A Heart for God
When he was 22, Norman D. Vaughan had a passion and a dream. When he was 88, he also had a passion and a dream. And the last passion and dream were related to the first. You see, in 1927, at age 22, Vaughan was a student at Harvard when he read about Admiral Richard Byrd's proposed expedition to the South Pole. Although he'd never met Byrd and had received no invitation to join the expedition, Vaughan decided to quit school and go with the Admiral. Two years later, as they crossed Antarctica toward the Pole, Byrd named one of the mountains they encountered Mount Vaughan. In December 1994, Vaughan returned to the icy continent to climb Mount Vaughan. Days before his 89th birthday, the intrepid explorer stood atop the 10,302 foot mountain and declared to all the world, "Wow! Everywhere you look it's tremendous! And the best thing I can say about conquering it, if you call it conquering it, is that I dared to fail. And the one message that I think I want to send to the world is dream big, young and old, dream big and dare to fail."
When I heard that crusty old gentleman say these words on National Geographic Explorer, I thought almost immediately of another "old man" who at 85 conquered a different mountain. His name is Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite. Standing atop his mountain, Caleb would have said, "Dream big and dare to trust." For most of his life, that kind of spirit dominated the man so that at age 85, Caleb could scale a mountain where giants dwelt in fortified cities, drive them out of their cities, and take possession of their mountain. And Caleb accomplished all these deeds in the power of God because he had a heart for God and because he had dared to trust in God.
Caleb allowed nothing to deter him from his faith in God. Two things shine in his testimony: his spirit and his heart. Virtually every day of his life, Caleb focused his heart on the Lord and on the things of the Lord. He walked with God consistently. Please note, when God says something even one time, you know it's important, right? While it's true He doesn't say very much about Caleb altogether, not less than six times God says of him that "he has followed the Lord fully." In fact, the first time He said it, He was offering all the land of Hebron to "My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully" (Numbers 14.24). There you see both rays of testimony shining, his spirit and his heart for following God.
Look at the spirit first. God said, "he has had a different spirit." What does that mean? God had sent twelve spies to spy out the land of Canaan, and all twelve spies brought back the same report. That's right! All twelve reported essentially the same thing. Check it out. In Numbers 14, God gives us the details of their report: (1) The land really is as rich as God said it was, a land flowing with milk and honey and lots of good things (v. 27). Two of them actually brought back proof. One single cluster of grapes. And it took both of them to carry it on a pole across their shoulders. Can't you just hear the response? "Man! Wouldn't you like to see the vine that one came from?" (2) The people are strong. (3) The cities are fortified and very large (v. 28). They all also reported that (4) giants, the descendants of Anak, lived there (v. 28). Then the report changed. Like Goliath centuries later, the giants had altered their perspective, intimidating them. Ten spies added the interpretation, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us" (v. 31). Caleb, on the other hand, declared, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it" (v. 30).
What makes the difference? Spirit! The ten spies had a spirit of fear. Caleb (and Joshua) had a spirit of faith. The ten saw the enemy and their own impotence. Caleb saw the Lord and His omnipotence. The ten had the spirit of the world. Caleb had the Spirit of God. It was in Caleb's heart that God was fully able to give what He had promised. And He had promised the land of Canaan with all its blessings to Israel. All they had to do was take the gift. I can just hear him say, "Let's go get 'em!"
God also said that Caleb "followed the Lord fully." It doesn't mean so much that he followed God as a puppy follows its master, but rather it describes the condition of his heart. His attitude. His affection and desire. The Medieval Rabbi Rashi interprets it this way, "He hath filled his heart (to follow) after Me." He filled his heart after God. His heart was so full of God there was no room in it for anything else. His heart was so filled with God there was no room in it for any one else. A slave in Egypt, he filled his heart after God. When he spied out the land, he filled his heart after God. Wandering in the wilderness, he filled his heart after God. Finally, standing before Joshua, he has the same testimony. No wonder he can say, "Now, therefore, give me this mountain!" (Joshua 14.12, KJV) His heart was so tuned to God's he wanted only what God wanted. And that was actually given to him forty five years before in an irrevocable promise of God. Since God is glorified in the keeping of His promises, Caleb glorified Him by claiming the promise. As a result, of all the children of Israel, he is perhaps the only one to fully claim the promise and to fully enjoy the blessings of the Lord. Because he dared to trust in God; because he had a heart for God.