Joshua 14:1-15.
Loyalty to God

Jesus promised abundant life to those who place their faith and trust in Him.[1]  Yet, when we look at the lives of many who would testify that they are Christians, it would seem that their lives are often not so characterized as they fail to realize many of the blessings that are promised to people of faith.  Many who call themselves Christians, if not most, have divided loyalties.  Claiming the faith, these are not active in the expression of that faith, focusing more of their activity on themselves and the things of this world.  These are those who sporadically fellowship with other Christians and rarely, if ever, spend time in Bible study.  Their prayers are also sporadic, and often voiced only in times of need to a God who they do not really know.  Their loyalties are divided between the distractions of this world, and the priorities of faith.

We similarly find divided loyalties among those who are regular in their fellowship with other Christians.  Though not “sold out” to the world, they are not “sold out” to the LORD either.  It is as though they have one foot planted in the church in order to receive the benefits of the LORD, and another foot planted in the world in order to receive the benefits of the world.  Such a marginal commitment to the LORD also fails to empower one to receive all of the blessings that the LORD promises to those who place their trust in Him, and it also opens them up to the consequences of the sin that so characterizes this lost and pagan world.

The “greatest commandment” is simple:  to love the LORD with all of your heart.[2]  Only then are we following the LORD in obedience to His commandment and His word.  We cannot find the full measure of blessing that the LORD offers when we make Him compete with other authorities for our heart.

One can determine another’s true priorities by observing how they exercise and expend their resources, particularly their skills, talents, time, and money.  When we give the bulk of our resources to our own purposes rather than support those of the kingdom of God, we demonstrate the limitations of our loyalty to Him.  Such choices have consequences, and as we turn away from the LORD, we turn away from the blessings He promises, particularly those blessings to protect us, sustain us, and provide for us.  We find His protection lost when we choose to take part in self-destructive behaviors.  We find His sustenance and provision compromised when we rely solely on ourselves and others.

We can find inspiration in the examples of those who have maintained unquestioned loyalty to the LORD, even when immersed in a world that has so many distractions.  The book of Joshua chronicles the entrance of the new nation of Israel into the land that was promised to Abraham, their ancestor.  The story of their journey and of the conquest of the land is one of divided loyalties, with some Israelites experiencing the consequences of turning from God to the distractions of this world, and others experiencing the blessings that are found from a life of loyalty to Him.  The inheritance of the land is a seminal moment in Hebrew history, a moment that was delayed by forty years, the period of two full generations, a delay that was the consequence of the rebellion against the LORD by the bulk of Hebrew leadership.  These two generations experienced their salvation from the burden of the Pharaoh’s enslavement, but failed to realize the blessings that come from loyalty to the LORD.  However, the LORD did sustain those who were faithful to Him, a community that included Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb.  However, because of the delay, Moses and Aaron had aged to well-over 100 years, and died before the nation would enter the land. 

The LORD gave to Joshua the responsibility to divide the land among the Israelites.

Joshua 16:1-5.  And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them. 2By lot was their inheritance, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe. 3For Moses had given the inheritance of two tribes and an half tribe on the other side Jordan: but unto the Levites he gave none inheritance among them. 4For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance. 5As the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did, and they divided the land.

The inheritance had been divided in three portions, two of which were ordained by God’s command.  Prior to crossing the Jordan River into the land of their ancestors, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh refused to enter the land, preferring that land to the east and northeast of the Sea of Galilee that had already been conquered by the Israelites.  This left the remainder to settle the land west of the Jordan river.  However, it was also the LORD’s plan that the tribe of Levi, the Levites, would not receive an inheritance of land, but would be provided places to live and would be supported by tithes of the people so that they could serve to provide spiritual leadership for the nation.

It is curious that as the land had been divided by drawing lots, and up to this point the largest parcel of the land had not been assigned, and the tribe of Judah had not been included in the distribution.  God had a special plan for Judah.

Joshua 14:6.  Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the LORD said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadeshbarnea.

It was forty years prior when Israel traveled, rather directly, from the miraculous parting of the Red Sea to Kadesh-Barnea, on the southern border of the Promised Land when the leadership of Israel stood against Moses and refused to enter.[3]  One of the arguments used by the leaders was that there were giants in the land, sons of Anak.  Only Joshua and Caleb argued that the land was a good land and that the nation should follow the command of the LORD and enter it.  When their pleas fell on deaf ears, they, along with Moses and Aaron grieved greatly.  It was then that the LORD promised to Caleb of the tribe of Judah,[4] and the family group of Kenaz,[5] that though all the Israelite adults over twenty years old would die in the wilderness, he would survive to receive the blessing.

