Kept By His Power
I am as strong this day as in the day that Moses sent me; as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war and to go out and to come in,
Joshua 14: 11
It is a distressing fact that some of us who have proved God’s saving power yet doubt his power to keep. Do we not realize that he who is the Giver of grace is the One who also maintains us in his grace? Look at Caleb. Strong as he had been in the day Moses sent him to spy out the land, he was no less strong now as he uttered these words. Moreover what had proved sufficient for the ordinary demands of daily life was equal too to the special stresses of war. Hard years had intervened; yet his vigor at eighty-five was no less than at forty. There is but one explanation of his experience, as indeed there will be of ours at the end. He had been kept by the power of God.
The story of Caleb is one of those incredible stories that is often overlooked. Most of us know about Moses and how God called him, protected him, shaped him, and used him. We tell often of his birth and his ministry as he led the Israelites through the wilderness in their deliverance. We know about him being on the mountain with God and receiving the Ten Commandments.
We know a lot about Joshua, how he led the people of Israel across Jordan and around Jericho until the walls fell, and we have read about his great victories, both under the leadership of Moses and later as he led.
We only are given a small glimpse into the life of Caleb. But his life provides for us a great lesson of how to begin well and also end well. Life is filled with stories of those who began well. They were ahead of the pack in the race of life. They accomplished many great things. They left their mark. Unfortunately many of those stars didn’t end well. Their beginning days were glorious but their end was in shambles. The apostle Paul wrote, “The race is not to the swiftest, but he who endures will be saved.” It is just as important how we finish as it is how we begin.
Hebrews reminds us that we are running a race whose prize is the crown of life. The writer tells us that things of this earth can weigh us down and sin will attach itself to us and cause us to stumble, therefore we are to throw off the sins and weights by “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.”
We first meet Caleb as one of the twelve spies sent by Moses to assess Canaan. When the twelve return to make their reports we find a distinguishable difference between the assessment of Caleb and Joshua and the other ten:
“When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh, and brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the land’s fruit. They reported to Moses and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. But the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified (walled) and very large; moreover, we saw there the descendants of Anak [people of great stature and courage]. [The people descended from] Amalek live in the land of the Negev (South country); the Hittite, the Jebusite, and the Amorite live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the [Dead] Sea and along the side of the Jordan.”
Numbers 13: 25-29
The ten started well: “the land…certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” The ten had assessed the blessings of the land and found them to be good. Great start. Their next word changed the equation- “but.” That word changes our equations as well. We may say, “I know Jesus died for my sins. I know that He has forgiven me of those sins. I know that I am a child of God.” And then we add the “but.”
The ten said that it was true that blessings awaited the people but they would never be able to enjoy them because of the strength of the people of the land, the walled cities and giants. The size of the blessing got lost in the size of the opposition. The ten began to focus more on the hindrances than on God who had led them and overcame greater obstacles than these. How easy it was to forget the deliverance from Egypt by the hand of God. How easy it was to forget the parting of the Red Sea by the power of God. How easy it was to forget the manna and water and quail given by the provision of God. Often we find ourselves in the same state of mind as the ten. Forgetting how God brought us out of sin, how God opened up the way for us, and how God has kept us by His own power, when we’re facing opposition, we often see strong enemies, walled cities and huge giants rather than the Cross.
Now let’s see how Caleb reacted to the very same situation:
“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession of it; for we will certainly conquer it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people [of Canaan], for they are too strong for us.” Then all the congregation [of Israel] raised their voices and cried out, and the people wept that night. All the Israelites murmured [in discontent] against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Oh that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness! Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the Israelites. Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes [as a sign of grief], and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land through which we passed as spies 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 do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” But all the congregation said to stone Joshua and Caleb with stones. But the glory and brilliance of the Lord appeared at the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) before all the sons of Israel.”
Numbers 13: 30-31, 14: 1-2, 5-10
Caleb begins well by choosing to view the situation through the eyes of God rather than through the eyes of doubt. Caleb didn’t ignore the facts of the situation and neither should we. That the devil is strong, temptation is powerful, and we are helpless to resist, are facts. But those facts cannot stand against the power of God who is in us, goes before us and sustains us. Caleb’s faith wasn’t in the ability of Israel but in God that had met every need in the past. Caleb knew that just as God had been the One who delivered, who opened up the way through the Red Sea and had provided water from a rock in the desert, He would go before them and by His power would drive out their enemies. His confidence wasn’t in his strength but in his relationship with God. Centuries later, David as he faced another giant, would say, “I come against you in the name of the Lord.” That phrase is our help in the time of trouble. That day Caleb made a choice that would direct his life to the end. He chose that day to put his confidence in God rather than what his eyes saw. His words to the people reflect that position: “the Lord is with us.”
Apparently that phrase governed and guided Caleb throughout his life. Our text today tells the story of the end of Caleb’s life-a life that ended well. He is now eighty-five. Some forty years have passed since he stood before the congregation and told them that they could possess the land not because of their strength but because the “Lord is with us” and even in his old age, he says that it still holds true. As he stands that day as an old man, he makes a claim that in the natural seems impossible. “My strength,” he says, hasn’t diminished since that day forty years ago.” Most of us would have looked at him and thought, “What an old fool. Nobody at 85 can be as strong as they were at 45.” That’s because we measure strength by natural means but Caleb measures strength by his confidence in God. Although he has grown old, his faith in God remains strong. Just as he knew forty years ago, he knew now that only through the power of God would he be able to overcome the adversary. Caleb teaches that the very same God who delivered him from Egypt (a type of sin and bondage of the devil) would be the very same God that would bring him into his inheritance. Caleb knew that the God who gave deliverance would also give final victory.
For us we need to know that the same Jesus who saved us from our sins will be the same One who will keep us in our journey and will ultimately be the One who will come and gather us and bring us into our eternal home.
Our confidence doesn’t rest in our capabilities but solely in the power of God.
“Then he said to me, “This [continuous supply of oil] is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel [prince of Judah], saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of whom the oil is a symbol],’ says the Lord of hosts.”
I pray God gives you grace to see beyond your circumstances and see “the Lord High and lifted up” and that you “know in whom I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to him against that day.”
Dr. John Thompson