Once upon a time, a group of spies went into the land of Canaan. Of those that went, only two trusted in God by faith: Joshua and Caleb. Since Joshua became the successor to Moses, we know an awful lot about him, but we kind of forget about old Caleb. Joshua and Caleb were singled out by God as being the only ones from the adults who would step foot in the land of Canaan successfully. The rest would die in the Israelite wanderings in the desert. And indeed, Joshua led his people across the river Jordan and into the battles that would secure them a foothold in the land God had promised them. So what happened to Caleb?
Then the sons of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know the word which the LORD spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.’ Now behold, the LORD has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. – Joshua 14:6-11, NASB
Caleb was still around. He entered the land at eighty and he fought beside the rest of the Israelites. At eighty years of age. And for five years he had fought in all the battles, with the sands of time ticking away each day. When he approached Joshua with this request, Caleb was 85 years old. So it makes sense that Joshua would listen to his old friend and heed his request. Still fighting at 80? A senior citizen marching into battle? He deserved his retirement at 85. That was totally understandable. But if that’s all we read out of this passage, we miss something important. For Caleb tells us something that we would say is impossible with what we know about modern medicine and science. He tells Joshua that he was as strong at 85 as he was at 40. Think about that for a moment.
How many 85 year old men do you know who are as capable as they were at 40? And we’re not talking about any ordinary man. We’re talking about a guy who was picked at 40 for a treacherous mission. He went in as a spy to check out the land of Canaan. In our military today these type of men represent some of the fittest and most capable troops we’ve got. Names like Marine Force Recon and Army Pathfinders are the units who do that type of job in the US Armed Forces. So that meant Caleb had to be a very capable 40 year-old. And then he hits us with the fact that at 85 he is just as strong as he was at 40. That’s unnatural strength. That’s impossible strength. At least, that’s impossible by man’s standards.
But Caleb has an explanation for it all. When he came back from that spy mission, he points out that he followed the Lord God fully. And the fact that he was still alive at 85, especially after 40 years of wandering in the desert and another five years of war, was only because the Lord had let him live. He knew where the source of his strength was: God. God had permitted Caleb to live because of his faithfulness. He had preserved Caleb because a promise He made to both Caleb and Joshua. And Caleb hadn’t forgotten God’s promise. As a matter of fact, he cherished it.
I want this kind of unnatural strength. But I don’t want it as physical strength. I want strength in my spiritual walk. I want strength in my faith. I want strength in my trust of God. I want to be able to have said of me like Moses said to Caleb, “because you have followed the LORD my God fully.” I know I can’t do that with my own power. I know it has to come from God. But that’s the strength I want. Do you want it? Are you willing to follow the Lord our God fully like Caleb did? That’s what it takes. It requires that kind of devotion and trust. By the power of the Holy Spirit, though, we can have that kind of faithfulness. We just have to want it. I mean really desire it. More than the things of this world. But that unnatural strength is there, for God dwells within us. And God walks with us. Just as Caleb at 85 could state he was as strong as he was at 40, so too can we state our own strength in the Lord if we trust Him.