Consequently, this discussion that is taking place between Joshua and Caleb is the fruition of the experience that the two of them shared forty years earlier.  It was these two faithful men, brothers in their faith, who stood together with Moses and Aaron.  Joshua personally heard the promises made to Caleb, so it is reasonable the Caleb could bring them to mind.

Joshua 14:7.  Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.

Like Joshua, when Caleb observed the land, he found it to be fruitful and a good land.  He did not fear the opposition of its inhabitants.  He trusted in the promises of the LORD to bring them safely into the land, so even though there were walled cities and men of great stature, these were not an issue in his heart.

When we place our trust in the LORD, the barriers that would serve to keep us from obedience to him fall like Jericho’s walls.  It is in that trust that we have placed ourselves in a position to be blessed by the LORD.  The blessing that the LORD intended for Caleb was special:

Joshua 14:8-9.  Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God.

Note the reference to the melting of people’s hearts has appeared earlier in the book of Joshua when Rahab told the spies that the hearts of the Canaanites melted in fear of the advancing Israelites, quite the opposite situation from forty years ago.  Though ten of the spies who entered the Promised Land at Kadesh Barnea were overcome with fear, Caleb maintained his faith in the LORD (along with Joshua).  The LORD’s response to Caleb’s loyalty was simple:  not only would he receive the inheritance of land west of the Jordan River, he would specifically receive as an inheritance all of the land that the spies from Kadesh Barnea set foot on.[6]  As a result, Caleb of the tribe of Judah would establish for his people the largest portion of the inheritance.  The tribe of Judah would grow to be the largest and most stable of the tribes, and though Judah would come the only kings who were faithful to the LORD, and though his line would come both King David, and the LORD, Jesus Christ.  The LORD’s promise to Abraham to bless the LORD through him would come through Caleb the Kenezite, of the tribe of Judah.

Joshua 14:10-11.  And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. 11As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.

Not only was it time for Caleb to receive the blessing, he testified to Joshua that he is now ready to claim it.  At the age of eighty-five, we might think that Caleb might consider himself too old to take on such a challenge.  This land that is given to Caleb is still inhabited by the Canaanites, so the task that stands before Caleb is not a trivial one.  It is one that will be successful only through obedience and submission to the LORD as Caleb would need to rely on the LORD to actually take possession of the land.

When the LORD calls upon us to take on a God-sized task, our response might often be a little less faithful than that of Caleb.  We might look at our own weakness, our own innate inabilities and formulate a set of rationalizations that convince ourselves that our unwillingness to follow the LORD in obedience is somehow justified.  In side-stepping the task that the LORD brings into our lives, we miss a tremendous blessing.

Many times when I have attempted to recruit people to help with disaster relief efforts I heard the same argument, “I am too old.”  Because of their retirement status, the preponderant majority of disaster relief workers are senior adults who have enough faith in the LORD to trust Him to use them in the field.  The result is astounding as many thousands of senior adults have been active in assisting those whose lives are disrupted by hurricanes and floods through feeding, clean-up, rebuilding, and personal interaction with the victims. 

When recruiting people for ministries within the church body, I usually hear similar arguments from people who unknowingly declare their lack of loyalty to the LORD as they recite a list of reasons why they cannot or will not serve.  The LORD simply cannot compete for their time and talents when they choose to expend them on their own priorities and chosen pursuits. 

The consequences of choosing to dishonor the LORD in this fashion would be similar to that which Caleb might have experienced had he decided he was too old, and was no longer in a position to take the land.  He would not have received the blessing that the LORD had reserved for him.  When we prove disloyal to the LORD, placing our allegiances in ourselves and the things of this world, we also miss out on the blessings that the LORD has reserved for us. 

Joshua 14:12.  Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said. 

