Why Caleb Lived
Some live on mountains to be isolated. Others like
the view. A few (who moved from lower elevations) like it because
“the basement never floods.” In Old Testament times, mountain property
was popular for a reason that might escape our modern notice. Living
for the most part in what we could call a “military state” in days of hand-to-hand
fighting, they found that the high ground was much easier to defend than
a valley. Jerusalem, for instance, made an ideal capital for David
because it is located on top of a mountain (cf., Isaiah 2:2-3). Caleb
received one of the mountains of Canaan as his family’s inheritance.
Why, of all the Israelites, did Caleb receive such a choice location?
On A Mountain, Part 2
Caleb Lived On A Mountain Because
He Refused To Hedge. In a time when it was popular to
diversify, Caleb put all his eggs in the same basket. He wholly followed
the Lord (Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8-10). Every ounce, every inch,
every nerve, every fiber belonged to God (Psalms 119:145). Jesus
did not pour out his blood at Calvary so we could be half-hearted (John
6:27; Philippians 2:12-13; Hebrews 2:3; 4:11; 2 Peter 1:101)
or lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). The house of Stephanas “addicted2
themselves to the ministry of the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:15) and the
Macedonians “first gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Paul wrote, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them;
that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto
the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save
thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:15-16). God’s family
is a “peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
A few centuries before Christ a man named Alexander conquered
almost all of the known world using military strength, cleverness and a
bit of diplomacy. Once Alexander and a small company of soldiers
approached a strongly fortified walled city. Alexander, standing
outside the walls, demanded to see the king. When he arrived, Alexander
insisted that the city surrender. The king laughed, “Why should I
surrender to you? You can’t do us any harm!” But Alexander
offered to give the king a demonstration. He ordered his men to line
up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward
a sheer cliff. The townspeople gathered on the wall and watched in
shocked silence as, one by one, Alexander’s soldiers marched without hesitation
right off the cliff to their deaths! After ten soldiers died, Alexander
ordered the others to return to his side. The king immediately surrendered.
He realized that if a few men were actually willing to commit suicide at
this leader’s command, then nothing could stop his eventual victory.
Are we willing to be as obedient to the ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ?
Are we that dedicated and committed?
He Refused To Be Bitter About
The Past. Because the ten had the hearts of grasshoppers,
the lionhearted one had to delay his victory for four decades. When
Israel finally entered the Promised Land, Caleb was an old man. He
could have complained about the wasted time. He could have given
up because the majority was wrong. But he didn’t become bitter or
lose focus. Instead of looking back, Caleb looked ahead and claimed
his mountain. We sometimes have to suffer for the mistakes of others,
but we cannot become bitter and unforgiving. Paul wrote, “Let all
bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put
away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
said, “An irritable person is like a hedgehog rolled up the wrong way,
tormenting himself with his own prickles.” In his book, Lee:
The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil
War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains
of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried
that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire.
She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing
with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, “Cut it down, my
dear Madam, and forget it.” It is better to forgive the injustices
of the past than to allow them to remain and to let bitterness take root
and poison the rest our life.3
Love “thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5) and focuses on “good things”
(Philippians 4:8). Jesus taught, “And when ye stand praying, forgive,
if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven
may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
There is some value in looking back, of course.
After all, Moses would later tell some of these very people: “And
thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty
years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what
was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no”
(Deuteronomy 8:2). We look back to remember Christ and his death
for us in the Lord’s Supper, but we also look ahead to the time when Christ
will come again for us (1 Corinthians 11:24). We need to check our
rear-view mirrors occasionally when driving, but if we look back too much,
we’ll have an accident. When looking back keeps us from looking ahead,
then we are disobeying God. Paul expressed the Christian’s philosophy
in these words: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and
reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark
for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians
Harry S. Truman once said, “Men who live in the past remind
me of a toy I’m sure all of you have seen. The toy is a small wooden
bird called the ‘Floogie Bird.’ Around the Floogie Bird’s neck is
a label reading, ‘I fly backwards. I don’t care where I’m going.
I just want to see where I’ve been.’” Jesus spoke plainly about the
danger of looking back to the previous life when he said, “. . . No man,
having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit4
for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62; cf. 2 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 10:38;
2 Peter 2:20-22). Paul said, “. . . let us run with patience the
race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher
of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of
God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Don’t settle for less than a
“Mountain Avenue” address (in the Promised Land).
1seek (zeteo); KJV—seek 100,
seek for 5, go about 4, desire 3, misc. 7; 119; “to crave, demand something
2tasso, “to arrange in
an orderly manner, determine.”
3Michael Williams, Morganfield,
Kentucky. Leadership, Vol. 5, No. 4.
4euthetos, “well placed,