Message: The Caleb Effect – Pt. 1 | Scripture: Joshua 15-17 | Speaker: Pastor Stephen Choy
Come prepared to share and answer at least two of the following questions:
- Take some time to reflect on the sermon. What did you like about it? What did you not like about it? If you had some questions about it to ask one another (or Pastor Stephen) what would those questions be and try to answer them together.
- Be gracious, supportive and receptive to one another and to your group facilitators in this because they/you may not have all the answers!
- Call Pastor Stephen if you get stuck!
- Discuss one way God’s used this past sermon (or one of the previous few sermons) to grow you and/or challenge you. Make sure to explain why you’ve been challenged.
- Perhaps in how God is exposing your desire for worldly things, notoriety/praise, etc., and how you are growing in your satisfaction in his sufficiency.
- Perhaps in how you’ve failed OR flourished in taking care of those he’s placed under/within your direct sphere of influence.
- Perhaps in your (un)gratefulness for the people and things that God has graciously placed in your life to remind you of his faithfulness and generosity.
- Perhaps in the strides you’ve made to share the gospel to that individual(s) you’ve been praying for/in the fearful hesitancy that prevents you from sharing the gospel to that individual(s) you’ve been praying for/in the fearful hesitancy that prevents you from praying for someone to share the gospel with.
- Perhaps in the simple fact that very often we either go/don’t go to God because the desires of our hearts are oriented towards our own ends and not to see God glorified through us regardless of how he responds–Perhaps in the fact that, as humans who are prone to love our sin, we very often do not want God interfering with our lives at all.
- Perhaps in your unbelief that, because God has not responded to you in tangible/visible ways before, he will respond to you now–and thus, you’ve given up hope of his deliverance or provision.
- Discuss one way that we can pray for you as a group. Try and elevate your requests above basic needs for health or economy UNLESS you feel these things must be/should be shared.
- Provide/encourage us with an update of something that God is doing to apply his gospel in your life/how the beauty and preciousness of Jesus is being freshly applied to your current situation.
A long-time friend of mine who’s older than me, but who I’ve established a pretty good relationship with has a daughter, and the reason why I know him is because he’s a fellow Christian—he’s gone to church for a long time, he confesses the truth of the gospel. When him and his wife started having kids, he was sure to bring all of his children to church with him every week. But before his daughter went to university, she began to exhibit signs of unbelief—whether it was bouts of rebellion or a rejection of certain church beliefs.
And since this daughter could be quite aggressive in her rebellion, the parents never really pushed her or challenged her in her unbelief. Instead, they began to opt for the silent or passive acts of instilling practices of their faith in her life. They would tell her that they were praying for her. They would pray at meals before they ate. They would have special family gatherings where they talked about Christian things. But when it came to the daughter, specifically, they never pressed her. They, like a lot of Christians, held onto the idea that once-saved-always-saved, and, perhaps, this was just a phase in her life.
Fast forward a couple years, and it will come as no surprise to you that the daughter had been in a number of elicit relationships with non-Christian men. In fact, one night she met a man at a bar who she ended up falling in love with, and within a couple of months, they decided to get married. When that gentlemen went before my friend and his wife to ask for their daughters’ hand in marriage, my friend, without hesitation, knowing full-well this man’s unbelief while also believing that his daughter was saved, looked the boyfriend in the eye and gave him their blessing.
When I confronted my friend about this decision, I asked him why he gave his blessing—why would he subject his daughter to the likelihood of being pulled away completely from any sort of faith-based influence or community? And do you know what he said? With absolute hesitation, knowing full-well the implication of my question, he answered by saying, “I’m afraid to lose her. I don’t want to drive her away.”
You see, this friend of mine, had become so accustomed to letting his daughter determine the direction of their relationship and the things that she would accept about her parents, that when it came to making the most important decision of her life, her father—this man—felt helpless to do anything but give her exactly what she wanted.
And can I tell you something about that daughter? At about the 8 or 9 year mark, a woman, a friend of my friend’s daughter, called her, and the first words that came out of this friend’s mouth was, “I just want you to know, your husband is with me—he’s been with me for almost 10 years now, and I just got a divorce from my own husband. So, your husband’s going to leave you now and come live with me.” What’s worse is that after all of this, after all their fighting, after all their conversations for divorce, after all the discussions about who would receive custody of their children, my friend has told me that his daughter blames God for allowing something like this to happen to her. She blames God as the culprit behind her suffering and misery.
