I recently read the story of Caleb from Joshua chapter 14. As far as biblical heroes go, I had always considered 85 year-old Caleb to be the hero of elderly believers. But we all can learn from this godly old man:
The phrase, “wholly followed the Lord” is repeated three times in this story. First Caleb testified he had followed God wholly. Moses had also attested that Caleb wholly followed God. The story records that Caleb was given the city of Hebron “because he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.” The same words describe Caleb on three other occasions (Numbers 14:24, 32:11-12; Deuteronomy 1:36).
Caleb’s devotion is interesting because he was not an Israelite. He was one of the Kenizzites, a nomadic desert tribe. An outsider who had intersected with Israel, Caleb demonstrated more conviction than his unbelieving generation, who passed away in the wilderness. Along with Joshua, he was the “last man standing.”
The word “wholly” comes from a verb meaning fullness, completeness. Referring to space, it means to fill up something. It also means to fulfill, to bring to completion. Caleb’s heart was filled with God, so he followed God completely and wholeheartedly.
To follow God fully implies that someone can be less than fully devoted to God: to be slow to listen; to be slack to respond; to be driven by fears instead of fear of God; to love self more than God. This is the daily struggle of our hearts, isn’t it?
But it’s a fight worth fighting, because full commitment to God is the only legacy that matters. Later in I Kings, God recorded this epitaph regarding Solomon: “Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done” (I Kings 11:6).
Think of all that Solomon had achieved in his life: his buildings, his life experiences, his writings. He impressed people and people envied him. God had initially blessed Solomon with wisdom and peace and wealth. Yet how did Solomon spend God’s gifts? He was successful at many things, but he did not follow God wholly — and that was God’s evaluation of his whole life.
I recently read this: “Don’t fear failure — fear success at things that don’t matter.” God help us to be successful at the only thing that matters: following Him with all our hearts, no matter how old we are.