Read Joshua 14:6-15, 15:13-19 (ESV)
Few would question that faithfulness a very important attribute or quality. We know that our Lord is forever faithful, and we praise Him for that. One of my favorite hymns is “Great is The Faithfulness.” Starting with His daily mercies towards us, continuing with His faithfulness throughout the seasons of life, and concluding with the many blessings He has and will provide, this hymn helps us celebrate our God’s faithfulness.
At the same time, we are called to be faithful, and especially faithful to the Lord Himself. Faithfulness can be described as a PERSONAL CONSISTENT CONTINUOUS COMMITMENT to a person or community in relationship. Faithfulness can be spoken of in relation to a responsibility received, in relation to a pledge made, in relation to a practice or lifestyle undertaken, or likewise to a specific path that has been chosen or a cause that has been undertaken.
I saw a wonderful example of faithfulness a few years ago when I visited a 91 year old lady feeding and taking care of her 90 year old sister who was fading mentally. Two sisters – the older one who served the Lord over 40 years on the mission-field was now serving the Lord by ministering to her slightly younger sister. Her younger sister had supported her older sister faithfully and financially during her missionary years, and now she (the older sister) was serving her sister day and night. This dear lady told me that it was a “privilege” to serve her sister; she said this to me whole-heartedly. She meant it. She at 91 (at that time) was still faithful after all these years.
And faithfulness is a core value to our God and to the community of Jesus. For a few minutes, I want us to consider an Old Testament Character who stayed faithful to the Lord for many years. His name was and is Caleb.
Our Scripture is Joshua 14:6-15
Remember with me that the Book of Joshua records the entrance of the children of Israel into the “Promised Land.” It records the battles to gain the land, and it records in detail the allotment of the land, and the dividing of the inheritance that the Lord wanted for His chosen people. The Lord brought His people out of Egypt to “Be Their God,” and to bring them into a land where they could dwell with the living God in their midst. This land was their inheritance as His children and people. This was a unique period in God’s redemptive plan, and there were specific reasons why the Lord empowered His people Israel to inhabit this promised land. But, even though it was a unique period of time and a unique calling for God’s people at that time, there are abiding principles that we will learn from this text of Scripture.
As we pick up the narrative in 14:6, Caleb is speaking concerning his inheritance as the tribe of Judah comes to hear about the land that has been granted to them by the Lord.
READ Joshua 14:6-15 (ESV)
There is a key phrase that is repeated three times in these verses. It is the phrase, “wholly followed the Lord my God” I am taking this phrase (and the equivalents in translations) to express the essence of faithfulness – to follow the Lord wholly, completely, continuously. That is the picture we have of this man Caleb.
In fact this is what the Lord said already about Caleb 45 years earlier when Caleb gave a good report about the promised land (Numbers 14:7-9). You may remember that the people of Israel had an opportunity to enter the promised land in obedience to the Lord. Spies were sent into the land to bring back a report. But, due to the inhabitants in the land and fear that gripped the people, a majority of those “spies” who went in to assess the land and its inhabitants did not think they should go forward. They gave a bad report. That was not true of Joshua and Caleb, they believed that they could go in and conquer the land as the Lord had promised. Caleb had encouraged the children of Israel to enter the land knowing that God was able to help them. This is what the Lord said about Caleb at that time:
“But My servant Caleb because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” (Num. 14:24)
Caleb had “a different spirit in him.” He had a courageous faith that led to faithfulness in life. I want to us to see this faithfulness demonstrated by Caleb and then we will see this faithfulness blessed.
1. Faithfulness Demonstrated– Caleb “wholly followed the Lord” (14:8,9,14)
Note first of all that:
1) Faithfulness is demonstrated through Confidence in the Promise of the Lord
Caleb’s whole claim for his inheritance was based on the word of the Lord, the Lord’s word and promise 45 years earlier. Just as Caleb had encouraged the people to go into the land because of the Lord’s promise 45 years ago (Num. 13-14), here Caleb is acting upon what the Lord promised him, yes, 45 years ago. I lot of life had been lived, many battles fought, and yet Caleb comes to Joshua on the basis of what the Lord had said many years ago. He held to the Lord’s Word and Promise to him.
True faithfulness will find its confidence, its strength and its direction in and through the Word of God. Caleb had no doubt about the Lord’s Word to him. Faithfulness is expressed in and strengthened by confidence in the Word of God. Praise the Lord for that! As a church, as a community of Jesus, we must remain faithful to the Word of God and act upon the Word of God.
