Grandparents Sunday: Oldies But Goldies

OLDIES BUT GOLDIES

Joshua 14:6-14 (ESV)
6 Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.
7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart.
8 But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt;
yet I wholly followed the LORD my God.
9 And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because
you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’
10 And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old.
11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.
12 So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.”
13 Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.
14 Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day,
because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel.

Two weeks ago, I read this interesting article from Fox News about an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Phyllis and Robert Hidden, who complained about a waiter at the restaurant inside the Riverside Hotel in Kendall, UK. According to the report, when they got home and checked their receipt from the restaurant, they were shocked and offended because on their receipt. In order to identify their table, or who the bill belonged to, the waiter typed in the “terrible” wording, “Old People.” They said that though they were both 80 years old, it was still an insult to them to be referred to as “Old People.”

Now, how many of you would have felt the same way? Before we move further, perhaps, a great question to ask is: “When does old age begin?” Or “At what age can someone be categorized as old?” Well, 10 years ago, the Pew Research Center did a survey asking around 3,000 adults, ranging in age from 18 to well over 65 and asked them the same questions. The results of their study were published in an article, “Growing Old in America: Expectation vs. Reality. Here are some of their interesting findings:

  • If you average all of the responses, old age begins at 68. 

  • However, the answers provided varied depending on their age group. For example, if the people asked came from 30 years under, their category for old age begins at 60.

  • Adults between ages 30 to 49, their old age begins at 69.

  • Adults between 50-64, their old age begins at 72.

  • Then, for adults 65 and older, their old age begins at 74.  

To summarize, what is really obvious from this survey is that if you go around asking people whether or not they are old, majority of them feel that it doesn’t apply to them. Why do you think this is true?

Well, for many people age is just a number, and they don’t want to be defined by their age. The fact is that many people are defying age as far as life’s accomplishments are concerned. These people have maintained a healthy attitude about themselves and their capabilities so that they have remained productive in life. There are people who refuse to let their age dictate their limitations. Instead, they leverage their experiences and use them to propel them to greater accomplishments in life.  

Amazingly, people like them are also found in the Bible. To name a few, we are familiar with Abraham who started following the Lord, left Mesopotamia, and started his journey to the Promised Land together with his family at the age of 75. Another example is Moses. The Lord called him to lead Israel out of their bondage in Egypt at 80 years old. Although there are still other examples, because of time constraints, for the third example, I have one more perfect example. His name is Caleb. I believe, he totally embodies our theme: “Oldies But Goldies.” Meaning, yes, he might be old, but he is still capable of golden performances. Likened to an athlete, he is still capable of winning the gold medal. 

To give you some background of our text, Joshua has now led the nation of Israel in conquering the Promised Land. The 40 years of wilderness wanderings are over, and God had purged the nation of the generation who did not believe that He could give them the Promised Land, except for Joshua and Caleb. During this conquest under the leadership of Joshua, every time they have defeated a city or a town, the new territory will be given as an inheritance to a specific tribe or family. In the process of distribution, Caleb approached Joshua and reminded him of what God has promised to him and his family 45 years ago. As he staked his claim for his inheritance, there were three significant things he did that made him deserving of it:

I HE SUBMITTED TO GOD WHOLEHEARTEDLY

As you read our main text, Caleb was referred three times as the person who “wholly followed the Lord” (vv.8, 9, 14). Obviously, this was an outstanding description of his character before the Lord. In order to fully understand this reference, it is important that we go back 45 years earlier in his life when he demonstrated this characteristic. 

The background story is found in the book of Numbers 13 to 14. After Israel left Egypt, they were supposed to proceed to Canaan and conquer the lands that God has promised them. Before they started conquering, Moses decided to send 12 men, one representative from each tribe, to explore the land. The main intention was so they can strategize their conquest of the land.  However, when these 12 men returned after 40 days of exploration, they had a very divided report. Ten spies gave a very negative report, while Joshua and Caleb came back excited and positive about the land. Let’s read:

Numbers 13:25-33 (ESV)
25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land.
26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.
27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.
28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.
29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”
30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”
32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height.
33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.
” 

As expected, the negative report brought so much fear to the people that in chapter 14, they started complaining to God and Moses, accusing them of bringing the people out of Egypt only to be killed in the wilderness. All these grumbling totally angered the Lord causing them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years and not allowing everyone who complained to enter the Promised Land.  Of course, only Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who gave the positive report survived that generation.

Fast-forward to the book of Deuteronomy, after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Israel was back in Kadesh-Barnea making preparations to enter the Promised Land. Moses said these words to Israel:

Deuteronomy 1:34-37 (ESV)
34 “And the LORD heard your words and was angered, and he swore,
35 ‘Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, 36except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden,
because he has wholly followed the LORD!’
37 Even with me the LORD was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there.’”

Once again, in verse 36, you have another reference that came from the Lord that Caleb “wholly followed the LORD.” Isn’t it great for this man to have earned this description? What do you think it means? I don’t think there is a hidden meaning with those words. It really means what it says – He completely followed the Lord. Now, based on the context, this basically means that Caleb was a man who wholeheartedly believed God and he was willing to completely obey Him, even if his obedience can result to some difficulties, dangers, or even death.

