The Expository Files

Caleb: Following the Lord Fully

[ From The Editors: This article is the tenth in a series we will publish this year, calling attention to twelve people who though being dead, instruct us (Heb. 11:4). They speak to us through the testimony of their lives as written in Scripture. Over the next few months, we will develop a theme title. And, near the end of the year we are planning to publish these twelve articles in book form (Kindle, Nook and old fashioned print and ink). These passages and people can equip us and motivate us toward greater service to our Lord.]

{First appeared in Biblical Insights}

My favorite lessons to put together are the ones that tell the story of a Bible character. Especially is that the case when the Scriptures use a unique phrase for that particular person. For instance, Abraham is the only character in the Bible who is called “the friend of God.” David, and only David, is referred to as a “man after God’s own heart.” These descriptions are meant to motivate us to identify the kind of characteristics that are pleasing to God and then put them to use in our own lives as His people.

Caleb, who at times is overshadowed by his fellow spy, Joshua, is the only Bible character who is said to have “followed the Lord fully.” Six times this description is assigned to him (Num. 14:24, 32:12; Deut. 1:36; Josh. 14:8,9,14). The very first time was when the 12 spies returned from viewing the land of Canaan. Ten men said that the cities were too secure, the people were too big, and the task was too overwhelming. Two spies viewed the situation from a higher perspective.

Caleb indeed “followed the Lord fully.” What does that phrase mean? And how can we do the same as we make our way to the land sworn to the faithful?
By displaying a different spirit. That’s what God recognized about His servant (Num. 14:24). Caleb was outnumbered five-to-one when he spoke out against the other spies. But still he stood up and reminded the nation that if the Lord was with them, the other side would be their prey. And when “all the congregation said to stone them with stones” (Num. 14:10), he did not back down. He displayed a different spirit, even when it was unpopular to do so.
You may have to be the person who takes a stand at the office or in the classroom. But you may also have to do so in your own home and say, “We shouldn’t be watching this” or “We shouldn’t be talking about that.” You may have to display a different spirit in the church and say, “This isn’t right” or “We don’t have authority for that.” It’s how you follow the Lord fully.

By taking God at His word. “Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (Num. 14:30). Because of their lack of faith, the Israelites were made to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, one year for every day they spied out the land. At the beginning of the book of Numbers the men in Israel, 20 years old and up, were 603,500 strong (1:45; 2:32). Over the next 40 years, all but two of these men would die. On average, that’s 15,000 deaths per year or 40 funerals a day. Yet Caleb still believed that he would see the promised land. At the end of the wilderness wanderings, he said to Joshua, “You know the word which the Lord spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea” (Josh. 14:6). Forty years had not diminished his faith in the promise of God.

How long are you prepared to wait on the Lord? When you think you’re all alone and that no one cares or understands what you’re going through, remember Heb. 13:5: “for He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.’” When you feel like you can’t go one more step or fight one more battle and you start to wonder whether it’s worth it anymore, read 1 John 2:25: “This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” That’s His word to you. Follow Him fully and believe.

By finishing what you start. Caleb did not fade into the sunset. At 85 years old, he was not looking for a place in Canaan to retire and grow a garden. He was ready for war, to do what God intended 45 years before (Josh. 14:10-12). And he chose the sons of Anakim, the very people the original spies said they could not defeat, to drive out of the land (Josh. 15:4). Following the Lord fully means following Him all the way through.

It is important to get started. It is just as essential to bring your work to its completion. We are still at war. We are still surrounded by worldliness that must be driven out. We cannot reach the point where we are satisfied with where we are. The crown of life is reserved for those who have “finished the course” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Follow where He leads for sure. And follow all the way.

The descendants of Caleb came to be known as the “Calebites” (1 Sam. 25:3). Wouldn’t you like to be known as a follower of the man who followed the Lord fully? To do so is to march closer and closer to our eternal rest.

By Bubba Garner 
From Expository Files 19.10; October 2012