Caleb and Paul

A man standing on a hill backlit by a sunrise

Joshua 14:6-13; Philippians 1:20-26

The thought in my mind was just to bring before us some examples of faith to encourage us today in a special pathway; for the day we live in is surely a special day—one in which we are called to maintain a special truth given to us by God. And to do this we need the special faith of a Caleb or a Paul.

Now it is difficulty that calls out faith; but faith fears no difficulty, for to faith all is possible, and to God all is possible.

When the twelve spies went through the land to search it out, Caleb and Joshua brought back a divine report as to it; the others brought back only a human one. They forgot that which it was God’s purpose to give to His people, and so they said: “The cities are walled and very great…It is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof, and all the people that we saw are men of a great stature.” But the others say: “Let us go up at once and possess it: for we are well able to overcome it.” They see it with Jehovah’s eyes, and there is no difficulty with Him. The people listened to that which was false, as they still do today. This was the tenth time that Israel had failed, and then it was that Jehovah judged His people and said they should not go into the land.

It is very beautiful in Caleb the way in which he comes to Joshua and claims what Moses had promised him. All through those forty years of wandering in the wilderness that promise had sustained these two men. It was no little thing to them to have to tread that wilderness during forty long years because of the unbelief of the people. But at the end of it there was no diminution in the strength of Caleb. He could say, “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 Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be that the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.” Here was faith that had God before it, faith that saw everything in connection with God and valued it as His gift.

And today, what is it that sustains us in the path? “This world is a wilderness wide,” as we have been singing; it is not our sphere; we have to pass through it and refuse it. But we read the people’s hearts turned back to Egypt, and it is often so with God’s people. They are often only separated from the world by circumstances, whilst all the time their hearts are in it. They are not satisfied. It is not with them that they are not saved, but it is that Christ is not known, and proved, and loved.

The cross tells me that all down here is closed to faith, while Christ is made the object, the prize, and the goal of the soul. This is what we get in Philippians. 3 Here we find a soul, a heart, completely absorbed with its object. It is Christ who loved me and gave Himself for me that occupies Paul’s vision at the beginning of his course; and we find him the same at the close. Though all has come to ruin, yet nothing moves him. Caleb can say he has “wholly followed the Lord his God”; Paul can say, “This one thing I do.” Can you and I speak thus? Alas, alas, alas!

Paul had no other thought but Christ from the beginning, when He called him, to the end of his course. And this is just what we need in the present day. The Epistle to the Philippians just says to us, Go on, go on! Look at the divided mind in Paul. He says, “I am ready to depart”; but at the same moment, “To abide in the flesh is more needful for you…What I shall choose I wot not.” His had been a life given up to the things of Christ, and now he is ready to be offered for Him. We have not the power of this. How far do we know what it is to be martyrs, witnesses? We are not called to the stake; we are not up to it perhaps. But a martyr is simply a witness; and following Christ and refusing the world is martyrdom. The one who loves Christ is prepared to die for Christ. “I have a desire to depart.” How he can speak of it! It was the will of Christ. He had made others suffer once for His name’s sake, and now he is ready to die himself. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.” How precious that is! There is a crown laid up for Paul that the righteous judge will give him. The very proof of His righteousness will be giving Paul that crown.

Thus, Caleb walked in the sense of the approval of God, and Paul also in his day. And I would ask what have we if we have not intimacy with Christ? Where are we if we are not where they were? Just nowhere! Hence come murmurings and complaining. Are we appreciating the One who at such a cost has given us such a portion? What is before Christ as a Man? Does He not value all that has been given Him by God? All that He has acquired by infinite sacrifice? And there we shall be with Him and like Him; there we shall be to His eternal praise.

The Lord gives us to be in the power of all the truth that He has given to us in these last days, to be in the communion of it, the life, the reality, the power, the knowledge of it; that all that He has given to us may be taken possession of by us, to His everlasting praise and our glory.

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