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  • Writer's picturePatty

She Has No Plan to Retire, and Neither Did Caleb!

Read: Numbers 13:30; Numbers 14:6-9; Numbers 14:24; Joshua 14:6-14

I remember hearing that Colonel Sanders started to sell his famous chicken at the age of 65. This was true concerning the year when the business was first incorporated, but the famous fried chicken was first sold in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1952 prior to the incorporation three years later.

Before that finger licking success, Harland Sanders worked on a farm, was a streetcar conductor, practiced law in a justice of the peace court in Arkansas and even delivered babies. He died at the age of 90 in 1980, after having lived a storied life; however, this week, I learned about a lady who has worked at one career for longer than Sanders was alive. Her name is Virginia Oliver, and she has worked in Maine on a lobster boat for 94 years. Even now at the age of 103, she is preparing for her 95th season of bringing in lobsters, and she doesn't plan to stop until she dies.

For 61 years of her life, Virginia Oliver worked beside her husband Max, and now her partner is her 80-year-old son. Talk about loving what you are doing! She was not deterred even after she needed stitches. The result of having been bitten by a crab! Now that's spunk, and in today's scripture reading, we have the honor of observing another man with spunk. Caleb. Like Virginia, he was a man with no plan to retire!

We first are introduced to this man Caleb in Numbers 13. God's assessment of Caleb was that he was a man who followed Him with his whole heart. He was one of the twelve spies who were sent into the land of promise. They were to see what it was like. They were to look at its fortifications and bring some of its produce back for the people to see. This was not a mission to determine the feasibility of God people's ability to conquer the land. They had received God's promise; instead, we might say that Joshua and the other eleven spies were sent on a fact-finding tour. Sadly, ten out of the twelve spies brought back a discouraging report to the people. In spite of God's promise, they told the people that the task of taking possession of the land was not possible.

In Numbers 13:30, we see Caleb's wisdom and readiness to take on God's task. He quieted the people who had believed the lie that the majority of the spies had told them. Caleb then tried to remind the people of God's promise, but the truth he spoke was blown away by the negative report of the louder majority. In Numbers 14, we see that the people continued to walk in rebellion against the Lord. In Numbers 14:6-10, we watch as Caleb tried, once again, to turn the hearts of his people toward the Lord. He encouraged them with the fruitfulness of the land that God had promised them, and he exhorted them with the truth that the victory already was theirs. They only needed to go and take what God had promised. Sadly, the people were so rebellious that they wanted to stone those who urged them to trust the Lord. God intervened, and He promised that none of those who rebelled would receive what He had promised. Caleb, because he had a different heart that believed the Lord, would live to take possession of his inheritance.

Much can be known about a person when what he wants is delayed due to the wicked actions of others. That is where we see Caleb, once again, shining. Although we don't hear him speak for 45 years after the rebellion of God's people, when we meet him again at the age of 85, Caleb was still ready for the challenge. His years of wandering in the wilderness with the people until that whole generation died did not make him bitter or did it dim his desire to take the land. When we hear his words found in Joshua 14, he sounds like that returning spy who wanted to charge into the land. He was still ready to go. He was still trusting God, and he wasn't ready for retirement. His zeal hadn't waned because of the years when his dream hadn't yet come to fruition. His heart was still fully trusting in the Lord. He hadn't given up on God, and he was still eagerly trusting Him.

Can we imagine what it was like for Caleb and Joshua when the people walked in outright unbelief? They had to watch as the other ten spies perished because of their unbelief. Then during the 38 years of wilderness traveling, the faithful two spies had to endure the deaths of all of the men who had been old enough to go to war when the people refused to go and conquer the land, Numbers 26:65.

Instead of enjoying the land of promise, Caleb and Joshua had to wait even though they had acted honorably. How easy would it have been for them to have become apathetic or bitter? Yet, we don't see that in Caleb or Joshua. It is true that God gave Caleb wonderful vigor. Though he was 85 years old, his physical prowess was the same as it had been when he first spied out the land. What a good gift he received from the Lord, James 1:17. How wise Caleb was to use that gift fully.

What can we take for ourselves from Caleb's example? One thing is certain. the Lord's work has no retirement clause attached to it. As long as we are here, there is work to be done. We can, as Caleb did, exhort others to trust God. Everyone becomes discouraged at times. No matter whether we are young or old, we can point people to God Who is the God of all comfort, 2 Corinthians 1:3. We can refuse to become apathetic or bitter because of what we see all around us. To do that, we have to renew our thinking, Romans 12:2. Sometimes the bad thinking of the world tries to worm its way into our hearts. It is a bit like getting too close to a skunk. The smell can easily rub off. If that happens, we have to have the washing of God's Word to bring the sweetness of His truths back to the forefront of our thinking.

I wonder how many times Caleb had to encourage himself with God's promise that he would enter the land. We don't know, but we know he was ready when the time came. By choosing to think guided by God's truths, we also can be prepared for God's opportunities when they come. In 2 Peter 3:1-9, we are reminded that we will encounter scoffers who will not believe that Jesus will come again. What opportunities we have to hold out the truth that God judged the world with a flood and that another judgment will surely come. Many won't believe just as the people for the most part didn't believe Caleb and Joshua. Yet, holding out God's truth honors Him even if people laugh in unbelief. Our challenge is to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have, 1 Peter 3:15.

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