Message: God is Sufficient | Scripture: Joshua 14 | Speaker: Pastor Stephen Choy
I don’t often buy sports paraphernalia. In fact, even after the Toronto Raptors won their championship in 2019 against our bitter enemies, the Golden State Warriors, I still did not buy any of their championship swag. A big reason for that is because I’m cheap, and outside of formal clothing like shirts and suits, I generally only spend money on clothing every decade. My wife knows this and loathes this. I still wear shirts, shorts, and pants that I’ve had since high school.
But in the summer of 2015, the Toronto Blue Jays signed a young 16-year-old boy named Vladimir Guerrero Ramos Jr. He was the son of legendary, hall of fame baseball player Vladimir Guerrero Sr. A man who played most of his celebrated professional baseball in Montreal, Canada, and it turned out that his son was not only a spitting image of his father, but that he had just as much potential to be a generational talent like Guerrero Sr.
I remember the day we signed him—it was an exciting day for Toronto because even though he was only 16-years-old, scouts had gauged him consistently over his development as one of the best young hitters they had ever seen. And as time went on, year after year, he proved that he wasn’t just hype. He worked his way through the minor league system hitting at an astounding rate from single-A, advanced single-A, Double-A, Triple-A, and then, finally, part way through the season, on April 24, 2019, at the age of 20, he was called up to join the big boys in the Show, and for his first year, he played phenomenally.
But then, 2020 hit, and the pandemic crippled most players abilities to get into a rhythm including Toronto’s young star. So, we had to wait for 2021, and all that waiting—all that anticipation for what had been promised, it was finally here. See, the reason why I never bought Toronto Raptors gear after we won the championship was because as great as that run was—the circumstances were extraordinary. We got a player that we never developed, a player that didn’t truly want to play for us, and who, we knew, was going to leave as soon as his contract here expired.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., on the other hand, was the guy we had been waiting for, who we expected to perform, and, when he finally got the chance, blew right past our expectations. So, after years of being a Toronto sports fan without any Toronto sports gear, I finally gave in and bought a Blue Jays jersey with the name Guerrero Jr. on the back because the waiting was now over. The time for Toronto Blue Jays baseball as I had come to expect it and as was promised to me was here, and I wasn’t going to miss my chance to be a part of it.
Today, we’re switching gears. Up until this point in the book of Joshua, we’ve only talked about two Israelites by name: Joshua, Israel’s hero and leader, and Achan, Israel’s curse and cautionary tale. But here in Joshua 14, we learn, by name, about a third Israelite, Caleb. Caleb is about to have his own Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moment. He’s a man who’s been waiting expectantly for the promise of his inheritance, and unlike everyone else in Israel, except for Joshua, he’s been waiting a long, long time. And he makes absolutely certain not to miss his chance to see it fulfilled.
But the message in our text isn’t found only in Caleb’s inheritance but in the type of person that he is—the type of person who, when he comes asking for his inheritance, Joshua has no problem giving it to him because he’s a man whose whole heart—from the first time we meet him in Numbers 13 up until now—his whole heart has been about following God. His whole heart has been fixed upon the promise because his whole heart knows, unequivocally, that God has been and will always be sufficient for him.
This is what we learn from Caleb today, and I hope what we’ll learn from Caleb hundreds of times over for the rest of our lives: we are to have a whole heart to follow our God. This is our proposition this morning, and I hope to show it to you as we move through our outline beginning with our first point: Have a Whole Heart to Follow Your God . . .
1) Because He, alone, is your sufficient comfort
Read Joshua 14:1-9 with me. TWoL: These are the inheritances that the people of Israel received in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel gave them to inherit. 2 Their inheritance was by lot, just as the LORD had commanded by the hand of Moses for the nine and one-half tribes. 3 For Moses had given an inheritance to the two and one-half tribes beyond the Jordan, but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them. 4 For the people of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. And no portion was given to the Levites in the land, but only cities to dwell in, with their pasturelands for their livestock and their substance. 5 The people of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses; they allotted the land. 6 Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. 8 But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9 And 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.’
A little bit of context would serve us well before getting into the meat of this passage. By the end of chapters 11 and 12, we learn that Joshua and Israel have conquered the main Canaanite portions of the land, but we learn in chapter 13 that certain portions still need to be conquered, particularly in regions where non-Canaanites dwell. And despite this fact, God tells Joshua to allot the land west of the Jordan for the nine and ½ tribes that have not yet received their inheritance knowing both that Joshua’s life is near its end and that Israel is expected to receive its full inheritance—not as those led by a human king but by God—the true King who has shown his people that he is uncompromisingly faithful to his promises.
