Summary: 19th in series on Joshua. This deals with Caleb and his faith. The question is asked, though: what is faith, and what is presumption? Sometimes what we call trust is really superstition.
Joshua 14:6-14 – Faith or Presumption?
Today we are straying from the controversial topics I’ve been speaking on lately. This message comes with the intention to build up your faith, not make you question it all. Today we are looking at the OT character of Caleb. Turn with me as we read from Numbers 13:1-4,6,21-30-14:9. Then, from Joshua 14:6-14.
I read these fairly lengthy passages to show you what kind of a man Caleb was. The name “Caleb” means “dog”. However, in the ancient language called Akkadian, the name came to mean a loyal servant of the king. If you think of it, both those mean faithfulness. After, dogs are man’s best friend.
And faithfulness certainly applies to describe the Caleb we are looking at today. I think there are a lot of qualities that we could look at from his life. We could speak of his desire to fight giants, even at the age of 85, and connect it to the fact that Christians never get too old to be useful.
We could speak of his generosity. His daughter asked for a good piece of land, and Caleb more than willingly obliged. But, I felt that I wanted to focus more on his tremendous faith. That was the dominant quality that led him through life.
From the 1st time that he saw the Promised Land, 40 years before the book of Joshua took place, he believed God wanted his people to have it, to own it, to work it, to raise their families in it. Others disagreed. The majority of the spies, 10 out of 12, believed the challenge would be too hard, and they backed off. They gave a bad report, and only 2 of the 12, Caleb and Joshua, gave good reports. And of all the men who left Egypt, they were the only men over the age of 20 who would move into Canaan. Caleb’s faith drove him on, and he finally got a piece of the beauty that he had seen and sampled years before. Faith paid off.
Now, all this begs the question: what is faith? We talk of it. We sing of it. But what is it? Here’s how Hebrews 11:1 defines it: “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” It’s about hope. It’s about waiting. It’s about confidence.
Granted, the NT writer James adds this little description: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” So faith is not just sitting around waiting for things to get better. It’s about doing things as well. I wouldn’t call it faith if a person wants to become a mighty pray-er, but never prays. What? Are they just sitting around waiting to be zapped with inspiration? That’s not faith. That’s laziness. That’s presumption.
Which is where we can gain some insights from Caleb. What he had was faith, not presumption. Caleb had faith that the Promised Land could be taken. He saw it, he believed it, he waited for it, and he finally received it. He was living out what Romans 4 says of Abraham, another hero of “the faith”. V20-21 of Romans 4 says, “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”
Now, what this speaks of is faith. Faith, according to Hebrews 11, James 2, and Romans 4 is something like this: God speaks, and tells you what He’s going to do. You hear it and believe it. Then, you keep doing what you should until the time comes that what God said would happen does happen.
That part about hearing God or knowing His will is important. Because, without this, it is not faith; it is presumption. Presumption could be defined as guessing. It’s not that it has no hope. On the contrary, it does. It has tons of hope. But it takes more than hope. It takes some common sense, too.
For example, sometimes we need to make choices based on the weather. We need a sunny day for a day off or lawn-mowing or to put clothes on the line. So the optimistic ones of us say, “Well, have faith that it will be sunny.” Have faith. In what? The weather? Is that safe? You see, we call that faith, but it’s not. Faith is trusting in God’s promises. That is hoping to get what you want. That’s not faith. That’s presumption.
It’s like the story I read. It happened during the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War. The Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet, a rise in the barrier wall, and from it he looked out in the direction of the enemy. Now, his officers suggested that this wasn’t very smart and maybe he ought to duck while passing the place. “Nonsense,” he sanpped. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—.” And you know what happened. A moment later General Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded.