Caleb: the old warrior prince
He was a tough old man. Probably not very tall but wiry and deeply tanned from decades of surviving in the desert. Much of his life had been spent in Egyptian slavery. The rest had been spent wandering in the wilderness. Able to provide for a total of three wives and two concubines, he likely was a man who took his responsibilities seriously. But there’s something remarkable about Caleb that most of us don’t realize: he wasn’t an Israelite at all.
The Bible gives clear record of this old man’s lineage. Caleb son of Jephunneh was a Kenizite (Numbers 32:12, Josh 14:6, 14), which means he was a descendant of Kenaz, a grandson of Esau (Gen. 36:11). As such, he would clearly have no portion in the Promised Land. His name means “a dog” and is quite telling in that dogs often symbolized someone who was not of the chosen people (see Matthew 15:26)
But God changed everything.
At some point in their story, Caleb’s family must have become proselytes to the Jewish faith and migrated into the community, becoming accepted into the tribe of Judah (Numbers 13:6). This Gentile by descent became a prince of Judah insomuch that Moses chose him to represent the entire tribe in a covert operation into Canaan Land (Numbers 13:2). His faith in this God who was not of his ancestry earned him Jehovah’s respect. While the other Israelite spies perished in the wilderness, Caleb was preserved.
Now, at eighty years old, he was ready to do his best work yet.
The best is yet to come
Many of us would be ready to retire at 80. Caleb could have said, “I’ve already done a lot for God.” But, instead of resting on his reputation for past victories, he literally asked Joshua for the toughest job around. If you’ve ever hiked up a mountain, you know it can be tough. Now, imagine fighting up that same mountain. It’s common knowledge that whoever holds the high ground in war has the advantage. The guy moving up hill loses energy while his enemies at the higher elevation can count on their arrows, slingstones, etc. to go further thanks to gravity.
And this was what Caleb, a Gentile proselyte, wanted as a gift.
Why? Why not a nice lush valley or somewhere near the coast?
We don’t know. But we do know that this man had a fighting spirit. And that is what we must acquire if we want to earn God’s respect. I want His respect, don’t you?
There are three lessons I’d like to pull from this text.
- Embrace the hard fights:
Like Caleb, don’t run from the challenges you’re called to face. God’s idea of a gift is something that will mold your character—not necessarily make you feel good. His gifts challenge you.
Caleb looked at the mountain, recognized it was going to be a tough job, but asked for the challenge because he knew that the view of victory would be worth it all.
Frankly, Caleb considered the giants who had entrenched themselves there to be already defeated. As he said, “the Anakites were there” not are there. In reality, the Anakites were still living in the mountains but in Caleb’s mind, this was already a done deal. Apply that mentality to whatever you’re facing today. Believe that, if the Lord helps you, the situation will be defeated in Jesus’ name.
- What you do matters to God, not who you are
Many times in Scripture, God used non-Israelites to accomplish His purpose. In 2023, it’s important to realize that God looks at your attitude and deeds not your past. This is why anyone can be used by God, no matter how old or young, regardless of your education level, race or income level.
All God is looking for is a humble heart that’s willing to believe him in the face of opposition. Which brings me to my final point.
- Don’t let the battles of life wear you down.
Life is a struggle. The longer you live, the more adversity you’ll face. Caleb accepted that reality. In fact, he welcomed it. I admire this old man because he didn’t get worn down by the adversity of slavery or the harsh nature of living in the desert. He dealt with blistering hot days, freezing cold nights, the stench and noise of living with about 2 million people for forty long years. All while raising a family of course.
And on top of it all was the constant threat of enemies whose idea of a good day was slitting an Israelite throat.
But he didn’t grow tired of fighting to survive. At eighty, his outlook was: “the best is yet to come.” That’s a personal choice that we all have to make. We choose whether or not we give up. We choose whether or not we turn back from the faith of Christ. We choose to continue to resist evil or to surrender to it.
Like Caleb, the old man, let us embrace the fight and possess our mountains.