Friday, April 25, 2014

Stories of Great Faith from Caleb and His Family

I want to share some blocks of verses that show us a number of incidents of how faithful Caleb and his family was.  If you remember, Caleb and Joshua were the two spies sent in with ten other Israelites to spy out the land of Israel.  Caleb and Joshua were confident the Israelites could drive out the inhabitants with the Lord’s help, but the other ten were scared and scared the rest of the Israelites.  As a result, the Lord decreed the Israelites would not inherit the land in that generation and they died during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. 

Okay, let’s look at Caleb’s story as the land is being finally distributed:

¶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 Kadesh-barnea.
Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.
Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.
And 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.
10 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.

11 As 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.

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.
13 And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.
14 Hebron 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.  (Joshua 14:6-14)

So here we see Caleb coming to Joshua, reminding him of how he had been faithful to the Lord and Moses had promised him that he would have the land he had walked on when he had spied out the land 40 years before. 

I love verses 10 and 11.  He calls attention to the fact that the Lord had fulfilled promises in his life that he would live to inherit the land.  It was a very long time coming, but it did come, and therefore it was a very big deal.

Somehow, fulfilled promises from the Lord seem that much more precious when they take time. You may have seen this in your life, whether it is something in your patriarchal blessing that takes years to come to pass, or some other prophetic declaration that you have clung to, or a commandment you have doggedly kept in hope of someday receiving the blessing.  I have a few long-term promises I've seen fulfilled in my life and I have a few I'm still waiting on.  One promise all of us members of the church get to look forward to is the promise of eternal life.

For Caleb, no doubt seeing that promise fulfilled made it that much easier for him to exercise faith that the Lord could help him conquer the land.
Caleb is still raring to go.  He says, “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.” (v12)

What a great attitude!  He’s willing to take on the Anakims (the giants) and the fortified cities because he trusts the Lord will help him.  Even at 85 years old!  (And his 85 years old is still as hale-and-hearty as his 40 years old because of how he’s been blessed.)

I think in this chapter about Caleb we are meant to learn that Caleb had this faith and obtained his inheritance because he “wholly followed the God of Israel.”  (Notice, his obedience is mentioned three times in these verses.)
We should recognize that phrase “Give me this Mountain,” since President Eyring used it in a conference talk recently called “Mountains to Climb"  and he also references a talk Present Kimball gave about it with the same title, “Give Me This Mountain. 

Here’s the next part of the story of Caleb:

13 ¶And unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a part among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of the Lord to Joshua, even the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron.
14 And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak.  (Joshua 15:13-14)

The children of Anak are the Anakims referred to before.  Caleb does just what he knew he could do with the Lord’s help—he chased them away.  The big scary giants that everyone were so frightened of turn out to be cowards themselves. 

This is a useful lesson for us today.  There are tasks that look hard but which are not really as hard as they look, yet we won’t find that out until we pluck up our resolve and get started. 

Here’s the next part of Caleb’s story and it involves his daughter:

15 And he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjath-sepher.
16 ¶And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.
17 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. (Joshua 15-17)

This sounds really strange to us—we wonder why Caleb would make this offer because it sounds like he has no consideration for his daughter’s feelings at all.

Actually, I suspect it is a sign of Caleb’s faith and probably his daughter’s faith as well.  Caleb would have strong feelings about whom his daughter would marry.  He’s a faithful man, strongly committed to following the Lord, as we have pointed out already.  He would want his daughter to marry a man with that same kind of faith.  She would want a good husband as well.  I suspect they both reasoned that if they made that promise, since the battle was in the Lord’s hands, the Lord could (and would) give the victory to the man whom Achsah should marry.  I doubt Caleb would have made that offer without getting Achsah’s okay on it too.  She had the same faith as Caleb; she learned it from him.  And that is probably why this was recorded in the scriptures; it is faith on the same level as that of Rebekah going with Abraham’s servant to marry Isaac sight unseen.

So who wins the victory?  It so happens it is a man named Othniel, the son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz.  This is a man so closely connected to Caleb’s family that he would have had much opportunity to see and know Caleb’s daughter Achsah and also much opportunity to observe and learn their faith.  We must conclude that Othniel loved Achsah, otherwise he would not have tried to win her.  We must also conclude that he himself had an excellent measure of faith, believing it was possible to conquer Kirjath-sepher and that the Lord would deliver it to Israel, otherwise, again he wouldn’t have tried.

So then, the story continues with Achsah going to Othniel as his bride:
18 And it came to pass, as she came unto him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou?
19 Who answered, Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs.   (Joshua 15:18-19)
Achsah convinced her husband-to-be to ask for land from her father and then she asks for springs for them.  She’s got a lot of influence with both Othniel and her father if she can ask them to do things and give her things.  But she didn’t get that influence with pettiness or greed or tantrumming.  She got that influence by a very long history of trustworthiness and wise decisions. 

Interestingly, the south land she was referring to (which had been given to her and Othniel) was very dry wilderness.  She didn’t complain about that land; she just wanted more resources to help her cultivate it.  She was willing to take a difficult, uninviting place and put in the hard work to make it fruitful.  Likely she had the faith that having obtained that land, the Lord could help her and her husband cultivate it.

To finish the story of Caleb’s family, we go to Judges:

7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
8 ¶Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.
9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.
10 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim.
11 And the land had rest forty years... (Judges 3:7-11)

Because of Othniel’s faith to fight Kirjath-sepher, he had faith the Lord would help him overcome the king of Mesopotamia and he became the first of Israel’s judges after Joshua died. 

So we see that Caleb’s family had this same faith in God Caleb had, which faith gave them strength to do difficult things.  If this family ever had a family motto, it probably would have to be “I can do all things through the Lord, who strengthens me.”

I could use more of that kind of faith in my life.  Where do you want that faith in your life?