Nevertheless my brothers that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God.
Assuredly no Israelite could look without emotion upon the face and form of Caleb, the utterer of the words of the text. His very existence was a memorial of a memorable day. And when he arose and stood before Joshua, and the two engaged in the conversation recorded in this chapter, who could note them without recollecting that out of the laymen of Israel they were the only survivors of the generation to which they belonged? Like venerable towers that rear their heads above the building which is attached to them but plainly bears the marks of more recent construction, these two men stood an age above their surroundings, but with strength as unyielding as that of their latest compeers. Time and sickness had levelled their contemporaries with the dust, but they remained "with eye undimmed and natural force unabated." God had kept His threat and promise. Caleb's utterance may suggest some useful reflections.
I. THE FACILITY WITH WHICH MEN ARE DETERRED FROM NOBLE ENTERPRISES. What a lamentable incident was that to which these words refer: "My brethren that were with me made the heart of the people melt." Recall the story of the twelve men and their reconnoitring expedition. They searched the south of Palestine, and admired the fruit which grew there in such abundance; but the hearts of the majority were terrified at the sight of fenced cities and the giants who inhabited them. And so when they returned to their brethren they gave such a discouraging account that the people cried, "Would to God we had died in Egypt!" Caleb tried to still their mumuring, but in vain. The cowardly spirit prevailed. Apparently fear is more easily engendered than hope. It is easier to depress than to cheer. How many religious undertakings have failed through the excessive caution of even good men? It is noteworthy that in the account which Moses gives in Deuteronomy 1:21 he refers to the fact that on the arrival of the Israelites at Kadesh he exhorted them to "go up and possess the land: fear not." Well would it have been if they had acted on the bold counsel of their leader. But they came near and suggested what seemed an exceedingly wise plan - to send men first to spy out the land - and dire was the ultimate effect! We do not inculcate rashness; we only say that courage is sometimes better than caution, and quick action than slow resolves. We need a holy enthusiasm that will minimize dangers and make us "strong in faith."
II. THE DANGER OF EXERTING AN EVIL INFLUENCE. Great responsibility rested on the men who were the means of damping the ardour of their countrymen. Whilst they themselves died of the plague, the rest of the people were condemned to forty years' weary traversing of the desert. So fierce was the wrath of God at the unbelief of the Israelites. This gift of influence God has bestowed on every person. We all wield this power to a greater or less extent. We may repel or attract, and in either case we are helping to mould the opinions and form the practices of our neighbours. We direct their aspirations and colour the spectacles through which they look at men and things. Is our life report for good or for evil?
III. THE SECURITY AGAINST WIELDING AND YIELDING TO AN EVIL INFLUENCE. It is to be noted that Caleb did not seek to persuade his fellows to renounce the idea of invading the Holy Land, and also did not allow himself so to be persuaded by them. He gives us in the text the reason which swayed him and the power which sustained him in opposition to the fears of the other Israelites: "I wholly followed the Lord my God." There might be times in which the mind would be left in suspense as to the proper course to pursue, in which the chief difficulty would be in ascertaining the will of Heaven. But on this occasion there seemed to Caleb but one thing to be done. Precepts and promises clearly showed that it was the duty and privilege of the Israelites to march to the possession of their inheritance. The path was plainly marked; to hesitate was to turn aside from following the Lord. Unswerving obedience to God's declared will is the grand security against ill conduct. All that we read of Caleb proves him to have been a man of strong determination. Whatever he did he did with his might. There is a deal of meaning in that word "wholly." A man whose face is partly to God and partly to the world may have his attention distracted, but he who maintains an attitude that has respect to God only will remain uninfluenced by either the hopes and fears or the blandishments and threats of men. Urge the necessity and helpfulness of taking a decided step, of becoming openly connected with God's people, of avowing an attachment to Christ. Some may raise a difficulty in the way of imitating Caleb's whole-heartedness. This man was gifted with force of character. Now an objector may say, "I by nature am weak, irresolute, easily moved. Why am I blamed if I do not manifest that firmness which others display?" This inquiry runs into a fundamental problem - the reason of the election of men to different degrees of intellectual and moral ability, and the different degrees of accountability resulting therefrom. We cannot well separate the direct gifts of God from the achievements of the individual. We are bound to honour men even for what they owe entirely to God, since the honour reaches higher than men and is laid as an offering before the Throne. But what we must remember is that we are capable of acquiring qualifications which we previously lacked, and we may to a wonderful degree strengthen and improve the powers with which we are endowed. - A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God.