Israel is not to shirk the task to which they have been called. They’re to keep their eyes on the God who gives them what they desire. They’re not to be lazy but to do the little that he requires of them. And they’re to be exceedingly glad in what they receive—for it’s far better than they deserve or could imagine. And here, at the start of chapter 14, we’re told that Joshua and Israel are faithful to the task—or at least obedient to the task of allotting the land in faith that they will receive it.
So, what verses 1-5 tell us is that before anyone goes into Canaan to possess their individual lot, we’re shown what a united people of God looks like as they work together to build the kingdom of God in obedience to God. These first few verses provide a simple note about Israel’s obedience—this is what happens when you are obedient: things get done, people are blessed, God is pleased—pleased enough to be amongst them. And this is true not only in those extreme circumstances of bloodshed, conflict, and warfare, but in the acts of mundane, daily life—in the acts of dividing land and mutually considering what each member of the community needs.
And I would be remiss if I did not comment here that God takes just as much pleasure in this act of quiet, “mundane” obedience as he does in the large, extravagant acts of faithfulness. Because no act for God is ever trivial. No act for his people or his church is ever unimportant. All of it—from the loudest sermon to the person wiping tables—glorifies and honours God. All of it is necessary and significant not only as works of righteousness but as worship to the one who has done it all, first, for us.
But then, we come to verse 6, and instead of going straight into the distribution of land for each tribe, the author of Joshua focuses in on the allotment of land specifically for Caleb. And there are multiple reasons he does this. First, the distribution of land sections from here in chapter 14 until the end of chapter 19 are bookended by the giving of inheritance to the two faithful spies from Numbers 13, Joshua and Caleb.
Second, chapters 13 and 14 are meant to emulate what happens in chapters 1 and 2 of the book, namely, chapters 1 and 2 are, if you remember, two sides of the same coin, the first chapter is about the unity of God’s people in conquering the land, and the second chapter is about what God’s people ought to look and sound like as they conquer the land—seen particularly in the example of a foreigner named Rahab.
Now, chapters 13 and 14 do the same thing. Chapter 13 and the beginning of chapter 14 focus on the unity of the people of God in occupying the land, while the latter half of chapter 14 focuses on what God’s people are supposed to look and sound like in its occupation, seen particularly in the example of a foreigner—a Kenizzite—an individual not under the lineage of Jacob but of Esau—an Edomite named Caleb.
In other words, just like Rahab does for the people of Israel, Caleb acts as an initiating example for what God expects of those who say they trust him. They don’t trust in their aptitude or abilities. They don’t trust in their lineage or inherited rights. They trust in God—in his Word, and both Rahab and Caleb show us as those who were once outsiders that there should be an uncompromising intentionality to bank everything we are and have on him and on what he’s said.
Look at the words of Caleb here in verses 7-8: I was forty years old when Moses sent me to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers made the heart of the people melt—even still, I wholly—you might translate this as completely or absolutely or whole-heartedly—followed the Lord my God.” Said differently, because of this word that had been placed in the heart of Caleb, he was willing not just to bank his life upon it, but he was willing to be completely forsaken both by his brothers and all of Israel whom these brothers had misled. He was willing to do what was right and risk being completely ostracized and outcasted because the word of God was better.
And I have to ask you, when was the last time that the promise of God’s deliverance—the promise of his fellowship—the promise of his sufficiency—when was the last time his Word gripped you and comforted you in this way? When was the last time someone invited you into a morally compromising situation, like laughing at an ill-mannered joke or speaking in sinful ways, only for you to either join in or make up an excuse not to participate without seeking to correct the immorality? We can all think of that moment—perhaps even some of us in our own conversations and interactions with each other.
Don’t think that the Bible has nothing to say about us in those situations. The book of James tells us that the double-minded man is a man who should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. And perhaps we have the audacity to sit here and think, well it’s one thing for James to write it, but it’s another thing to live it—to actually confront this kind of paralyzing fear and bank your friendship on it, your job on it, maybe even your life.
But this man, caleb, has lived it. He knows the loneliness that true faith may bring in a world completely opposed to the ways of God, and he embraced it because God was and is sweeter. God was and is wholly sufficient for his comfort in his affliction and isolation. He embraced the crucifix of his loneliness for the glory of his God.
