(Joshua 10:29 – 22:34 Written as if Caleb were saying this.)
I remember as a young boy watching an Egyptian stonecutter hammering away at a rock, over and over, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing. Then, all of a sudden, a blow would split it in two. I knew it wasn’t that hit that did it, but the cumulative effect of all that had gone before it.
God taught me that lesson in my life, too. I had to learn to persevere, to not quit but to keep faithfully serving God no matter what happened. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, for patience doesn’t come natural to human beings. Is God trying to teach you patience and perseverance? How are you coming with your progress? Maybe my story will help you.
I grew up in Egypt. For the first forty years of my life I was a slave patiently awaiting God’s deliverance. Many grew bitter and doubted God would ever free us, but I kept faithfully believing and serving Him. Then when deliverance did come we ended up having to wait another 40 years to enter the land – more patience was required. Finally, five years after we crossed the Jordan River and began our conquest of the land, I got my chance to fight for my land. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me go back and fill in some details.
It took us years to defeat the confederations of tribes in Canaan. God was teaching us patience and perseverance, the importance of sticking to something and how much more we appreciate that for which we have to work and wait. He was letting us have victory in one area, settle and hold it, and then move on to another area, just like He does in your lives today. To give it all to us as once would have been too hard for us. If all the Canaanites were destroyed before we could move in and replace them, wild animals would take over and make the places unsafe for us and our families (Exodus 23:20-30). Thus God’s way has always been little by little, claim and assimilate one area and then move on to the next area to be conquered.
Even so, despite the fact that the major Canaanite armies had all been defeated, there were still pockets of resistance and a few cities of giants left. It would take ongoing mop-up operations to remove them all, a lifelong task. Other new areas of defiance would raise up as well and have to be put down. Isn’t that the way it is in your life, too? After salvation (Passover lamb and Red Sea deliverance) you must decide who you will live for: yourself or God. If you choose yourself you wander for years in aimlessness (as we wandered for 40 years in the desert). If you choose God and follow Him into the place of His perfect will for you, then you will find battles and opposition. The world, the flesh and the devil will fight you every step of the way to keep you from making that commitment to put Him before yourself. God will give you victory if you faithfully persevere and stay true to Him. The first major battles between the flesh and the spirit will have been won, but living in His will (in the land) will mean a lifetime of continual skirmishes, mop-up operations, taking new territory, and fighting giants that remain. Do you know what I mean?
The problem is that we didn’t go ahead and keep battling. We got weary of it and decided that 90% victory was good enough when it isn’t! the tribes of Reuben, gad and half of Manasseh were willing to settle for land on the east of the Jordan. It was right next to God’s perfect land (will) for us, but not in it. It was close enough to have some of the benefits, but stopped short of being where the battles and conflicts were. They were the first to get attacked and defeated, though, because they weren’t in God’s perfect place for them.
Other tribes complained that their portion wasn’t large enough for them. That was because they didn’t keep fighting and drive all the enemies out of their territory. Instead of battling ahead they left them there, then battled that their land was insufficient. How many of God’s people stop short of the victory and blessing God has for them because they become weary of persevering and patiently moving ahead. Then they wonder why God’s will for them seems so unfulfilling and lacking.
When most of the land was conquered and divided, I finally got my turn to choose my selection. Usually land was given by lot to be fair to all, but because Joshua and I were the only 2 spies to trust God and encourage the nation to enter the land 45 years ago God had said we could have our choice of the land. For all these years I had believed His promise and was patiently awaiting the time when I could settle in the Hebron area. It was the richest part of the land, and therefore the strongest giants held it as their own. For me, though, it had special significance because that is where Abraham first settled. That land held the bones of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. That made it very special to me. You see, I was a Kenizzite by birth. My father, Jephunneh, had named me “Caleb,” which means “dog” (more accurately a wild, wolf-like creature who was rejected and homeless). When I had no where else to go God’s people took me in and nurtured me. I was so well accepted by them that the tribe of Judah made me their spokesman and leader. That’s how I was one of the 12 spies.
When we had to wait 40 years to enter the land I was tempted to get bitter and hard, as so many others had. After all, it wasn’t my fault we had to wander, but I had to suffer with the others for their sin. That made it harder for me to persevere. Still, I stayed faithful to the Lord. God passed over me and chose Joshua to be the next leader, so all my time could be invested in my family. My daughter married my nephew, Othniel, who was the next leader after Joshua (the first judge of Israel).
What a great God we serve! He had promised that every place we put our foot would be ours if we faithfully obeyed and followed Him (Joshua 1:3-5), and that is what happened (21:43-45). The same is true for you, too, if you follow your “Joshua” (“Jesus” in Greek is the same as “Joshua” in Hebrew). Are you following? Persevere, patiently obey Him. You won’t regret it!
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)