didn’t look for an easy place. He didn’t ask for someone to conquer it for him. The mountain was inhabited by a race of giants who lived in walled cities, but these obstacles didn’t stop Caleb. He wanted the mountain for his family’s inheritance. We will never get God’s blessings if we look for an easy road. Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) said, “Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable; however, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.” One must “agonize”1 to stay on the strait and narrow way (Luke 13:24), but it leads to heaven (Matthew 7:13, 14). John the Baptist did not wear soft clothes or live in a king’s house (Matthew 11:8), but he drew the greatest compliment Jesus ever gave (Matthew 11:11). Jesus chose the unpleasant Via Dolorosa (“way of the cross”) (John 10:18; Hebrews 12:2), but he conquered sin, Satan and the grave. Paul was “in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:27), but he became the greatest missionary the world is ever likely to see. The path of least resistance makes rivers and people crooked (cf. Philippians 2:15; Acts 2:40). The only way to build muscles is to resist an opposing force. The wise man said, “In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury” (Proverbs 14:23). The easy way is to drop out of school when the classes are hard, but education is worth the effort. The easy way is to quit when the boss gets on our case, but those who learn and stay get promoted. The easy way is to divorce when the inevitable trouble comes, but fiftieth wedding anniversaries are sweet (Matthew 19:6; Romans 7:4). The easy way is to give in to teen rebellion and let them do what they want, but seeing them through it is a rewarding experience (Matthew 16:26; Ephesians 6:4). The easy way is to quit serving the Lord when we make an embarrassing mistake, but heaven is too wonderful to miss (John 14:1). The easy way is to hold a grudge against a brother who hurts us, but forgiveness makes the pillow soft (Ephesians 4:32). The easy way is to let our lost friends alone, but seeing them become Christians is one of life’s great joys (Philippians 4:1; Proverbs 11:30).
. . . HE REFUSED TO LISTEN TO NAYSAYERS. Caleb was deaf to the negativism of his fellow spies. He was a winner in a loser generation – an optimist in the midst of pessimists. Caleb made the same trip the other spies made. He saw the same cities, the same walls, the same giants. But he saw more. Caleb saw GOD! The others couldn’t see God for the giants; Caleb couldn’t see the giants for God. The ten evidently had healthy faith before the spying mission (13:2-3), but somehow caught “grasshopper complex” while in the land of the Canaanites (13:33). The disease was contagious, it seems, for the people’s hearts soon melted,2 too. They focused on, “We can’t; the Canaanites are too big;” Caleb thought, “God can; the Canaanites don’t stand a chance.” They forgot that God had defeated the Egyptians, parted the Red Sea, fed them with manna, brought water from a rock and caused the earth to swallow some rebels. Caleb remembered. He thought on the “good report” (Philippians 4:8) and mentioned God’s promises four times (Numbers 14:6, 10, 12). A pessimist sees difficulty with every opportunity, but an optimist sees opportunity with every difficulty. One said, “Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud, one saw stars.” Two buckets worked at the same well. One was sad and complained that no matter how full he came up, he always went down empty. The other rejoiced that no matter how empty he went down, he always came up full. Most churches, being made up of people, have some of both kinds. Some say, “Why?” – others, “Why not?” Some say, “It won’t work here” – others, “We’ll never know until we try.” Consider this little poem:
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
Jesus taught that with God on our side, nothing is impossible
(Mark 9:23; 10:27). Paul could do “all things” through Christ (Philippians
4:13). If we let them, a few fearful brethren can retard the work of almost
any church. If we don’t, God can use us to accomplish things even the most
faithful did not imagine! Did Paul imagine when he left on that first missionary
journey that he would one day be able to say, “. . . the gospel . . . was
preached to every creature . . . under heaven . . .” (Colossians 1:23)?
Victory is assured if we stay within God’s will (2 John 9-11). Paul promised,
“Now thanks be unto God, Which always causeth us to triumph in Christ
. . .” (2 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:31). John adds, “. . . greater is
he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4; John 10:28-30).
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