Caleb. I liked him from the very beginning of her story. He was the outsider. He was a slave. He observed the plagues in Egypt and he saw an awesome God in them. So he believed. Once he believed, he never looked back. He just couldn’t. Not after all he had seen. He was the one to lead the charge. He was “all in”. He was Joshua’s biggest advocate. He could not look away when wrong was done. I know this story by heart. My heart.
The desert is hot and dry. But mostly it is discouraging in its expanse and in its monotony of sameness. Mean sun beating down burns through the hope. Day after day…the struggle to wade through the wilderness. Sand-walking makes for progress so slow that it feels like going nowhere. They were going nowhere because their destination was not a place, but a time, 40 years.
The never “getting there” was Caleb’s whole life. It seemed like forever before he would gain their acceptance, before he could get there. Even after that, he couldn’t sway the people to see God’s power. He and Joshua saw what God could do for them, the others saw what men could do to them. The other voices were louder and birthed a fear and a disbelief that ripped the Promise right from the children of Israel. No, they would not enter His rest. They had looked the Promise in the eye and turned away. Instead, they would wander and plod along, 40 years. 40 years of walking in sand and getting nowhere. They would die and be buried, but the march would go on. Only two who had seen Egypt would taste the milk and honey – Joshua and Caleb. They had believed God’s Word. They trusted that His Promise was true and that He would make good on it. In spite of the odds against them, they knew that God is the one who decides. And yet even when Joshua and Caleb finally got “there”, they did not completely enter a rest. Rather, it was a struggle they entered. First to fight the inhabitants of the land, “For the Lord!” Then to fight the disobedience and waywardness of their own people. It was another kind of wilderness.
The new wilderness of war and of falling away was more discouraging than the desert had been. In the desert they had come to depend on the Lord. Those who did not obey or believe were weeded out along the way. Some fell by plagues, some by stoning, some by fire and some were swallowed up by the Earth. And the others walked a long death march. Those who remained had learned to depend on God for everything. Just before they entered the Promised Land, Moses declared, “He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord”. Deut 8:3.
Francine Rivers draws a picture of what it was like to follow closely after the pillar of cloud and fire.
Everyone worked and prepared with practiced precision. The years in the wilderness, of watching the cloud rise up, move, and settle, had trained the people to move quickly when so commanded p. 225
That sort of obedience is the result of true submission. It comes when your pride has been stripped and your will has been broken. And day after day you have no other choice but to yield. This desert is hot and dry. Mean sun beating down wears me out. Day after day…the struggle to wade through this wilderness. Sand-walking makes for progress so slow that it feels like going nowhere. But this is a training ground. And on this Earth, whatever looks like the Promise to me will still require the same discipline as the wilderness demands. That He might make [me] know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord”. Deut 8:3.
justAgirl…just like you