Tuesday, October 05, 2010

“Caleb, Living With the Wait”

Caleb came to the Jordan River with high hopes and great expectations – twice. So it is with God’s last-day Remnant. Whether we realize it or not, you and I walk beside the 80-year-old Caleb on his second journey across that wide plain next to the surging, muddy flood of the Jordan . The time has come when we will show to the world and to men whether we have learned the lessons of the wilderness wandering. It is time to go home. Let us be sure that we understand what Caleb has to teach us about making a successful crossing of the Jordan .

The first time Israel of old came to the Jordan River, God told Moses to make up a list of spies to “search out” the land of Canaan . The list contained twelve names: Shammua the son of Zaccur, Shaphat the son of Hori, Caleb the son of Jephunneh, Igal the son of Joseph, Oshea (Johua) the son of Nun, Palti the son of Raphu, Gaddiel the son of Sodi, Gaddi the son of Susi, Ammiel the son of Gemalli, Sethur the son of Michael, Nahbi the son of Vophsi, Geuel the son of Machi. 

All of these men were believers. All were leaders in the true Church. They shared common ancestry, education, strengths, weaknesses, religious affiliation, goals, and moral standards. All observed the Sabbath and refrained from eating pork. All ate of the manna. All longed to go in and possess the Promised Land

Could we have stood on a rise overlooking the Israelite camp, we would not have seen any distinguishing mark to predict which of these chosen men would prove to be valuable assets, and which would prove traitorous.  Canaan ’s high-walled cities and its giant men with massive spears did not cause the rebellion of the ten, nor inspire the faithfulness of the two. The challenging circumstances merely revealed that which had been planted and cultivated in the hearts of these men through preceding days and weeks and months (See Christ’s Object Lessons, page 412.1).

At the first “General Conference” at the Jordan , as at the “General Conference” at Minneapolis , the characteristic which distinguished the two faithful spies from the numerous rebellious ones was  
righteousness by faith. It was a deep, strong heart appreciation of the fact that God is everything and man is nothing. It was believing that the word of God can and will accomplish what that Word says, and the depending upon that Word to do what it says. 

Caleb could say with confidence, “We are well able,” because he was in the habit of letting God be his strength. He knew by experience that “little is much” when God is in it. With Paul he could say, “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Caleb and Joshua did not quail before the physical giants in the land for two reasons. The first is that they remembered God’s working in their past history and knew that He was quite able to continue empowering and sustaining them in whatever He directed. 

The second, and equally important source of their courage was this: Caleb and Joshua had chosen to allow God’s power to conquer the larger and more virulent giants which seek to hold the territory of each heart as a fortress against God’s complete ownership there. They had received “the love of the Truth” – the love of God in the heart – and by His power they had been gaining the victory over the giants of fear, dishonesty, gluttony, pride, greed, etc. By experiencing these victories, they had been empowered to eat, to drink, and to do whatever they did “to the glory of God.” As these men daily lived lives of victory, their minds were filled with thoughts of gratitude and love to God. The crisis only revealed what the man had been thinking in his heart. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 10:31, and Proverbs 23:7)

The Israelites (and the ten spies) who retained control of their own lives still preferred that Moses talk to God and bring back a list of rules for them to obey (or not, as their own natural inclinations dictated). At the crucial moment, these found themselves helpless against the giants of Canaan and the rebellions of their own hearts. The few who step by step allowed the living Word of the living God to crucify the natural man along with its affections and lusts were already living in the power of the Spirit. Those who live in the Spirit are “bold as a lion,” intimidated by nothing. They are able also to walk in the Spirit, even in the land of the visible giants (See Proverbs 28:1, Exodus 20:19 & Galatians 5:24 & 25).

 We are in the position of the children of Israel upon the borders of the promised land; let us profit by their experience…. The high walls that seemed to reach up to heaven represent to us the walls of doubt; the giants are the giants of unbelief. And as those walls and those giants fell then before the advance of faith, so they will fall now, however high and strong they may seem to us. Let us put on this helmet and move resolutely forward, knowing that… the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6, 7).
 –E. J. Waggoner, Present Truth ( UK ) October 19, 1893

Caleb’s fearless testimony to the faithfulness of God in the face of the anger and denial of the multitude is not any greater testimony to the power of God in his life than was the quiet, patient, loving spirit he manifest throughout the forty long years of wilderness wandering. The whole sad pilgrimage would have been prevented had the Israelites listened to him and Joshua on that fateful day, but Caleb did not leave the church. He did not rail against the wickedness of those who had opposed him. He quietly and faithfully labored as a servant-leader, seeking to prepare his own heart and the hearts of his people to have a different experience when they next came to the borders of the promised land.

What about you?