This morning I was reading in Joshua and came again upon the account of aged Caleb asking for his inheritance. I noted the three-fold repetition of this phrase:
- “I wholly followed the LORD my God …” (Joshua 14:8b)
- “… you have wholly followed the LORD my God …” (v.9b)
- “… he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel.” (v.14b).
This is a three-fold witness: first there is the testimony of Caleb himself (v.8b), then the testimony of Moses (v.9b), and finally the testimony of the writer of Joshua (v.14b). Let everything be confirmed by two or three witnesses (Numb. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15)!
The expression “wholly followed” renders a two word combination in the Hebrew: the verb “to fill” and the preposition “behind/after.” Literally the phrase is “filled behind Yahweh.” The verb is in the Piel form, indicating intensive action: “utterly filled” (or, as per ESV, “wholly” filled). And the personal pronoun (“I”) is emphatic—as in contrast to “my brothers who went up with me [and] made the heart of the people melt” (v.8a).
וְאָנֹכִ֣י מִלֵּ֔אתִי אַחֲרֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה — “I, even I, utterly filled behind Yahweh my God”
Caleb himself filled up behind the Lord as soon as it was clear where the Lord was headed and what He was doing.
Whatever the will of God required, whatever the need of the hour was, whatever the advance of God’s mission necessitated—Caleb filled in immediately behind the Lord with his faith-filled availability and obedience. The space immediately behind God (if one can even speak in such terms!) as He moved forward in His plan was immediately filled up with Caleb—willing, ready, eager, obedient, willing to risk anything to be first in line after the Lord.
Caleb is the picture of an eagerly, energetically, enthusiastically obedient servant of God. His life was marked by an urgency in all matters of obedience.
He was this way when he went with Joshua and ten other spies on a recognizance mission into the Promised Land a generation before (Numb. 13-14). He was this way forty-five years later as he followed after Joshua’s leadership in taking the Promised Land (Josh. 14:10-11).
Caleb anticipated David’s prayer at a later time: “My soul followeth hard after thee.” (Psa 63:8a, KJV)
I’m reminded that sometimes a Caleb—with all his eagerness, energy, and enthusiasm—is forced to endure a desert of someone else’s making. What were those four decades in the wilderness like for Caleb? Torture, no doubt!
Imagine Caleb as he watched all the adults of his generation (except Joshua and himself) fall one by one over the years. Imagine those latter years as the remaining souls of that generation thinned and grew few in number. What conversations did Caleb have with them or they with him? How did he pray for them? What strange cocktail of emotions surged through him as he attended their funerals? When the last one passed and the final “amen” was intoned at his funeral and the potato salad was finally gone at the meal after the services—did Caleb jump up and yell, “OK already! Let’s go! Let’s get on with it! Let’s go take the Promised Land!”?
I have to ask myself: Have I been a Caleb? Am I a Caleb today? Or have I been a willing, but reticent follower of God? Have I been hesitant, doubting, reserved, lethargic, slothful, even lazy with regard to the mission and will of God?
Lord God, please forgive me for too often being hesitant, reserved, doubting and lethargic in following you and obeying your voice. I ask you to enable me to eagerly, faithfully, energetically fill full whatever your will requires. Give me the energy, desire and faith to so follow you. In Jesus’ Name, amen!