When you consider Caleb’s situation, though conquering the Promised Land would require overcoming the giants, he was discerning enough to recognize that obeying God was still a much better path than disobeying him. How many of us have already learned this truth? Often, the main reason why many struggle in obeying God wholeheartedly is because they want to avoid the difficulties and the dangers. But the reality is that we end up losing the very life we wanted to protect. I hope we really learn from Caleb’s example. 

Another important aspect of this wholehearted obedience that we could see from Caleb is consistency. He followed the Lord when he was forty. Then, forty-five years after, he was still following the Lord. He did not waver in his confidence in God. I believe that this is also a great challenge to all our grandparents here today—and every one of us who are getting older. I pray that we will choose to follow the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind not only for a short time, but also until the Lord calls us home. Let me assure you: God delights in this level of obedience to Him and He rewards it. He was willing to give Caleb a great portion of inheritance in the Promised Land in order to demonstrate that He reserved His rewards for those who follow Him completely.  

II HE STOOD STEADFASTLY ON GOD’S PROMISES:

The willingness of Caleb to stand on God’s promises is truly one of his remarkable characteristics. We already emphasized the fact that when he was 40 years old, he went to the Promised Land together with the other 11 spies. I’m sure that he also saw the same giants the 11 spies saw. The only difference is that Caleb and Joshua saw God as bigger than those intimidating giants. So, on this basis, he was willing to proceed and conquer the land. Listen to verse 30 of Numbers 13 – “But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” There were no signs of fear in his words. 

Now, as we come to our main text, Caleb’s basis in approaching Joshua for his inheritance is the specific promise that God made to him in Deuteronomy 1:36 – “He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden.” For me, what is amazing with Caleb is that because God gave him a promise, he knew he could still stand on His words even if he was already 85 years old. He knew God’s promises do not expire.

Do you see God as someone who is faithful to His promises? If you have some doubts about them, allow me to leave you with some verses: First is Hebrews 6:18:

18 “…[S]o that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”

The author of Hebrews talked about the fact that “it is impossible for God to lie.” These words were said on the context of God’s covenant with Abraham. Abraham received what God has promised him because God is not a liar. Think of it this way. Every time you doubt God’s promises, you’re in a way accusing Him of being a liar.

If you go to the end of the book of Joshua, you will find a declaration that I’m sure Caleb has also experienced. Here’s what Joshua said:

Joshua 21:45 (ESV)
45 Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. 

You know, for many of the grandparents who are here today, my challenge for you is to be extra sensitive on how God has been faithful in your life regarding His promises. I’m sure that if we have walked with the Lord for quite some time now, we, too, can testify about the truthfulness of Joshua’s words. Now, for our grandparents, let me also share at least two great promises that we should take to heart:

  1. God will allow you to still bear fruit even in old age.

Psalm 92:14-15 (ESV)
14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15 to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. 

  1. He will continue to sustain and care for you in old age.

Isaiah 46:4 (ESV)
4 [E]ven to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. 

With Caleb, his unwavering faith in God gave him the courage to face whatever challenges were before him. He never lost sight of the fact that he can count on the Lord to always fulfill His promises. Let’s do our best to do the same. 

III HE SOUGHT GOD’S BEST AS HIS PORTION

Lastly, if you go back to the text, one of the things that make Caleb an extraordinary man of God is his desire to get one of the best portions of the land. He was not willing to settle for the valley; he wanted the mountain located in Hebron. What makes this place special? Here is how Dr. Adrian Rogers described it:

“It was a place where there were figs and pomegranates, it was a place of corn and oil and wine. It was a place of hills and valleys and waterfalls, beautiful and marvelous.” 

There’s no question that this was an amazing piece of property. But there is also a catch! If you go back to verse 12 of our text, you will realize that it would not be easy to take over this land – “So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities.”

Well, besides the fact that the Anakims (giants) were dwelling there, the city was also highly fortified. Meaning, the city had big walls, or it is highly protected. Now, let me ask you: How many of you will dare take over a city like that? 

The truth is that Caleb was courageous enough to take this mountain because he knew that God could give it to him as He has promised. I would like to highlight the words in verse 11 – “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.”

Is it possible that Caleb at age 85 was able to maintain his physical strength? Some of you might say, “That’s not possible!” Here’s my take on these words, since his faith in the Lord was as strong when he was still 40 years old. It definitely affected his disposition in terms of winning the battles that were before him. He maintained a winning attitude even at his old age.

How many of you have been maintaining a winning attitude? Remember, age is just a number and we should not allow it to define us as far as winning in life is concerned. If there is one thing that we can all learn from Caleb, here it is: We should not settle for the good land when we can have the best. Our age should never deter us from conquering the best future that He has in stored for us. 

There is no question that Caleb had to fight some battles. But God has guaranteed that He has already given victory to him. Yes, Caleb had to work to conquer the land, but God has promised to work side by side with him to win his battles. Come to think of it. We all have the same promises. God assured all of us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us” (Hebrew 13:5).

You know, although I have often addressed the grandparents in this sermon, it doesn’t mean that Caleb cannot be an example to everyone in our congregation this morning. He is a great example for all ages. Overall, I trust that we won’t fail to see that God wants to lead us into a great future. But just like Caleb, we must be willing to believe God wholeheartedly, stand on His promises, and claim that He is leading us into a great future. 

Jeremiah Lepasana