Summary: Caleb was resolute in his faith and objectives. He shows us that life is a matter of perspective. Where others saw obstacles, he saw opportunities.
When I was in high school in New Jersey, I attended a church whose youth leader loved to sing an old-timey chorus: “I want that mountain, I want that mountain; where the milk and honey flow, where the grapes of Eschol grow. I want that mountain, I want that mountain, the mountain that the Lord has given me!”
We’re looking at Caleb, who wanted that mountain! Here's a guy claiming God's promise. Caleb was the other spy, who, with Joshua, was not intimidated by the Canaanites and their fortified cities. They unflinchingly wanted to engage the foe, confident that God would grant victory. Caleb believed the land could be conquered. The others were fearful, intimidated. Their majority report “caused the people's hearts to melt.” So Caleb and Joshua were the only two who lived through the 40-year wilderness journey; all others died, making Caleb and Joshua the two oldest Jews to enter the Promised Land. At the time of this chapter, Israel had been engaged in combat for five years and Caleb was 85 years old. That did not deter him. He had the energy of faith. He was eager to claim the land. We can picture the reunion of Joshua and Caleb, two aging veterans and battle-buddies.
Caleb is overshadowed by Joshua, yet he is a significant person, a distinguished man of faith and courage. He had a special interest in Hebron, a mountainous region. This was where Abraham’s wife Sarah died. Abraham purchased a burial cave for her; it was the only land he ever owned in Canaan. God's promise of land was for Abraham's descendants. Here he too was buried, and this is where Isaac and Rebekkah, Jacob, and Joseph were laid to rest.
One of the objections the other ten spies had was their claim that there were “giants” in the land. This was an exaggeration. The word for giants can mean people of renown, of substance, people to be reckoned with. By this estimate, Caleb himself was a giant! Do we ever shrink from something because of the opposition? Do we avoid conflict, choosing an easier path? This reminds me of a quote by Chesterton: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
Caleb was an uncomplicated man of action. He had a goal, and was confident God would help him attain it. He trusted in God, when others shrank in fear. We're told that he “followed the Lord God wholeheartedly.” He fixed his gaze on God and not on circumstance. Alan Redpath stated, “The majority measured the giants by their own strength; Caleb and Joshua measured the giants by God’s strength.” They maintained a steadfast resolve and were towers of strength to the younger generation. Caleb approached his goal unswervingly. When he pointed out that, unlike the other spies, he “fully” followed the Lord, he wasn't boasting but simply stating a fact. With confidence he declared that by faith he was eager to do what he had been saying all along could be done!
...And he wanted to finish big, in the land he admired decades past. When he first entered Canaan and saw Hebron, he vowed to return and claim it. Which he did. He drove out the so-called giants (chapter 15), then offered the hand of his daughter in marriage to the man who could conquer the city of Debir, prime real estate. Othniel took up the challenge and became Caleb’s son-in-law. These were men of resolve, firm in their faith, clear in their convictions, goal-oriented. It's been said, “The Christian life is a life of activity, a life of vigour, a life of exertion. The strength is given to us by the Lord, but we have to act” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones).
Caleb shows us that life is a matter of perspective. Some see obstacles where others see opportunities. A shoe company sent a sales representative to a third-world country, hoping to establish a market there. He called the company saying, “This won't work; no one wears shoes here.” He returned home, and another sales representative was sent. He called the company saying, “Send me all the shoes you can; no one wears shoes here!”
Joshua did more than give Caleb Hebron; he blessed Caleb. A blessing conveys respect, indicating that those we bless have value. The NT Greek word for “blessing” means to speak well of someone, to wish them a fortunate life. Blessings are given in the name of the Lord--the Source of all power and prosperity. Blessings are for someone's material and spiritual abundance; for God's best.
We too have an inheritance. According to the Apostle Peter, God is reserving a place for us in Heaven, that, unlike material things, “can never perish, spoil, or fade” (I Pet 1:3-4). We anticipate our heavenly city “whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). Because of the cross, we are part of God's family.