Forty years earlier when Caleb took his stand alongside Joshua, Moses, and Aaron, his was a bold one that required both faith in the LORD and the courage that comes from trusting in the LORD’s protection.  When Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to enter the land against the advice of the ten other spies, the resistance by the disloyal majority became violent and they threatened to stone Joshua, Caleb, Moses, and Aaron should they force them to enter the land.[7]

Caleb fully knew the task that the LORD had given to him.  God called Caleb to take the land, and this was the very land that his ten opponents feared the most.  It was this land that they declared was filled with giants that were so large that they felt like “grasshoppers” in their sight.[8]  Though their testimony was a gross exaggeration that was intended to overwhelm Joshua and Caleb’s pleas, their fear was real.  Caleb had no such fear 40 years ago and he had no such fear now.

We have no need to fear when we are in the LORD’s will, even when the nature of the task that the LORD calls us to may bring with it some initial anxieties when we approach the task with a less than strong faith.  We often find confidence and peace when faced with a task only when we have the initial assurance of our success.  True faith in God gives us that very assurance.  We see this in Caleb’s statement, “I shall be able to drive them out.”

Joshua 14:13-15.  And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. 14Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel. 15And the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims. And the land had rest from war.

Though Joshua’s words are not recorded, this is only the second time in the book of Joshua that the giving of a “blessing” is mentioned.  As the other tribes[9] received their inheritance by lot, Joshua went through the edifying process of blessing Caleb.  The giving of blessing was a significant act in Israelite thought, one that was often accompanied by significant gifts.  Caleb was receiving praise and honor for his years of loyalty to the LORD, not just from Joshua, but from the LORD Himself, as the reward was a part of God’s plan for Caleb. 

The LORD literally gave to Judah, the tribe of Caleb, all of the land that he had surveyed prior to their failure to enter at Kadesh-Barnea forty years prior while dividing up the remaining land among the other tribes by lot.  In addition, the LORD gave specifically to Caleb the existing city of Hebron as a personal inheritance.  Kirjath-Arba (literally, “City of Arba”) is significant in that was the place where Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had died.[10]  Furthermore, Arba was the patriarch of the Anakim.  This was the center of the “land of the giants.” Those whom the rebellious Israelites believed to be the most formidable barrier to their conquest of the land.  Now, it is this very place that is given to Caleb.  Caleb’s conquest of Hebron is recorded in the first chapter of Judges.

There are very few individuals whose lives are chronicled in the Old Testament who share the spiritual integrity of Caleb, a man who not only had a great faith in the LORD, but who also would not compromise that faith in the face of adversity.  This is the very definition of loyalty.

The LORD promises eternal life to all who place their faith and trust in Him.  Many who turn to the LORD in faith are thankful for that salvation, but their commitment to Him is not as full and deep as it could be.  A simple faith saves, but a shallow faith can fail to receive the benefits of the inheritance that the LORD has prepared for us.  We see this in the inheritance of the land by the Israelites.  Unlike the others, Caleb’s would not compromise his loyalty to the LORD, and as the leader of the tribe of Judah, that loyalty was both rewarded and recognized.  The others received the land, but by lot, not by blessing.  The others would eventually fall away from the LORD and be destroyed, yet Judah would remain, and it would be through Judah, largely due to the loyalty to the LORD of a young man named Caleb, that the lineage of the Messiah would come. 

We can see in the experience of Caleb, three ways to respond to the gift of salvation.  As we look at our own faith:  

(1)   Do we live out a faith that is similar to the tribes of the Transjordan, choosing to live out our faith our own way?  It is evident that these tribes never contributed much to the kingdom of God. 

(2)   Or, do we live out a faith that is similar to those who received their inheritance by lot, accepting the free gift that God gave them, but giving little in return?  These would ultimately fall away.

(3)   Or, do we live out a faith like that of Caleb who would never compromise his loyalty to the LORD, even in the face of life-threatening adversity?  The LORD lavished His blessing on Caleb and was able to use him and his children to accomplish His purposes for all of mankind.

Let us look at these three responses to faith, let us remember the loyalty of Caleb and strive to live out our faith without compromise as we truly love the LORD with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  It will be amazing to see what God will then do.

[1] John 10:10.

[2] Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6, 16, 30:20; Joshua 22:5; 23:11; Psalm 31:23; 116:1; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27.

[3] Numbers 13.

[4] 1 Chronicles 2:9, 4:15..

[5] 1 Chronicles, 4:15; Howard, pg. 327.

[6] Deuteronomy 1:36/

[7] Numbers 14:10.

[8] Numbers 13:33.

[9] Other than the Transjordan tribes.

[10] Genesis 23:2.