Joshua and Caleb: Thoughts on the Book of Joshua, Part 2

Joshua  •  24 min. read  •  grade level: 12
Thoughts on the Book of Joshua
This identification with God and His purposes and ways on the part of Moses and Aaron, and this twofold testimony on the part of Caleb and Joshua to the strength of His arm, and the delight of His heart in His people to bring them into the land, though adequate for faith, were insufficient to quell the rebellion. Separated as these four leaders were from all the congregation, and united in their confession of the one living and true God, He vindicated His witnesses; when the people bade stone them with stones, the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle, and He threatened them with pestilence, and to disinherit them. The intercession of Moses again prevailed against their sin, and they were sentenced to wander forty years in the wilderness and to fall there. Moreover, the evil spies died of the plague and the unbelieving generation was cut off. The confidence and repose of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which characterized Joshua and Caleb “as spies when they searched the good land, equally distinguished them as pilgrims in the wilderness throughout the forty years of their wanderings. Faith, which has to do with God alone, is not concerned about places and circumstances; it has simply to follow Him where He leads: the consequences are His care. The forty years pilgrimage inflicted upon the evil generation became a school-time for the fuller qualifications of Joshua and Caleb when the set time should come for the crossing over Jordan, and for the settlement of the tribes in their inheritances. Moses and Aaron died in the wilderness, the high priest's garments were transferred and placed upon Eleazar as the successor of Aaron. Moreover, the Lord had given some of His spirit to Joshua, and Moses had laid his hands on him and put some of his honor upon him in the sight of all the congregation of Israel, that they might be obedient to him. Further, Joshua was to stand before Eleazar the priest, who was to ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim and Thummim before the Lord. “At his word shall they go out, and at his word shall they come in,” and Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the high priest, and gave him a charge.
The original leaders of the people did not continue by reason of death; each one died governmentally for his own sin, committed at the waters of Meribah, where they failed to glorify God; and these have now given place to Joshua and Eleazar. Moses and the rod of Jehovah's power stretched out over land and sea in Egypt for the redemption of Israel form the bright record of God's actings in the book of Exodus, as does the rod of priestly grace in Numbers, by which Aaron put away their murmurings. When the wars of the Lord begin on the other side of Jordan, these rods are superseded by the captain of the Lord's host with His drawn sword, and by Joshua and his spear, and now that “the God of the whole earth” passes over before His people to put them into Canaan, Eleazar and the priests come into prominence. The ark of the covenant (in which was laid up the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant—each to come out another day, and be manifested in the person of Christ and His offices in their perfectness,) was to precede the people in their journeyings, and be the one object before their souls. “When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests and Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place and go after it.” The faith of an individual like Caleb is no longer distinguished when confidence and courage mark the whole company of this new-born generation, led forward by the Lord of all the earth in connection with the ark of the covenant, borne by Eleazar the high priest and the Levites, under the leadership of Joshua; so that Jordan itself fled away from before the feet of the priests, when they were dipped in the brim of its waters. The great city Jericho too fell down flat, and its giant walls before the ark after it had compassed the city about seven days. In their onward progress, Jerusalem and its king, Adonizedek, with the other crowned heads were all overcome and hung upon five trees until the going down of the sun. Joshua is as great in his conflicts and victories against the enemies of God, as Moses was distinguished for his patience and meekness amongst the people of God. His jealousy for the Lord, in removing the tabernacle away from the camp, when the idolatry of the golden calf was in question, sanctioned as it was by the glory of the God of Israel, which appeared to him at the tent door, and talked with him, was a day of remarkable moral character and beauty.
Perfect in its season as this act of Moses was, yet Joshua is equally distinguished in the day of Jerusalem's capture by the hosts of Israel. Joshua spake to the Lord, and said, “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon,” until the people avenge themselves upon their enemies; “and there was no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.” The whole power of the enemy is broken up, after one more battle. “Now when Jabin the king of Hazor heard of these things, he gathered round himself the confederated nations of the north, south, east, and west, and came down like the sand which is upon the sea-shore for multitude against Israel,” like the Gog and Magog nations of a yet future day (in Ezekiel). These wars and their victories clear the way for peace. Though in chapter 11 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings, “yet finally he took the whole land according to all that the Lord had said to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel, according to their divisions by their tribes; and the land rested from war. In chapter xviii., “the whole congregation of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle there,” and the land was subdued before them. Now Joshua was old and stricken in years, and he and Eleazar the priest cast lots at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in Shiloh, and distributed to the tribes their inheritances—so they made an end of dividing the country—God had thus overcome the enemy and established His people in the promised land, who were commanded to make no terms with the stragglers, but utterly to drive them out. Moreover God had planted His tabernacle in Shiloh, and surrounded Himself with the thousands and tens of thousands of Israel, the seed of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Joshua lastly exhorts them to cleave unto the Lord, and the people finally bind themselves with an oath to serve the Lord and to obey His voice.