Brothers and sisters, I hope you can hear it—God did not do this. To be sure, the daughter is to blame for her decisions to walk away from Christ—to walk away from the church—to choose to marry this coward of a man. But I hope you see that another culprit is to blame. I hope you see that another party is at fault.
Now, this sermon isn’t just for parents. Rather, it’s for all of us because every single person in this room has been given a deposit—a charge over something of extreme and immeasurable value. But what we learn from my friend and what we learn from our passage this morning is that when we take that deposit for granted, there is no doubt that we will inevitably lose it, and we won’t just lose it, but it is likely that such a loss will be tragic.
So, what I desire to preach to you today [and two weeks from now], from our text, is how not to lose it—how to guard and protect the lineage, the deposit, that God has entrusted to us. We are to be zealous and actively involved in that protection, but more than zealousness, we have to be equipped in how to do it, and the first way that we are to protect the lineage that God has entrusted to us is:
1) By Dispossessing the Progressiveness of Our Greed
We’ll be doing a little bit of jumping around in our text this morning, but I’ll point out to you each passage as we come to them. Would you read along with me starting in Joshua 15:1-12? TWoL: The allotment for the tribe of the people of Judah according to their clans reached southward to the boundary of Edom, to the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south. 2 And their south boundary ran from the end of the Salt Sea, from the bay that faces southward. 3 It goes out southward of the ascent of Akrabbim, passes along to Zin, and goes up south of Kadesh-barnea, along by Hezron, up to Addar, turns about to Karka, 4 passes along to Azmon, goes out by the Brook of Egypt, and comes to its end at the sea. This shall be your south boundary. 5 And the east boundary is the Salt Sea, to the mouth of the Jordan. And the boundary on the north side runs from the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan. 6 And the boundary goes up to Beth-hoglah and passes along north of Beth-arabah. And the boundary goes up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. 7 And the boundary goes up to Debir from the Valley of Achor, and so northward, turning toward Gilgal, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim, which is on the south side of the valley. And the boundary passes along to the waters of En-shemesh and ends at En-rogel. 8 Then the boundary goes up by the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the southern shoulder of the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem). And the boundary goes up to the top of the mountain that lies over against the Valley of Hinnom, on the west, at the northern end of the Valley of Rephaim. 9 Then the boundary extends from the top of the mountain to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah, and from there to the cities of Mount Ephron. Then the boundary bends around to Baalah (that is, Kiriath-jearim). 10 And the boundary circles west of Baalah to Mount Seir, passes along to the northern shoulder of Mount Jearim (that is, Chesalon), and goes down to Beth-shemesh and passes along by Timnah. 11 The boundary goes out to the shoulder of the hill north of Ekron, then the boundary bends around to Shikkeron and passes along to Mount Baalah and goes out to Jabneel. Then the boundary comes to an end at the sea. 12 And the west boundary was the Great Sea with its coastline. This is the boundary around the people of Judah according to their clans.
Now, let’s turn to the last verse of chapter 15—verse 63, reading through until chapter 17 verse 2. TWoL: But the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.
16:1 The allotment of the people of Joseph went from the Jordan by Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, into the wilderness, going up from Jericho into the hill country to Bethel. 2 Then going from Bethel to Luz, it passes along to Ataroth, the territory of the Archites. 3 Then it goes down westward to the territory of the Japhletites, as far as the territory of Lower Beth-horon, then to Gezer, and it ends at the sea. 4 The people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance. 5 The territory of the people of Ephraim by their clans was as follows: the boundary of their inheritance on the east was Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon, 6 and the boundary goes from there to the sea. On the north is Michmethath. Then on the east the boundary turns around toward Taanath-shiloh and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah, 7 then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, and touches Jericho, ending at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the boundary goes westward to the brook Kanah and ends at the sea. Such is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Ephraim by their clans, 9 together with the towns that were set apart for the people of Ephraim within the inheritance of the Manassites, all those towns with their villages. 10 However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.
17:1 Then allotment was made to the people of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war. 2 And allotments were made to the rest of the people of Manasseh by their clans, Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida. These were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph, by their clans.
Lastly, read with me from Joshua 17:7-13. TWoL: The territory of Manasseh reached from Asher to Michmethath, which is east of Shechem. Then the boundary goes along southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. 8 The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but the town of Tappuah on the boundary of Manasseh belonged to the people of Ephraim. 9 Then the boundary went down to the brook Kanah. These cities, to the south of the brook, among the cities of Manasseh, belong to Ephraim. Then the boundary of Manasseh goes on the north side of the brook and ends at the sea, 10 the land to the south being Ephraim’s and that to the north being Manasseh’s, with the sea forming its boundary. On the north Asher is reached, and on the east Issachar. 11 Also in Issachar and in Asher Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages, and Ibleam and its villages, and the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; the third is Naphath. 12 Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 13 Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.