And what was the consequence of his doing so? At the end of the conquest—when the war is said and done—what is it that Caleb receives? Does he receive further ostracization? Is he left alone? Or are we not led to believe that he is implicitly embraced by all in his community and his leader, that he is set to receive a great fortune and inheritance, and that he is not meant to possess it all in loneliness but to share it with those who love him—his family—forever? See, what the sufficiency of God looks like! Caleb understood the world could damn him, but nothing could separate him from the love of his King, and he knew that that love would deliver and vindicate him.
God was sufficient for his faithfulness. God was sufficient in his loneliness. Let God be sufficient for you in those circumstances that seem insurmountable—where the world stands against you—because he will comfort you. He will deliver you. Give him your whole heart. Follow him because he is wholly able to satisfy for you all that the world cannot.
2) Because He, alone, is your sufficient endurance
Read now with me Joshua 14:10-11. TWoL: 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.
As I reflected on this part of the passage, something came to my mind—a question that Joyce asked in Sunday School a few weeks ago as we went through James 2. She asked, “is faith works?” An expanded version of that question is “am I saved by virtue of my choosing to believe? Am I justified by works?” Put in the context of our passage, was Caleb saved—did he endure—by virtue of his choosing to believe—by whole-heartedly following his God?
And I remember the answer I gave that Sunday but not in a good way. I hope everyone who was in that room has forgotten my answer because I answered her horribly, and if I may, I’d like a do-over to answer her again now because my answer to her would be that, in a sense, faith is work. In a sense, the exercise of faith is our choosing to believe in the promises of God—in our choosing to believe that he is sufficient. In our uniting ourselves to that truth.
Now, if that was the whole truth, then we might conclude that we have and can earn every bit of our salvation—that we might believe like the Catholics do that God’s grace is sufficient only so far as to remove the hindrance of sin from our lives and give us just enough grace so that we might possess the free choice to decide and follow him.
But this is an incomplete truth—it is an insufficient truth because we must not miss the words of Caleb when he says, “behold, the Lord has kept me alive [not only because of his belief, but also, and more importantly,] just as he [the Lord] said [he would].” In fact, this refrain is repeated by Caleb throughout our passage: in v. 6, “the word that Yahweh spoke to Moses,” v. 10a, “just as Yahweh promised,” v. 10b, “from the time Yahweh spoke this word to Moses,” v. 12a, “which Yahweh promised on that day,” and even in verse 9a, where Moses, speaking on behalf of God, “swears [to Caleb] on that day [that these things would take place].” Five times, Caleb makes the claim that his faith to receive his inheritance is based upon nothing but what God had brought into his life—by what God had promised.
Here is the truth that he confesses, which is just as applicable for us today as Christians, and I’ll formulate the truth as a question, “which precedes the other: regeneration or faith—faith or regeneration?” Do you believe, and by your belief, does new life come into your bones? Or does new life come into your bones, first, then as a result, are you given the gift of belief?
And right here, Caleb is answering that question for us: regeneration precedes faith. The Lord’s statement that Caleb would be kept alive preceded Caleb’s belief that he would be kept alive. The Lord’s washing and renewal of Caleb’s heart in the truth of his promise brings about the conviction of Caleb’s heart to cling to that promise. Let’s use the language of John Piper: “God’s begetting causes our believing.” Our believing is simply the acted-out consequence of God bringing about a new birth in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit as he illuminates—as he ignites the beauty, power, and fully sufficient work of Jesus Christ in and upon our hearts. Let me say this another way, the work of faith—the work of belief—is simply the belief that no work was done by us in our redemption at all!
There is, in a sense, work in our believing. But there is no believing unless the object of our belief is given to us as a gift—unless the ugliness and wickedness of our sin is ripped out of our chests and transplanted with the beauty and majesty of our God in the glorious face of His Son. Regeneration precedes faith. His sufficiency precedes our obedience. His blood must cleanse us before we can walk in the newness of life.
Caleb is telling us here that he has followed God all these years—he has waited for his vindication—not because he believed, but because God decisively caused him to believe, and his heart—overwhelmed by the sheer grace that God might speak anything to him—responds, “I would have it no other way. I want to hear no other voice but God’s and God’s alone.”
So sweet, so assuring, and so steadfast is that voice that 45 years later, Caleb, who in Numbers 13 was bursting with conviction in the truth, was still, at age 85, as spry, limber, and ready as ever to stand upon this truth. To stand upon the conviction that God is sufficient. Are not his words reminiscent of the psalmists when he says, “My human flesh and my human heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
And still, let’s be super blunt—the reward for Caleb’s faith was measly compared to what those who have been regenerated unto faith in Jesus Christ shall be—those of us who stand on this side of the cross. He received land on this festering earth. But blessed are the poor in spirit—blessed are those who are persecuted and persevere for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, if only you might find him to be your sufficiency to endure. If only you might live by faith and not by sight empowered to do so by God himself.
