Sunday, October 22, 2006

The generation of Caleb

I don't know if you've ever seen the episode of Father Ted in which our hero encounters a priest who delights in telling him that "I'm ninety-three" in a broad, high-pitched Irish brogue.

That's the image that came to my mind as I heard one of the lectionary readings from tonight - Joshua 14:6-14. It is the story of Caleb, as he comes to Joshua to claim his own inheritance, promised to him 45 years early by Moses. Caleb, you may or may not know, was one of the heroes of the Sunday School song 'Twelve men went to spy in Canaan, ten were bad, two were good'. In fact, we have both the good spies in the story, because Joshua was the other one.

Caleb and Joshua and the other ten went into the land to spy it out - just as they had come out of Egypt and received the Law on Mount Sinai. The other spies were afraid, but the two were bold and strong in the Lord and wanted to go in and take the land (Numbers 13). The end result was that Israel was condemned to walk in the wilderness for forty years, until the rebellious generation were all dead, and their children would move into the land. Moses was also dead (Josh 1:1), which means that not only were the two heroes of faith together, they were also the two oldest men in the land, by a margin of forty years!

Notice Caleb's words: 'Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.' And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day... It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.'

What a witness to the faithfulness of God, and the vindication of those who trust in him! Forty-five years earlier, Joshua and Caleb had trusted in God, and they were vindicated by moving into the land (all in God's timing). And there he was, Caleb, at 85 ready for battle, strong in the Lord!

Lord God, I want to serve you, and be strong in faith not just now, in my twenties, but for all of my life. Strengthen me for your service, and increase in me your grace and faith. Help me to be like Caleb, strong in your might, even into his eighties! Amen

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