Besides these public and prominent services of Joshua the leader and commander of the people, and Eleazar the high priest who was appointed to ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord, there remain two important histories of personal faith, each perfect in itself which the book of Joshua records: the first is that of Rahab, and the second that of Caleb. In truth we may say the records of Israel would not be complete without these, as not else coming up to the mark of what God is, or giving the examples of the outflowing and overflowing of His goodness and grace, wherever there was faith that could in defiance of every let or hindrance reckon upon this goodness, and cast itself upon the riches of His love! Rahab, who was not one of the people, but on the contrary an alien and of the accursed race, threw herself upon the boundlessness of this grace, that could not be confined to the limits of Israel but must illustrate itself by overleaping all bounds, and saving a Rahab, even when dwelling in Jericho; yea, the conquests of the people of God in Canaan must give precedence to her. The scarlet line from her window, witness of her faith, and pledge of her identification in heart and soul with the hopes and interests of the Israel of God, was also a token to them and to her of the deliverance for which she waited. The scarlet line had saved the spies, when she let them down from her house by its means, and it was to save her and all her family in the coming hour of Jericho's overthrow—and this is what faith is, whether then or now—from her window, or at the cross. The young men that were hidden by Rahab in the stalks of flax went in at the bidding of Joshua, and fetched her out and all that she had, first as they swore unto her: and then burned the city with fire.
The further history of Rahab, and the dealings of God in grace with her, are as remarkable as the beginning. In chapter vii., “she gets a dwelling-place in Israel, as it is said unto this day,” and in process of time is married to Salmon, one of its princes, and becomes a link in that illustrious genealogy through which the Messiah Himself was introduced to this world. In Matt. 1:55And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; (Matthew 1:5), “in the book of the generation of Jesus Christ,” we read “Salmon begat Booz of Rachab,” nor is this all, for she passes on from this genealogy to take her place in another, and got her record among the celebrities of Heb. 11, of whom the world was not worthy. Another record still awaits her—and a yet further example of her faith remains for the apostle James to publish, where she stands side by side with Abraham, the head of the whole family of faith, and the friend of God. Likewise also he asks, was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. The chain is complete and as perfect as the grace of God always makes whatever it takes in hand—whether the pattern be “a Syrian ready to perish” —a Rahab out of Jericho—a thief upon the cross—or a Saul of Tarsus—or one of ourselves in this day of grace and of the coming glory.
In Josh. 14 it is, that we are introduced to Caleb again; and in this chapter he comes before us in the double character of an heir of Judah, when that tribe was settled in its inheritance; and also as the claimant of that Hebron, which had so won his eye and heart in the living associations which it recalled. Distinguished in the early days of faith and promise, when Abraham walked with God and still more so in the light of prophecy, when the king David of Jehovah's appointment should take his crown and kingdom from Hebron, it became the spot of all others which was dear to faith. Joshua's calling and work as leader of Israel was well-nigh finished, and he had become old and stricken in years, and was going the way of all the earth, as he said, when Caleb's path as an heir of promise was only opening itself out. He steps forth from the children of Judah at Gilgal, and makes good his claim by reminding Joshua of what the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning them at Kadesh-barnea. He comes out as young and as fresh at fourscore and five years of age, as he was at forty, when sent with Joshua to spy out the land; and he becomes in his place an example and pattern to every individual in every tribe of the whole heartedness before God which was the source of his unfailing strength and courage. How different would have been the history of Israel, had each heir of promise been as Caleb and driven out the enemies from their inheritance, as he did from Hebron! The language of faith has always the same character of confidence and calmness, whether it be in Caleb's assurance to Joshua that he would drive out the Anakims; or in David's account of himself to Saul, touching the lion and the bear; and his bold avowal that so it should be with Goliath and the army of the Philistines. “I wholly followed the Lord my God,” reveals the secret of faith's strength, either in first viewing the land and gleaning the grapes of Eshcol, or in wandering with the rebellious people in the wilderness for forty years, or as here in claiming the promise of Hebron from Joshua.
