"And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said" (Josh. 14: 10-12).
We are to turn our attention first, to the testimony of strength and health given by this venerable old servant of the Lord; and this is that he is as strong at eighty-five years as he was when he was only forty years old, both to go out and to come in, both to put on his armor or to take it off, and his Lord has kept him alive all these years.
STRENGTH FOR LIFE
First, it is strength for a lifetime that he tells us about-forty-five years of strength. It is a life sustained by the strength of God. That is so much better than a case of healing or some single deliverance from a hard trial. He wants to give us His very life, His health. Take Him for the habit of your life; learn to live upon Him and have Him live in you, and then should emergencies come you will be able to get right up close to Him and be ready for any emergency. You will seldom have a hard trial, if you take Him before the trial comes.
But again, we see here a life preserved in the midst of the greatest privations, the most inhospitable clime, the most depressing circumstances, burning sands, poisonous reptiles, inclement weather, the heat by day and the cold by night-monotonous diet and the lack of water, the tremendous care and the special burden that rested on him-all this Caleb lived through. All the congregation but Joshua and he passed away, but they lived throughout. That was a splendid testimony of divine strength and life under the most unfavorable circumstances.
Again, it is the testimony of an old man made young; and of an old man who is as young as a boy, of strength that is unimpaired by years. Think of it, here was a man eighty-five years old and just asking for a commission, and starting on the greatest campaign of his life. God says He will renew our strength like the eagle's, and He is wonderfully fulfilling this to some.
Again, we find here that it is not only spasmodic fits of strength, but the endurance of strength, that can stand a long pull and feel as fresh at the end as at the beginning. There are so many people who begin to step out, and soon begin to feel the shortness of breath and the painful reaction. But Caleb could stand it all day, and God wants to give us that strength that can hold out all day, and still be good for many a day and year. God will give you the strength that will stand, and be as fresh tomorrow as it was today.
But once again, look at his courage. Sometimes when strength does not fail the spirit fails, and we lie off and do not venture as much as in other days. You know the picture in Ecclesiastes of the old man who is "afraid of that which is high." He does not like to go upstairs, he does not like to work too much, he is afraid of hurting himself. Things look bigger than they are and he makes up his mind that he is weak. Do not lose courage; do not be laid aside, God will keep you sweetly working for Him until your life work is done. I think it is beautiful to look at this venerable old man, as fresh as a boy, brave and full of holy confidence and just asking the hardest job, that He could prove how much God could do.
Let us look in the next place and see whence it came, the secret of it. He tells us that it was not his constitution or the care he took of himself, but he says, "The Lord, my God, hath kept me alive." It all came direct from a divine source. He had learned the meaning of that old covenant, "I am Jehovah Rophi, I will be your continuous support and the source of your life moment by moment," and so he had gone to Him and He had not failed. Even when God does heal us there is so much danger of our getting to depend on the feeling of strength and the health we have, instead of constantly taking it freshly from the same source in God. We have so often seen people when they are raised up from sickness, detach their faith from God to themselves, and because they feel so well, they conclude they are well. You have been looking at the pitcher rather than the spring. Get right back to the spring and stay there.
Once again, we have here the conditions as well as the source of Caleb's wonderful strength and heath. "Because I wholly followed the Lord, my God." It came from God, but it came from God for a reason. He met the conditions and God fully met him. Not because he had followed, but because he had "wholly followed." The difference between the genius and man of commonplace ability lies in things that are not at first perceived. The value of that painting just lies in the little art touches. So the power of the Holy Ghost in your life and mine, and the measure of our obedience and intimacy with God must come up to following God wholly, or we shall miss much. A single splash of ink on that fine dress, and the dress is destroyed, one little link broken in the chain, and the chain is no good. So a seeming trifle may spoil all your blessing.
You remember in speaking about our faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is not faith that the apostle requires, it is a particular kind of faith. He says, "Cast not away therefore your confidence," that is, the faith of boldness, of audacity. You remember the faith of Abraham that Paul speaks about. It was a kind of faith that had no "staggering" in it. "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief." You remember the faith that was spoken of in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus said, "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, and doubt not." It is just like the high degree that makes steam, and the one degree that makes liquid air. You must reach a certain point before the power comes. Now there are lots of people that have faith, but they just hold back a little. They believe up to a certain point, but there is a "but" and an "if" and a "perhaps" and a reserve. So their surrender reaches a certain point and stops there, and their joy and their peace depend to a certain extent upon circumstances. Not so with Caleb, "I wholly followed the Lord my God." Therefore, the Lord was "wholly" with him.
How did he wholly follow the Lord? First, he wholly believed God. He believed God without any kind of reservation. God told him to go and spy out the land, and he came back and told them just what the Lord had told him. It is a beautiful land; God is with us; "Let us go up at once, and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it." Does God require us to have that kind of faith? Yes, beloved, He does. He requires that when you pray you shall believe you have the thing you ask for. How in the world shall we ever do it? Why, we never could do it, but Jesus does it for us. He teaches us to throw away the faith we have and take His instead. If He gives it, it will be as perfect as His own.
I am so glad that I am not bringing to you an impossible task. Oh, let us find out what the crucified life means. It is the life that comes to the conclusion forevermore that you are no good, and never will be. "The life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God." Just find it out, beloved, and it will be unspeakably delightful to know that Jesus is your all and in all, the "Author and Finisher of your faith," and, therefore, He does require of you that your faith shall have no "ifs" nor "buts" about it. Will you have it?
And so again, Caleb not only believed fully, but he followed the Lord wholly in witnessing for Him. He not only believed, but he said he believed, and he stood up in the camp alone and still said it, and when the camp turned upon him in an angry crowd and said they would stone him he still said it, and God blessed him for it.
But not only did he witness, but he waited, for faith must learn to wait. Forty-five years was a long time, but his faith did not fail to wait. It stood the long pull as well as the strong pull. God said, "I will give you that place that you set your foot on"; you shall have it, Caleb; and for forty-five years he kept his eye on Hebron, and said, "I cannot afford to die, for I have got something to live for; I have got a promise, and that is something to live for. It is a great thing to have a goal before you. Caleb had one, and he waited and waited, and finally won it. Not only did he follow God but he put himself in a place where he must have special strength from God. He put himself in a place where God must carry him through, or bring dishonor upon Himself. Do not venture unless you have the faith, but if you have you will do something; you will go out to meet the mighty Lord and He will meet you. I am sure God is searching our hearts today, and putting us upon our faces, and making us glad we have Jesus Christ to be our all and in all. Do not merely talk about it; get somewhere, do something for God, make your healing a blessing and a power in the world, and make it worth God's while to bless you.