In order to frame our chapters—I’ll have you remember what took place previously in chapter 14, before any actual communication of allocation is given to the tribes. There, Joshua gives the faithful servant of God, Caleb, his portion of land in Hebron, which is part of the tribe of Judah’s allotment, and the reason why Caleb is rewarded first, at least in Scripture, is because he provides us with an example of what faithful, whole-hearted devotion to God looks like. He has banked his entire life on the promise of God, and it’s this example that all of Israel is to follow as they go in to possess the whole land.
And as much as I want to launch off from this point to tell you about all the ways that Israel does what it’s supposed to and follows the examples of their leader, Joshua, and of this faithful servant, Caleb—I cannot according to the words we receive here. Because as we walk through these first three tribes—and I would remind you that these are the three most exalted tribes in all of Israel—it is through Judah that the promise of Abraham is supposed to be fulfilled—it is through Joseph’s line that Israel is to have the greatest number of people with land that exceeds all the other tribes—as we walk through these first three tribes and the land allocated to them, every single accounting ends not with the author’s declaration of triumph but with remorse.
I imagine that we don’t have a slide for this, but if you have your Bible, take a look at Joshua 15:63; 16:10; and 17:12-13. What is it that all of these verses have in common? It’s that each of these tribes are either unable or unwilling to dispossess the whole allotment of their land of Canaanites or other gentiles who still dwell in it. Now the ESV uses the words “drive out” in chapters 15 and 16 and the words “could not take possession” in chapter 17, but I assure you that in the Hebrew, all of these words are exactly the same—used in the exact same tense—ירשׁ–which, when read in context with the negative particle, reads, “they did not possess [all the land].” All three of them—those meant to be the shining beacon of obedience and fulfillment of God’s promises—they prove themselves to abject failures.
It’s like when I went into the movie theatre to watch Matrix 2. I remember sitting there in the seat, literally, shaking because I was so excited. I enjoyed the first movie so much that I had purchased an individual calendar for the sole purpose of marking down the days until the second one came out. But all I remember from that second installment, as the movie came to an end, was how good of a nap I received for the last hour of the movie because it was that boring.
Still, because of how good the first movie was, I was dedicated. So, I went to watch the third movie, and to this day, I can’t even talk about the third installment of that franchise because of how much worse it was than the second. Please, don’t even get me started on the fourth movie. That franchise, after the first Matrix, had all the pieces—had all the promise—to become one of the best franchises in history, but at the height of its promise—as the first movie came to a close—the second, third, and fourth movies only seemed to get progressively worse and worse.
And that’s what we have here in our text because not only does Joshua 15:63; 16:10; and 17:12-13 all employ the same failure language of each tribe to secure the totality of their inheritance—they get progressively worse in their failure. We’re told that Judah is not able to dispossess the Jebusites—Canaanites who live in Jerusalem. So, perhaps, Judah fails not necessarily because they didn’t want the land, but, probably, because they attempted to obtain it without depending upon God to give it to them. They failed not because they lacked desire, but because their hope and trust was misplaced in themselves.
But then we look at Ephraim in which we’re told that they failed to dispossess the land of Canaanites not because they couldn’t but because they simply didn’t. This is given greater and more sinister context when we read about Manasseh’s attitude in chapter 17 that the Israelites not only failed in their task but that even when they were able to—even when they had grown strong—even when they could have driven them out—they still decided not to.
John Calvin gets it exactly right when he says, “the crime [of these people] was unpardonable [because despite] having it in their power to easily destroy all, they not only [became] slothful in executing the command of God, but, induced by filthy [temptation], they preserved those alive whom God had doomed to destruction.” The exact phrase that Calvin actually uses to describe what these Israelites wanted was that they were induced by filthy lucre. Now, I didn’t know what lucre was in a biblical context, so I had to look it up, and the definition I was given, when used in the Bible, is that it means money obtained dishonestly.
In other words, these Israelites were greedy! They were induced by the temptations and guiles of the world! God’s promises weren’t enough for them—they didn’t just want the land, they wanted, progressively, to enslave the people of the land so that they could be made even richer. And all of this is made that much more inconceivable when we remember who the Israelites were, namely, slaves of a nation that God destroys because of their lust for wealth and power!
