SOMEDAY . . .

I spent some time this morning pondering the biblical story of Caleb’s boldness in Joshua 14:6-15.  The essence of the story is that at eighty-five years of age, Caleb was chomping at the bit to claim the land that was promised to him by Moses forty-five years earlier.  He was not afraid of the giants, the Anakim, who occupied that land.  He knew he could take them because the Lord had promised him.

Verse 12 gives us a little of his gumption:

So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities.  It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.

Remember, that is an eighty-five year old man saying that.  Lest you think that is some kind of ‘well everyone was older in the Bible’ stuff, even the Bible makes a big deal here about how old Caleb is.

Someday, I"ll . . .
Someday, I”ll . . .

This time period in biblical history is hard to get a handle on, because things are fluid, and it is hard to reconcile Christian ethics with the warfare and genocide recorded in the conquest of Canaan.  However, that aside, four things jump out at me from Caleb’s story that are inspiring.

1.  Caleb never forgot what his goals were.  I can imagine that everyday for forty-five years he went to bed thinking, ‘Someday, I’ll take that land.’  There is probably something missing in our lives if we ever lose that feeling of, “Someday, I’ll ….”

2.  He was thinking of his children, grandchildren, and lineage.  He knew he’d never enjoy the land for long, but he wanted to secure it for the generations.  If only people in church, in business, on the streets, and in the government would make decisions based on what as best for the generations that come after us.

3.  He kind of liked it that the Anakim were in the land he wanted.  The Anakim were giants, and Caleb liked the challenge.  The bigger they are, the harder the fall.

4.  Even though he was strong-willed, he still submitted himself to his leadership for permission.  “Give me this,” he asked his old friend Joshua.  Joshua knew it really wasn’t his to give, because in God’s eyes it was already Caleb’s by promise.

It is tempting to draw an equal sign between Caleb’s desire to claim his promise of land with our spiritual inheritance of eternal life.  There is some level of truth there, but a more applicable truth is that Caleb is an encouragement to us to pursue our dreams, never give up on our goals, and to take responsibility for securing a better future for ourselves and our offspring no matter what our age is or what obstacles might be in our way.

I hope and pray that I have Caleb’s fire every day.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Yesterday I finished my short four week series on some of the Judges from the book in the Hebrew Bible by the same name–Judges.  I loved preaching this series–Samson, Gideon, Ehud and Deborah are among the most entertaining stories in the Bible and it doesn’t take much work to preach them.  But what I didn’t have time to do was to analyze the overall picture of Judges.  Nestled between the story of Joshua and the emergence of the monarchy, Judges has a unique place in Israelite history.

The book of Judges tells the story of a people who are divisive, hostile, forgetful, idolatrous, violent, sexually promiscuous, and stupid.  Their behavior has more in common with the Germanic tribes of Europe before the fall of Rome than anything found in the Mosaic code.  The way the Israelites behaved, sometimes you want to root for the Canaanites (or the Amorites, Amalekites or Philistines).

What fascinates me is:  Why, or better yet, how did it come to this?  Surely this was not  God’s plan for Israel–hundreds of years of anarchy?

I’ve come up with two answers–and you are not going to like either one.

The first reason, the most obvious reason, is the people of Israel never truly believed or followed the Lord to begin with.  They were like the crowds who followed Jesus for bread and miracles but when he started teaching about belief and faith and “drink my blood and eat my flesh” (John 6) they scattered away.  People will always follow a good show, but when the show is over and it is time for obedience; well, there is always something else better on television.   A lesson is in there somewhere for megachurches and their pastors.  I’ll let you find it for yourself,  though.

The second reason, and the one that intrigues me the most, is that Joshua was a failure. I know that he is a hero to so many people because he overcome his fear (I so hope I never have to hear another sermon about how Joshua overcame his fear–I think I’ve heard it about 500,000 times).  Joshua did promise to serve the Lord and he promised that his house would do the same (Joshua 24:15) but he failed to lead Israel like he led his family.  He did not do what was done for him.

Here is what I mean–when Moses was about to die, he appointed Joshua as the next leader and made sure everyone knew it.  There was the passing of the proverbial torch from one generation to the next.  Joshua fails to do that.  He sort of rides off into the sunset and leaves every tribe, clan, family and individual to figure things out for themselves.  Because of this failure we get the constant refrain in the book of Judges–“In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

The most important thing a leader should do is to make certain someone else can lead when you’re gone and make certain the people you lead know who these next generational leaders are.  Without that kind of long-term approach all you do or accomplish is destined to be overrun by Philistines and die right behind you.