Sometimes victories come quickly, perhaps overnight, life suddenly changes. Other times, the battle rages on for years, maybe even decades with no end in sight. What I think God wants us to realize is that he is in control and his timing is perfect. He does not make things easy because he wants us to trust him.
Joshua 12:24 – 13:1 puts the Israelites’ conquests into a proper perspective. Although 31 kings had already been conquered, Joshua tells them, “there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed” (Joshua 13:1). It was a good news, bad news scenario of sorts because the acknowledgement of what had already been accomplished would help to strengthen the people’s resolve to keep fighting until all their enemies were defeated.
I think Caleb is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible that has not received the recognition due him because of the vast amount of attention given to Joshua. Caleb was the representative of the tribe of Judah that was sent to spy out the Promised Land when the Israelites first reached its borders after their Exodus from Egypt. Caleb’s attitude differed from the majority of the men that spent 40 days looking over the lay of the land. Caleb was not intimidated by the strong men, large cities, or high walls he saw. His advice to the people was, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num 13:30).
Even though Caleb’s entry into the Promised Land was delayed 40 years, his positive attitude was not diminished. When it came time to distribute their inheritance, Caleb proclaimed:
Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land…and now low I am this day fourscore and five years (85) old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me…Now therefore give me this mountain whereof the LORD spoke in that day. (Joshua 14:7, 10-12)
Hebron, the mountain Caleb is referring to, is the place Abraham first dwelt after God promised to give him all the land north, south, east, and west of Canaan. You could say Caleb’s occupation of Hebron brought things full-circle, God’s faithfulness was now evident to everyone. The cave Abraham purchased as a burial place for Sarah was located in Hebron. Isaac and Esau lived in Hebron and Jacob returned there after spending 20 years in Haran with his uncle Laban, so the family’s history was closely tied to this location.
Hebron was also pivotal later in the establishment of God’s kingdom. The first seven years of David’s reign were in the land of Hebron. His inauguration in Hebron may well have been a peak moment in Israel’s history. It says in 1 Chronicles 12:30, “All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king.”
The explanation given for Caleb receiving Hebron as his inheritance is “because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel” (Joshua 14:14). One of the definitions of the word translated followed is stayed behind (310). This may make sense to followers of Jesus Christ because he once walked on the earth, but for Caleb, who followed someone he had never seen, this was a remarkable accomplishment.
Although Caleb’s conquest of Hebron was an important victory for the tribe of Judah, it did not completely secure the area that they were meant to inherit. In particular, the city that would eventually become their capital, Jerusalem was compromised. “As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out, but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day” (Joshua 15:63).
Eventually, David would gain control of Jerusalem and build his palace there, but even his military strength was not enough to drive out the people that were a continual stumbling block to the Israelites. David’s own life was compromised when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and his daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon. So, the question that comes to my mind is, why could they not drive them out? If God was on their side, why did the Israelites not get the victory over these people as they did over the inhabitants of Jericho?
It does not say in the Bible why they could not drive them out, it just says that the Jebusites dwelt with the children of Judah. When Jesus was on the earth, one of the things he did was to cast out demons and he gave his disciples the ability to do it also. On one occasion, a man brought his son to Jesus’ disciples and asked them to cast out the demon that possessed him. It talks about this in Luke 9:40. “And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not.” Jesus’ response may provide some insight into why his disciples power was limited. “And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, now long shall I be with you and suffer you?…And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father” (Luke 9:41-42). What Jesus is saying is that they were not really Believers, they were unconverted.
The concept of being born again is one that has never really been understood. It only makes sense to those that have experienced it. When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells inside the person. It is what some people refer to as having Jesus in your heart. The Holy Spirit is the source of a Believer’s power. It is his presence inside of us that makes it possible for us to do miraculous things. The key to receiving the Holy Spirit is belief. “Jesus said to him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).