We often think of legacy as that which others will remember about us, but there is something bigger that we should be focusing on.
One of the joys I have, being bi-vocational, is that I get to choose how I am known to new people. In many cultures it is not polite to ask someone what they do for a living, what is their job. In America it is one of the leading questions, right?
So as I meet new people it is often not long until that question is posed to me. I can say that I run a printing company, or I can tell them I lead a church, or both. This can be a lot of fun.
Years ago, Laura and I drafted up our will and wanted to get it notarized and have witnesses, so we went to our local bank. They knew us, verified our IDs and notarized the will for us. For the witnesses, I asked two tellers if they would sign and date and provide contact info. One of the tellers commented, “This is a lot of personal information I am giving you. You aren’t some kind of ax murderer or psycho, are you?” “No, I’m a pastor” to which the branch manger shouted out, “that’s even worse!”
As the kids got older my identity changed from my occupations to my relationships. “You are Conner and Tyler’s dad?” The context of that question could make you think carefully about your answer, right? “Um, yes? Why do you ask?”
I don’t mind being known by my job nor by being my kid’s parents. But in the grand scheme of things, is that all that I really want to be known for?
Legacy is something that is accumulated over time and gains value with age. I hit 50 years old this year – it is not the cause of any kind of crisis for me, but each year is a chance to reassess and to reflect and to think about the kind of legacy that I am leaving for my family – biological and church.
I want us to go back to a familiar passage in the book of numbers. The story of the 12 spies:
Numbers 13:26–33 || 26 The men went back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They brought back a report for them and the whole community, and they showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They reported to Moses: “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit. 28 However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites are living in the land of the Negev; the Hethites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” 31 But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!” 32 So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: “The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size. 33 We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim! To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.” [CSB]
The reasons the 10 spies said they should NOT follow God’s directions were because:
We did not really cover this when we went through Genesis, but let’s take a look:
Genesis 6:4 || 4 The Nephilim were on the earth both in those days and afterward, when the sons of God came to the daughters of mankind, who bore children to them. They were the powerful men of old, the famous men. [CSB]
Some people say the Nephilim were fallen angels. Others say they were giants. We are not really sure exactly who they were, but they were known for being very powerful and large.
So, back to the reports: 10 spies said the land was not conquerable because its cities were big and fortified and the people were strong giants. Two came back with a favorable report, and we are introduced to one of them in 13:30
Numbers 13:30 || 30 Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” [CSB]
God got very upset with the nation of Israel because they did not trust Him, and the net result was this:
Numbers 14:21–24 || 21 Yet as surely as I live and as the whole earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested me these ten times and did not obey me, 23 will ever see the land I swore to give their fathers. None of those who have despised me will see it. 24 But since my servant Caleb has a different spirit and has remained loyal to me, I will bring him into the land where he has gone, and his descendants will inherit it. [CSB]
Numbers 14:30 || 30 I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. [CSB]
Of the twelve spies, God commends the 2 with the favorable report. However, even of those two spies, He chooses to single out one of them – Caleb. There are two things in this passage that God highlights in Caleb’s life/actions:
This is a different spirit from the rest of the people, from those who will NOT be allowed to enter the promised land.
Caleb had FAITH in God.
It was this attitude, this spirit, this way of breathing (breath is the literal translation of this word) and living life that guided the way that Caleb lived. It was his faith that fueled his faithfulness. Grammatically speaking, you cannot have faithfulness without “faith” and that is true spiritually as well.
The Hebrew word that is used for Loyal is the same word that means filled, complete and even consecrated.
In this verse, I really like the way the ESV puts it! However, I think all three give a great picture of what God says about the heart of Caleb:
I think when you put these three together you have a wonderful picture of Caleb:
Look at how this picture is proven through the response of Caleb, and Joshua, in the original scouting report:
Numbers 14:6–9 || 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite community: “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. 9 Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” [CSB]
You can certainly see the same summary of conviction in this passage:
BONUS: The scouting was more about discovering the condition of their hearts than the condition of the land. God will not lead us if we refuse to trust him. He sent the scouts out to get a report on enemies outside the camp or the size of the conflict that will take place over the Jordan, but also to scout out the enemy of doubt inside the camp and the battle for the heart that needed to be conquered first.