Won’t you let him be that for you today? Won’t you acknowledge his regenerating and preserving work in your life to save you, to keep and sustain you, to show you that his promises are true? His word will not disappoint, and you can trust in it. Have a whole heart to follow him this day because he is, forever, sufficient for you.
3) Because He, alone, is your sufficient motivation
Read with me Joshua 14:12-15: 12 So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.” 13 Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. 14 Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. 15 Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba2 was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war.
When I was in the 8th grade, it might not surprise you that I was a talker. I tried to talk myself into and out of all sorts of things. But one night, when I was at my church’s youth group. Our counselor, Roger, held up a $10 bill, and he said to us, I will give you this $10 bill but only if you prove to me that you believe that I’ll do it. And like I had done a million times before, I reached into my bag of words, before anyone else could say anything, and I started blurting out all the reasons why I believed he’d give me that $10 bill and make me rich. “Because you’re not a liar,” I yelled. “Because you love us and wouldn’t forsake us,” attributing to him a godly kind of status if only he’d choose to give me the bill. And yet, as I screamed over all of my peers, I remember one of my best friends, he’s also a pastor now up in Toronto, he, without uttering a single word, got up from his seat, walked right over to Roger, and took the $10 bill from his hands, and believe you me, I’ve never been that quiet in my life since.
The regenerating, faith-giving, word-promising work that God had done in Caleb’s life did not simply result in Caleb being comforted in his loneliness, nor did it simply enable him to endure by faith in the promises of God for 45 years, but it spurred in him an unrelenting desire, energy, and motivation to keep-on-keeping-on—it motivated him, even at an old age, to act. See what he says. Not only has he banked his entire life on the promises of God who has a history of showing himself faithful to his people, but he is motivated by that faithfulness to possess exactly what God says is his.
And so astounding is this man, Caleb’s, faith that he actually asks Joshua for land that still houses the very people that initially kept Israel out. It is as if Joshua asked him, “are you sure you want this land? Anakim live there. Remember them?” To which Caleb replied, “Anakim live there? The people that Israel was so afraid of? Those people are in that land? Well, by-golly, give that land to me!” It reminds me of a story I heard of a company that sent in a shoe salesman to a foreign, war-torn country. And upon arrival, he had been there for barely a minute, when he messaged the company saying, “bring me home. No one wears shoes here.” So, they brought him home and sent another salesman, who promptly upon arriving messaged the company back saying, “send me all the shoes that you have. No one wears shoes here!”
This, brothers and sisters, is ultimately what faith in God does—it finds its true sufficiency in the motivating trustworthiness of God, and it jumps at the bit to prove itself—to live in the sufficiency of God. 45 years, Caleb says, he has waited. 45 years, Caleb says, has he anticipated displaying the strength of character and faith that God had given to him. 45 years has Caleb waited to say, not with hesitancy, like Israel did back in Numbers 13, but with expectancy, “may be the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out of that land, just as the Lord said [all those years ago that we could.]”. Oh, that we would taste and see the goodness, steadfastness, the unyielding strength of the Lord as this man, Caleb, did by faith.
And might we see it more clearly now than he did. For God gave that man a promise of a dim light, but in Christ, God has given us the fullness of his radiance. In Christ, we have a Saviour who suffered the loneliness of his obedient faith to the point of death, even death upon a cross. In Christ, we have a Saviour who endured the long journey up to Calvary where the full promise of God’s wrath for our sin awaited him. In Christ, we have a Saviour who was motivated by the glory of God and the inheritance set before him to shed his own blood to secure that glory and that inheritance not only for himself but for all those who believe.
And we who confess him as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead—we possess the ability, now, to see that same faith manifest in our own lives—that while all the world languishes in its sin, because we have Jesus, we do not, cannot, and will not shrink back from the task before us, just like our Lord refused to do. No, we will revel in it because it is our inheritance—to know that God was faithful to send us his own Son so that we might, like verse 14 says, be wholly committed to following him to the ends of the earth and that all might know his eternal rest.
Have a Whole Heart to Follow Your God through the example set for us in Caleb, and even more so, in the example set for us by his own Son because He, alone, is your sufficient comfort. He, alone, is your sufficient endurance. He, alone, is your sufficient motivation. He, alone, is sufficient for you.