Caleb says “Give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day…”
Maybe there is a promise from the Lord that you need to hold onto right now in the midst of a difficult time. Or there may some action you need to take today because the Lord had spoken to you and you need to obey?? But whatever our next step is in life, faithfulness will be expressed by confidence in the Word of God.
2) Faithfulness is demonstrated by Allegiance to the Purpose of the Lord
Caleb knew 45 years earlier that it was the Lord’s purpose for His people to enter the Land of Canaan, to conquer the Land of Canaan, and to possess and inherit the land of Canaan. This was God’s unique purpose for His chosen people. And Caleb was committed to “wholly follow the Lord,” in obedience and allegiance. Here we see him 45 years later. And even when he is asking for his inheritance you see his allegiance to the Lord’s purpose? In 14:12, we read:
“… For you heard in that day how the Anakim were there. And that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”
God’s purpose from the time they entered the land was to drive out those who worshipped other gods and to give this land to His own people. Caleb, now at 85, is still wanting to serve the same God-given purpose that he was wanting to serve 45 years earlier. He was “still faithful after all these years.” He wanted to drive out the Anakim, “the big guys,” from the land – yes, he was still faithful after all these years to the Lord’s purpose for His people.
What about us? A lot can happen in life to distract us from following the Lord. We can get discouraged. We can lose enthusiasm or even “give up” following whole-heartedly after the Lord. Caleb lived at a unique time in God’s plan, and he was faithful to God’s plan for his life. We see that in these two Biblical “snap-shots” of his life 45 years apart.
What about you and me? Are we faithful to the Lord’s plan for us as individuals? Are we faithful in the different areas of our lives? Are our desires, our ambitions, our friendships, our habits, our words, our thinking still guided by allegiance to God’s purpose?
If married, are we still faithful in our marriage?
Are we faithful to God’s purpose for us as parents?
What about our faithfulness to others, to our church?
What about our faithfulness in our work?
The Word of the Lord gives us direction in these various spheres of life. We must show allegiance to the Lord in His purposes for us.
In Hebrews 12:1-2 we are exhorted to “……run with endurance the race that is set before us.” This call is not just to start the race, but to run with endurance. We are to run faithfully. Caleb is a great model for us as we have these two snap-shots of his life 45 years apart.
Of course, a greater example is our Lord who completed the “race” the Father had set before Him. He is not only our example, and He is our resource. We must fix our eyes on Him. We need to finish the race that was set for each one of us staying true to the purposes that God has for us. Allegiance to the end is needed, and He will able us to be faithful.
I read about a race car driver whose car ran out of gas on the 199th lap of a 200 lap race. How sad. We need to finish our race well, at each stage in life.
And that brings us to the last special aspect of faithfulness seen in Caleb,
3) Faithfulness Demonstrated with dependence on the presence of the Lord: (Numb. 14:7-9, Joshua (14:10-12)
Caleb relied upon the presence and power of the Lord when they were to go into the land originally. In verse 10 he acknowledges that it was the Lord who kept him alive during the wilderness years. This is a simple statement, but remember that a whole generation died in the wilderness. The Lord protected and preserved His faithful servant. How important it is to recognize that the Lord is involved in our daily experience. He is sustaining us and keeping us throughout our days on earth. And the wilderness years were not easy years! And in verse 12, Caleb says as he now wants to fight the Anakim,
“It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”
He knew from experience that this battle could not be fought by himself, he needed the Lord. True faithfulness is possible and is enabled by dependence on the Lord Himself to accomplish the Lord’s purposes according to His promises.
In the spiritual battles that we face every day, we are to be “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” Eph. 6:10. We are to be clothed with His protection and resources in order to stand for Him.
So, we have seen that Caleb’s faithfulness was demonstrated in a confidence in God’s word and promises, an allegiance to God’s purposes and plans, and a dependence upon the Lord, His presence, His power. This passage of Scripture provides a powerful picture of faithfulness to the Lord. But note, faithfulness is not only demonstrated by Caleb, we find in our text the blessing of faithfulness.
So, consider also:
2. Faithfulness Blessed (Joshua 14:13-15)
There is fruit for faithfulness, an inheritance for faithfulness, or you might say a “reward” or blessing for faithfulness. In our Scripture passage, the blessing and reward for faithfulness included the specific blessing of Joshua (“Joshua blessed him”), and the allocation of the land itself. And Caleb was so blessed that he was able later to pass on the blessing of land to others (15:13-19). What about us today?