Now, let’s fast forward a bit. How long did the Israelites wander in the wilderness? After those 40 years, about the time they were getting ready to enter the Promised Land, Moses took some time to review the history the events in the wilderness:
Deuteronomy 1:19–36 || 19 “We then set out from Horeb and went across all the great and terrible wilderness you saw on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, just as the Lord our God had commanded us. When we reached Kadesh-barnea, 20 I said to you: You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. 21 See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not be afraid or discouraged. 22 “Then all of you approached me and said, ‘Let’s send men ahead of us, so that they may explore the land for us and bring us back a report about the route we should go up and the cities we will come to.’ 23 The plan seemed good to me, so I selected twelve men from among you, one man for each tribe. 24 They left and went up into the hill country and came to the Valley of Eshcol, scouting the land. 25 They took some of the fruit from the land in their hands, carried it down to us, and brought us back a report: ‘The land the Lord our God is giving us is good.’ 26 “But you were not willing to go up. You rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 You grumbled in your tents and said, ‘The Lord brought us out of the land of Egypt to hand us over to the Amorites in order to destroy us, because he hates us. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart, saying: The people are larger and taller than we are; the cities are large, fortified to the heavens. We also saw the descendants of the Anakim there.’ 29 “So I said to you: Don’t be terrified or afraid of them! 30 The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw him do for you in Egypt. 31 And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. 32 But in spite of this you did not trust the Lord your God, 33 who went before you on the journey to seek out a place for you to camp. He went in the fire by night and in the cloud by day to guide you on the road you were to travel. 34 “When the Lord heard your words, he grew angry and swore an oath: 35 ‘None of these men in this evil generation will see the good land I swore to give your fathers, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land on which he has set foot, because he remained loyal to the Lord.’ [CSB]
Caleb DOES get to enter the promised land. Eventually, he ends up back near the spot where he originally scouted out the land, the place that God promised him.
Joshua 14:6–15 || 6 The descendants of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord promised Moses the man of God at Kadesh-barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the Lord’s servant sent me from Kadesh-barnea to scout the land, and I brought back an honest report. 8 My brothers who went with me caused the people to lose heart, but I followed the Lord my God completely. 9 On that day Moses swore to me: ‘The land where you have set foot will be an inheritance for you and your descendants forever, because you have followed the Lord my God completely.’ 10 “As you see, the Lord has kept me alive these forty-five years as he promised, since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel was journeying in the wilderness. Here I am today, eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out. My strength for battle and for daily tasks is now as it was then. 12 Now give me this hill country the Lord promised me on that day, because you heard then that the Anakim are there, as well as large fortified cities. Perhaps the Lord will be with me and I will drive them out as the Lord promised.” 13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as an inheritance. 14 Therefore, Hebron still belongs to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite as an inheritance today because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, completely. 15 Hebron’s name used to be Kiriath-arba; Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim. After this, the land had rest from war. [CSB]
In this last passage we are introduced to the final characteristic that Caleb is known by:
It is actually mentioned in that passage 3 times!
45 years of traveling and fighting has NOT diminished Caleb’s faith in God. It has not deterred his loyalty to God. He approaches Joshua and reminds Joshua of God’s promise to him. He then talks about that first scouting report.
Then he looks at the present situation, and notice who returns to the equation: the Anakim. The giants in the fortified cities! At age 85 Caleb not only wants to head into battle, but go up against fortified cities with the “great men of old” in them – the giants.
At age 85, Caleb has lost none of his passion for following God and trusting God completely.
As a matter of fact, Caleb is willing to go into one of the toughest regions to face to biggest enemies because He knows he can trust God.
Folks, the older we get the more prepared we should find ourselves to face bigger battles and conquer more enemies for God because we have even more maturity in our relationship and faith in God. Our age should add strength to our faith and faithfulness, not the reverse.
Caleb was remembered as a warrior who conquered giants and fortified cities. This is an impressive legacy. But the real legacy is the faithfulness he had. The loyalty, trust and obedience to God. It is mentioned 3 times in this passage:
“followed the Lord, my God completely”
As we wrap up the legacy of Caleb that God has documented in His Word, we are told that Caleb was:
The greatest part of Caleb’s legacy pointed people to the greatness of God. His actions proved God could be trusted.
Do not allow culture or the masses to dictate your legacy. Instead, choose a life that is characterized by faithful, unwavering obedience to God and his mission so the people who see your life will be drawn to God because it is HIS legacy that matters.
There are many things that you and I will be remembered for. Hopefully most of them will be good things, right?
While any of those legacies would be great, they all focus on our story, not God’s. Our stories are just a smaller part of God’s story, and the goal is not to try to get God’s story to align with ours (God bless what I am doing) but the goal is to get our story to align with God’s (how can I bless God with what I am doing?)
But even more, this passage is a reminder that, though it is important how the people around us remember us, it is most important how the God of Creation, the God who formed you and me in the womb, the God who knows every hear on your head – the God who sacrificed his very son for you and me to be able to have a relationship with Him
– it is most important how we are known by HIM.
God spoke about Caleb and said he had the right attitude, was loyal and was completely obedient.