And the lesson for us here, as we consider how the rest of Israel’s history will play out—as they continue in their pursuit of the lusts of their flesh and give themselves over to the idolatry of the nations—we are to remember who we once were.
We’re to consider our sinfulness, and how even despite that, God has entrusted us with his inheritance, and we’re to say, “that is enough.” Don’t go back to your enslavement under sin, or worse yet, don’t become a cautionary tale and enslaves others by drawing them into your sin. You are called to be pure in heart—not those swept away by the filthy lucre—by worldly idolatry—because it is the pure of heart that the Bible promises shall see God—and that is meant to be enough. God is meant to be enough, and it is in our seeking after more, that we condemn ourselves to less.
What our text, and what the rest of the Bible seems to suggest over-and-over again, is not only that Israel seals its own fate by failing to live up to Yahweh’s clear directions and commands, but that because of their failure and disobedience—because of their greed for the world—they’re unable and distracted from enjoying what was supposed to be theirs. For the rest of their lives—for the rest of the Old Testament, what we receive is a tale of a nation that tries desperately, in its own power and wisdom, to cling to that which has nothing to do with God—to satisfy themselves apart from God.
TCCBC, what God intends to give us is also what he intends to satisfy us, especially when what he gives us is himself. And we are called with every fiber of our beings to guard and protect that deposit—to make sure we honour him and his gift—because he is coming again. And on that day, we will be called to give an account for what we’ve received. When that day comes, will we hold out our hands like Israel and show him that we squandered our possession by trading the treasures of God for the waste of the world, or will he and his gifts prove to us sufficient? Will we try to enter into his presence by our greed or by his grace? The choice is yours, and my hope is that you choose to protect only that which God has entrusted to you.
2) By Eschewing Our Fearful Hesitancy
Read with me Joshua 17:14-18. TWoL: Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?” 15 And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16 The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” 17 Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, 18 but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”
I shared in last week’s sermon that one of the reasons why the allotment of Caleb’s inheritance of chapter 14 begins the distribution of land process concluding in chapter 19 is to provide us with bookends of how God deals with the two faithful spies from Numbers 13—the only two who are still alive from the previous generation of Israelites. Yet, even within that larger structure of chapters 14-19, the author builds in another, smaller bookend between Caleb and the these two tribes of Joseph. Namely, he means to provide us with an example, in Caleb, of faithful, worshipful living towards the promises of God in contrast to the Josephites here who display for us a fear and cowardice in the world.
On the one hand, Caleb is heavily dependent to claim what is his not because of his own merit but because he clings to the words of God that have been given to him. But here, in chapter 17, what are the words of Ephraim and Manasseh? They are words of cowardice wrapped in the form of an excuse. At first, they complain that the land isn’t enough for all their people, but when Joshua tells them there’s enough land in the areas where gentiles dwell—areas that technically fall within the realm of Ephraim and Manasseh’s inheritance, they respond by brushing Joshua off.
They essentially say they’re not even going to try and take that land because it’s still not enough. Why bother taking the land, if it won’t satisfy all of their needs? It’s like when my son throws a temper tantrum when we attempt to feed him green food. He’s hardly ever tried it, but simply by looking at what’s on the plate and comparing it to the food that he likes, he’s made up his mind, it does not taste good—it can’t possibly be satisfying. This is the logic of the Josephites’ first complaint. They refuse Joshua not on the grounds that the land is actually insufficient but because without even trying it, they’ve made up their minds that it is insufficient.
And we’re to stop here and see the sin that wells up within us when we get it in our hearts and minds that God owes us—that we can imagine something better for ourselves than he can for us. It is when our hearts get like this that we must tread very carefully because God does not save us in order to be enslaved to us. Biblical language is clear when it says that in saving us, we become slaves to him—slaves to Christ. Yes, he wants to give us the desires of our hearts, but that is because his desires become ours. His prerogative becomes our proposition. His declaration becomes our law. Our hearts are to be affected towards his character, and we are to realize that all we are is owed to him.
Yet, the example that the two tribes of Joseph provide here show us that nothing over the past seven years has truly affected them. In fact, by their actions, they set the very foundation for their future apostasy. And in knowing the trajectory of their history, we are to be gravely aware and wary of the demands that we make upon our God, especially if our hearts have no intention to serve him as such nor to be satisfied in him.