I think we are helped in understanding this matter of blessing by a principle drawn from this passage of Scripture by a faithful Bible teacher, Dr. Gene Getz,
“We are to serve God diligently, remembering that He will never forget our faithfulness”***
Blessings come to us in different ways, but God honors faithfulness. Jesus memorialized the devotion of a woman who anointed him before he went to Calvary (Mark 14:1-11), her deed was not to be forgotten. He wanted her deed of devotion to be remembered wherever the gospel was to be preached (Mark 14:9). The writer to the Hebrews states: “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10). God does not overlook faithful service.
I am reminded of a beautiful phrase found in Phil 2:29 when the Apostle Paul is encouraging and exhorting the Philippians to provide a proper welcome and to show respect for one of God’s servants; the phrase is “honor such men,” (ESV) or “hold such men in esteem” (NKJV). In other words, faithfulness in life and service are to be appreciated in the church. Such faithfulness is appreciated by God, and it should be honored by men, and especially in the church. One of the positive things we have seen during the recent Covid-19 Pandemic is the recognition of many people who have served faithfully during a difficult time and dangerous circumstances. People have acknowledged “heroes” in arenas of life that have not received as much attention at other times. Of course, nurses and doctors have received praise, but also people in grocery stores and other regular workplaces who have faithfully served under unusual conditions. Faithfulness makes a difference, and faithfulness should be honored.
Ultimately our reward as believers in Jesus is living eternally in the presence of our Savior. At the same time, the blessings of Christ and His grace are available to us day by day as we walk with Him. There are blessings for faithfulness: His presence, His power, being in the center of His Will, the many aspects of grace experienced along life’s way. The Lord has His ways of blessing faithfulness in this life as well as in the life to come.
Here are a few closing thoughts:
1. As we consider our need for faithfulness, we are reminded of the faithfulness of our God and the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He went all the way to the cross to pay the penalty of our sin. He did it faithfully and rose again from the dead so that we could be made right with God and be saved. (Philippians 2:5-11 spells out His faithful obedience for us.) Let’s praise Him for His faithfulness, and look to Him to strengthen us to be “Calebs” that “Wholly follow the Lord.”
2. We need to remember that the Lord takes delight, He values; He does not forget the faithfulness of His people. Even as Caleb received a blessing in the light of his faithfulness, so we are blessed today. Receiving His “well done” ultimately, and the sense of His “well done” on a regular basis are blessings in and of themselves. We know that the Lord has His way of graciously blessing faithfulness even in this life.
3. Lastly, the challenge for today is to commit ourselves afresh like Caleb to lives of faithfulness. Remember that Caleb was special; there were many others who were not faithful. He was in the minority 45 years previously. Only he and Joshua made it into the promised-land from that previous generation. Many did not believe the promise of God, commit themselves to God’s purpose, or depend upon God’s presence. They did not enter into the full desire of God for their lives. Caleb had a “different spirit.”
We need this different spirit empowered by the very Spirit of God. We need a courageous faith that does not allow anything to get in the way of full commitment to the Lord. We must follow the exhortation of the writer to the Hebrews who wrote that we must lay aside “every weight and sin” which would hinder us from running our race. Is it unbelief? Pride? Disobedience? Or maybe it is simply a lack of courageous faith, and therefore we are not characterized as having a “different” or distinct spirit about us.
We must grab the baton of faithfulness and run our race “whole-heartedly.” To do so we must keep our eyes on Jesus and run faithfully the race we’ve been assigned. The Lord Jesus is not only our ultimate example, it is His presence and power as exalted Lord that will enable us to persevere in this race that we are called to run. This is what we need to commit ourselves to today.
May it be written concerning all of us, as it could be said of Caleb, “Still Faithful After All These Years.” This will mean confidence in the Word of the Lord. This will mean continuous allegiance to the Purpose of the Lord. And this will mean that faithfulness will be demonstrated through dependence on the presence of God.
Of course, the beginning of faithfulness is recognizing our need to be saved, if we do not know the Lord. To be made right with God we needed a Savior. Jesus Christ is our deliverer. He died a death on Calvary for our sins so that we could be forgiven of sin and made right with God. We must repent, admit and turn from our sin and sins, and “believe” on the Lord Jesus Christ in the light of what He has done for us. Through repentance and faith the penalty for sins in removed, and a person is declared righteous in Christ. Get right with God today if you know that is your need. Because Jesus Christ lives and is exalted on high, he is our living Savior and Lord, and He is able to strengthen us to live faithfully for Him. Our faithfulness in life is really just a “Thank You” for all that He has done and continues to do for us.
*** A Principle to Live By, p. 287 in “Life Essentials Study Bible” (Holman Bible Publishers: Nashville, TN.: 2011). The Biblical Text is the HCSB, and the Author and General Editor is Dr. Gene A. Getz. This is a unique and exceptional resource for Bible Study and especially for preaching and teaching