“Now therefore give me this mountain, of which the Lord spake in that day: if so be the Lord shall be with me, then I shall be able to drive the giants out, as the Lord said; and Joshua blessed him.” Here we get a man of the right sort, with a faith in God that does not give way before either giants or mountains, but declares “as yet I am as strong this day as I was forty years ago; in the day that Moses sent me, as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, to go out and to come in.” It is a faith indeed that cannot be measured by days or weeks, or months or years; and even as to Caleb's history it is to be remarked, that we get no notice of his death. The Spirit's mind takes a different turn, and is marking out to us that he neither got old, nor waxed feeble, nor became stricken in years; but wholly followed the Lord God of Israel, and was always young and strong. Such was Caleb the claimant. So Joshua gave to him Kirjath-arba, according to the commandment of the Lord, which city is Hebron; and Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai; and he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir. The faith of the wholehearted Caleb, which followed the Lord fully and knew neither ups nor downs, stamps its character also upon his house and family; and this is very beautiful. He would only give his daughter Achsah to the man of like faith, who could distinguish himself at Kirjath-sepher, as Caleb had done at Kirjath-arba; and Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb took it, and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. Nor is this all; for the faith that wholly follows the Lord God of Israel (who is in these days, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ) is not only consciously blessed in itself, but delights, and can make another as happy as itself, as Caleb did Othniel. Even further, it rejoiced to bestow a blessing upon Achsah, when she lighted off her ass, and, in the character of a claimant, asked her father for the upper and the nether springs.
There is a point of further interest to be noticed respecting Caleb and Hebron, which comes out in the book of Judges and travels on to its completion in the records of Samuel and the Chronicles; for the faith which has to do with God must connect itself with His interests, and all that He does. The personal faith, which made Caleb illustrious as an heir and a claimant, likewise gave its character to his relations and his family. He gathered those round himself like Othniel upon the one and the same principle of confidence in the God of Israel, which had been the secret of Caleb’s unfailing strength and whole heartedness. Upon this pathway it was that he introduced Othniel at Kirjath-sepher, and as was the father, so was the son-in-law; for after the like term of forty years in the school of God, and in the midst of the declension of the tribes, this Othniel became the first of their deliverers, and of their judges. He was (as his name implies) “the hour of God” to them in their distress; for the Lord had sold them into the hand of the king of Mesopotamia for eight years, because they had forgotten Him, and served Baalim and the groves. But when the children of Israel cried unto Him, the Lord raised up a savior for them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel and went out to war. Moreover his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim: so the land had rest forty years, and this rest might have been perpetual, which Othniel had recovered, but for the subsequent idolatry of the tribes; and Othniel died. Deeper corruptions set in, and other deliverers were raised up till, after the times of the judges, came the reign of the kings.
In the end of 1 Sam. 30 the introduction of David and his men, and their faith in God lights up again the darkened page of Israel's royal history, and Hebron is mentioned as among the places where David and his men were wont to haunt, when by Saul's jealousy and persecution he was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains. After the death of Saul and Jonathan by the hands of the Philistines, and David's lamentation over them upon Gilboa, be inquired of the Lord whether he should go up to any of the cities of Judah, and the Lord said to him, Go up; and David said, Whither shall I go up? and he said, Unto Hebron. Caleb the heir in Judah, and the claimant of Hebron, four hundred years before, had given place to Othniel as their judge, and the deliverer of Israel from the oppression of the king of Mesopotamia. As we know, the prophet Samuel took the precedence, when the Aaronic priesthood had been corrupted by the profligacy of Eli's sons. David, the man after God's own heart, had been anointed as king from out of the midst of Jesse's sons: so David and his wives, and the men that were with him went up with their households, and dwelt in the cities of Hebron. The men of Judah thus take up the purposes of God and the blessing pronounced on this tribe by Jacob, and in their turn carry them out by anointing David king over the house of Judah. “The scepter and the law-giver” are thus united; and kingship is now established upon Hebron, the bright answer to the faith of those who, in expectation of the day, gave commandment concerning their bones, and lay buried there in the caves of Machpelah. So David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul became weaker and weaker, and unto David were born sons in Hebron; and the time that he reigned over the house of Judah was seven years and six months. The man to whom God gave testimony, this son of Jesse who should fulfill all His will, schooled as he had been in the sheepfolds of the wilderness, was now to be invested with the entire majesty and royalty of the throne, and as the shepherd of Israel.
Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and said, Behold we are thy bone and thy flesh; and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and shalt be a captain over them. So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron, and king David made a covenant with them there before the Lord, and they anointed David king over all Israel; and David went on and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him. One object of the Lord in raising up David is stated in chapter 3: 18, “by the hand of my servant David I will save Israel out of the hand of the Philistines,” and out of the oppression of all their enemies. As the anointed king, his first exploit was to gain Jerusalem out of the hand of the Jebusites; for it was to be the city of the great king; and the appointed earthly center for the manifestation of His kingdom and the glory of the throne of Israel. The inhabitants of Jebus said to him, “thou shalt not came up hither. Nevertheless David took the castle of Zion, which is the city of David, and said, Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites first, shall be chief and captain. So Joab the son of Zerniah [like another Othniel] went first up, and became chief, and David dwelt in the castle.” Traveling days and the journeyings of the children of Israel are well-nigh accomplished. God had brought them into Immanuel's land, and to the city of Jerusalem, and to Mount Zion: moreover David was there, and in their midst as the anointed king. The tabernacle in the wilderness was about to give place to the temple and the glory; and the next great business of David was to bring up the ark of the covenant from the house of Obed-edom. “And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, and said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it; for because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.” Unless the sense of God and His grace keep the heart in the enjoyment of His favor as better than life, the knowledge of Him is soon lost, and Israelites become identified with Canaanites, as the book of Judges declares, and reduce themselves to the same level. Baal had his altar in the house of Joash, the father of Gideon; nor could this mighty man of valor do the deeds of one against the hosts of the Midianites, with his three hundred and their lamps and pitchers, till he had thrown down this altar, and first put himself right with God, as a worshipper. The Lord will not give His glory to another. Until Baal and his altar were thrown down by Gideon, there was confusion in Israel; for God and the idol were both there!
Here we may observe, that in the history of the Judges no mention is made of the high priest, or any other priest, or even a Levite, either for counsel or for action in any public way, from the time of Phinehas the son of Eleazar down to Eli. The knowledge of God was lost, and the relations in which He had stood with His people by the ark of the covenant violated and forgotten. When David sought to bring up the ark into the hill of Zion, after its capture by the Philistines, so unacquainted was the sweet psalmist with the ways of God respecting it, that a new cart and the two milch kine did as well for him as the shoulders of the Levites.
Priesthood and the priests, through the breach upon Uzza, come out brightly once more with king David, in the persons of Zadok and Abiathar; and it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings, and David danced before the Lord with all his might, and he was girded with a linen ephod. It is after God is thus owned by David and all Israel, that the Lord makes a covenant with him concerning Solomon, saying, “he shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever; I will be his father, and he shall be my son,” &c. It is along this glorious pathway of God's purposes and counsels, as to the throne and kingdom, the people of Israel, and the land of promise, the temple and Mount Zion, the city of Jerusalem and the yet coming Messiah, that God has ever led the faith and expectations of those whom He called out to walk with Him. Abraham, Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, Othniel and the judges, David and Solomon, and all that family of faith, looked for a city whose builder and maker is God, and desired a better country, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.
The faith that follows God fully becomes acquainted with Himself and His sufficiency to care for His own glory, and the final blessing of His people, whether in Caleb or Abraham or David. This faith in things unseen and eternal enabled the first of these to look through Hebron, and see a future scepter and Shiloh; or another, through Mount Moriah and the son Isaac, to see a dead and risen Christ; or a third through Mount Zion and a Solomon (after the flesh) to see a glorified Lord at the right hand of God, and a heavenly Jerusalem. These and further revelations from the Father's love concerning His well beloved Son, by the Holy Ghost through the apostles of the New Testament, are the highways and bypaths by which we also are called out into the fellowship with the Father and the Son.
In the epistle to the believing Hebrews, we join them upon the heavenly calling, as the Spirit by Paul guides their faith along this line of their ancestors; only adding this, “but ye are come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly and to the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” The summing up of this epistle may very properly close these remarks on the ways of God with His people. This cloud of witnesses (some of whom have been noticed) are here brought forward into their new place, in association with our Lord; and though dead yet speak, claiming their heirship and blessing through the Seed of Abraham and of David, which is the Christ of God; and wait for His second coming. Jesus is also presented as the Author and Finisher of faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God, waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. By His death and resurrection, He has made the mercies of Jehovah's covenanted grace sure to Abraham and to David, as their Son and Lord, and secured the promises as Son of God, and made them “yea and Amen, to the glory of God by us.” The mystery of the church, as the body and bride of the Lamb—the mystic eve—is now being formed by the Holy Ghost. God is calling out from Jews and Gentiles, the quickened members of the body, into union in life and righteousness with a rejected Christ, hidden in the heavens; for whose shout we wait, to catch us up to meet Him in the air, and to be changed into His likeness. Creation, likewise which groaneth under the bondage of corruption, waits in hope of its deliverance into the liberty of this glory, when the manifestation of the sons of God is come to pass. The last few touches only remain to perfect the mystery of God, and the Lord will rise up from His place and quit the Father's throne to sit as Son of man upon His own throne in His own glory, and the glory of all the holy angels. Israel redeemed, and brought into this scene of blessing, under Christ and the bride (the heavenly Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, having the glory of God), will then understand its own mystery— “that God had provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” How gladly will they sing in that day, “for of him, and to him, and through him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
J. Ε. B.