“And Caleb stilled the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.'”
(Caleb, Numbers 13:30, KJV)
Persistence: noun, Holding firmly and steadfastly to a purpose, state, or undertaking despite obstacles, warnings, or setbacks.
- Colonel Sanders was told “no” 1,009 times before finally selling his chicken to a restaurant. He always knew his 11 secret herbs and spices would one day catch on even as he slept in his car shlepping his dream
- Lucille Ball was told by an acting coach in 1927 to find another profession, “any profession”. She went on to make 80 movies and 500 television shows in a career that spanned 50 years
- an MGM exec said of Fred Astaire: “Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.”
- At 22, Abe Lincoln failed in business; at 23, he was defeated in a race for state legislature; at 24 he again failed at business; his sweetheart died when he was 26; he suffered a nervous breakdown at 27; defeated in race for speaker at 29, elector at 31, Congress at 34, Senate at 46, Vice-President at 47, and again defeated for Senate at 49 years of age before becoming our 16th president at age 51
- Walt Disney sought loans from 300 banks before securing one in order to build his first theme park
They all had one thing in common: they wouldn’t be stopped. Someone once said that character is measured by what it takes to stop you. Persistence. Perseverance. Insistence. They all had it.
Look up “persistence” in a Bible dictionary and you might just find a picture of Caleb. Here is a guy who, in his later years, still mustered enough gumption to sound the charge, join the fray, wade into the deep, do the unthinkable, press his luck and tempt fate. All at one time. A warrior he, Caleb wanted to mount an offensive against an unassailable enemy of giants even in the bodily era of arthritis, rickety knees, gnarled paws and old bones.
We’re not taking the antediluvian age here. This wasn’t the day when great-great-Grandpa worked the fields when he was pushing six hundred and still cutting a rug a century later! Caleb was every bit his age of 85 when he spoke his iron-willed mind to Joshua.
“And here I am today, eighty-five years old! I’m as strong as I was the day Moses sent me out. I’m as strong as ever in battle, whether coming or going. So give me this hill country that God promised me. You yourself heard the report, that the Anakim were there with their great fortress cities. If God goes with me, I will drive them out just as God said.”
(Joshua 14:12, The Message)
Caleb’s name means “dog” and one wonders what kind of parents would name their son after a mongrel and why. Was he an outcast? We also know from his pedigree that he was not a Jew even though he is seen as a prince among Jews from the tribe of, yes, Judah. Caleb was an Edomite which happened to be a little branch from Esau’s family tree. These were the people who hated their cousins and made life miserable for them. But somewhere along the line, Caleb was adopted into the family of God’s chosen people, and not only that: into the very line of Messiah!
Scripture also reveals some other adoptees into the Lion’s Tribe: Rahab (an Amorite harlot) and Ruth (a Moabitess, the very people who were forbidden to worship with the Jews). And why not? Never lose the wonder that we too, who were far off, Paul said—aliens, strangers, without hope, without God—have been brought near to this wonderful Life and partakers of it (Eph. 2:13), having been adopted into His forever Family (Eph. 1:5).
The old guy had some moxie, I’ll give him that. An old man, fighting for his adopted homeland against an army of giants. The Anakim. The offspring of the fallen ones, the Nephilim (see Genesis 6:1,2). The sons of Anak. Their very name was whispered in hushed tones for fear of invoking a visit. The Moabites called them the Emim, the “terrors” or “horrible ones.” Others spoke of the “Rephaim”, the ‘shades’, ‘shadowy’ or ‘ghostly’ ones. Yikes! Yet others referred to them as Zamzummins, meaning ‘the ones who spoke gibberish.’
Get the picture?
This old man said, “uh, Joshua, my friend, those weirdos are squatting on my land. My wife and I would like to retire there but they’re in my way! I’ll not have them as my neighbors! I’d like to clear-cut the land of them so me and the Mrs. can have our dream home in peace. Whattaya say?”
Hebron. The land of Abraham. Beautiful high country. The best of the lot. Caleb wasn’t settling for anyone’s back forty. He had eyed the best and would settle for nothing less than that. Caleb was one of ten spies Moses sent into Canaan and, evidently, when he stumbed upon Hebron (Num. 13:22) it started a love affair with that place. A marginal note in the NASB says, in the place of “they came”, a possible rendering is “one came.” Probably our man Caleb.
Something in him stirred when he laid eyes on it. Maybe it was the knowledge that this is where Abraham had built his altar to the Lord. Where the progenitor of a new nation, a chosen nation, looked up into the skies and the Lord showed him the stars and promised a people that would number the earth as the stars seeded the heavens. The name Hebron means, “fellowship.” It is where Abraham experienced perpetual fellowship with God. And Caleb wanted in on that.
In spite of danger, wrecklessness, age and giants, Caleb saw it as a Divine mission and knew its end would be joy evermore. That is why he made his plea. That is why he said “we are well able to take it.” He knew God wanted him to have it and would move heaven, earth and giants so he could.
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible
And does the things others cannot do