But still, the problem is not only in the entitlement of the hearts of Israel, but in a deeper issue, which we see in the middle of verse 16. The true reason as to why they will not go up into the hill country is because they’re afraid. That hill country isn’t enough for us, they say, and even if it were, those Canaanites—those gentiles—have chariots of iron.
In other words, they become terrified by the impressiveness of these inhabitants, and they don’t want to go into the land even if it is enough for them. Again, the last seven years seem to have been meaningless. The impressiveness of the world still impresses them, despite the fact that they’ve won the war in a more spectacular fashion. The inheritance is being distributed—500 years in the making, and within minutes—within the act of instruction giving—not land possessing—but in the description of their land, before anything else has happened, the people of God are already screwing it up.
Do you see the contrast now between Caleb and the Josephites? Do you see the deep irony? Because in the next verse we learn that these two tribes of Joseph are numerous and powerful, and at the very least, they match up well with their opponents, and yet, they’re afraid not of the people but of the toys that the people have—as if things—toys—technology—the impressiveness of the world is what saves you. Their concern is in what they don’t possess. But Caleb, he’s 85, and not only is he old, but he’s willing with zeal unmatched to go into battle himself with nothing—against giants, I might add. Why? Because he is wholly captivated with who he does possess.
And we are to ask, as Israel, making this connection between Caleb and the Josephites, was meant to ask: what does it mean to possess God? What does it mean for God to entrust anything to us? What does it mean that we might become participants in the establishment and cultivation of his kingdom? See, the Josephites get one thing right: they cannot overcome the greatness of these gentiles—they can’t compare. Yet, what they have forgotten is that their comparison is not grounded in things but in their possession the Creator of all things. To possess God is to be rid of fear in the world.
More than this, what seems to be the case, is that these tribes of Israel have lost their courage not only because they see these chariots, but because the context tells us their leader is now unable to continue and show them the power of their God. For them, Joshua is their conqueror. He is their means of experiencing God, and it never occurs to any of them that they are to carry on where Joshua left off. They’ve forgotten that Joshua is just a mediator—a man called to obedience by Israel’s true leader and King.
And now, when God intends to pass the mantle of participation—when he intends to let these individual tribes experience that same blessing of displaying his power in all the earth—their hearts and their attitudes show that they do not want it—they don’t want him. He’s inadequate for their desires—they don’t want what they can’t see, only what they can see.
And this is troubling not only because God is invisible, but also because he punishes them for their unbelief. For the next 1,500 years, their fearful hesitation to act based upon what they see results in one of the greatest downfalls of a nation that has ever been recorded in the history of mankind. But the good news is this: at the right time, when all of Israel and the rest of the world had all but forgotten what it meant to know and perceive the holy God of the universe as he meant to be perceived, he gave us another man—his own beloved Son, who is God, the second person of the Trinity incarnate.
This man went up upon that hill where the impressiveness of the world was on display to give his own life as a sacrifice not merely as our mediator but as our divine ransom for our pride and unbelief. And in so doing, he accomplishes two pivotal things: 1) he secures the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance that God promised to his people, and 2) he appears in his resurrected body before those who doubted God’s resolve to fulfill his promises to them, and in their seeing him, we’re told in the book of John, chapter 20, that they believed. Finally.
But Jesus does not stop there—because as those doubters confess with their sight that this man is, indeed, their Lord and their God, it is Jesus’ words in response to them that continue to endear our hearts to him today when he says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is the lineage and the deposit that we’ve been given: our faith—faith that Christ has come as the God-Man able not only to tell us about our inheritance, as Joshua does, but who also, by his own sacrifice, secures it for us by his blood.
And in his sacrifice, he’s rid from us not only our spirit of timidity and fear, but he has given us in replacement a Spirit of faith, joy, and power, so that when we go into the world—and all the impressiveness of its boasts—we shall be astounded not by the iron chariots of men, but by the trustworthiness of God as the One who reveals his wisdom and power through those who are, in themselves, lowly and weak. For in our weakness, he displays his strength.
This, brothers and sisters, is the Caleb Effect—that he might use the weak to shame the wise—that he might reveal his humble gospel to a proud world obsessed with its sin—and that he might use ordinary people like you and me to do it as we trust in our extraordinary Saviour. Protect the lineage of faith that God has entrusted to you in our Lord Jesus Christ. Rid yourself of worldly greed and fear. Turn your affection upon your Savior and do what is good to his glory for by his strength, he gives us courage sufficient to do it.