Lest we forget Caleb, he is remembered here along with his inheritance. You may recall that Moses sent Caleb, Joshua, and a number of other spies into the promised land years before. Joshua and Caleb were the ones who came back with positive reports. Caleb had not forgotten that rewards for his deeds had been promised.
“Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old.” Caleb was coming forward to make sure he wasn’t forgotten. After all, many years had passed. Caleb was obviously waiting for this moment.
I’m sure there were plenty of time when Joshua wondered, “what would Moses do? We can’t forget that God had already directed Moses on the land distribution plan for the tribes. When we remember what those who have gone before us have done, it can help us in finding our own way. In this case, however, God is the one in control. Joshua has clearly kept that in mind as he has waited for this moment. Now we’re starting with what we know. We know what Moses had already done.
There are really no surprises here. In the closing chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses received these messages from God. They are now being fulfilled. Of all the descendants, I often wonder what the Levites thought about not getting their own portion. But then my mind quickly shifts to the fact that God has chosen them for another, very important role—to be priests. I know from experience that priests and pastors live a little more humbly than others. There’s Biblical history for why that happens, along with the promise of other provisions, and to me that is comforting.
I wonder how old Joshua was when God said to him, “You are growing old, and much land remains to be conquered.” Just for fun, I googled: “how old was Joshua in the Battle of Jericho?” The answer came back that he was 101 years old. Whether I trust google or not, one of the commentaries I read placed Joshua at between 90 and 100 when this conversation with God took place. He was not a young man to be sure.
If you’ve ever used the excuse, “I’m too old” when it comes to doing something fun or unusual, I don’t think we have any business doing that. Think of what Joshua accomplished in conquering the land at his age. Now, we hear there is even more land. From the sounds of it, God is going to take care of those other areas. “I myself will drive these people out of the land ahead of the Israelites.”
We probably don’t recognize a lot of the territories mentioned in today’s reading. Of course, names like Jericho and Jerusalem are more commonly mentioned, and David served as Pastor at Bethel Lutheran. But what about the thirty or so other towns, both east and west of the Jordan, that we can’t even pronounce? Are they important?
They are important to the extent they are part of God’s victory and fulfillment of his promise. I don’t think we’ll be tested on this in heaven. However, the sheer magnitude of what we have witnessed through the pages of Scripture should amaze us. When we can get past the brutality of what had to happen and look to the underlying love and power of God, this whole recap takes on new meaning.
The Promised Land is now ready and available for the Israelites at last. Sometimes it’s hard to put ourselves in the time and place we are reading about. This is one of those situations. I, for one, have never encountered warfare firsthand. I can just imagine how intense the rush of adrenaline must be.
What can we take away from these victories? To trust God’s process! Joshua knew what God had commanded Moses. Joshua was fulfilling that assignment. God was now empowering Joshua when he said, “Do not be afraid of them. By this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel as dead men. Then you must cripple their horses and burn their chariots.” Joshua understood it was his role to be God’s hands and feet, leading the army to make it happen. Joshua only needed to remember “who” was in charge. It was God.