Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out, as the LORD has spoken.
These are the words of Caleb to Joshua. Caleb is now 85 years old. He has journeyed through the wilderness with the Israelites for 45 years. The rebels, who refused to take the land when God first offered it to them, have died off. Their children, however, have now entered it, destroyed many (though not yet all) of the Canaanite kings and peoples, and taken their cities. And now Joshua is bestowing upon each tribe and each family its allotment of territory in the Promised Land. Joshua’s friend Caleb knows exactly the parcel he desires.
“Give me this hill country,” he cries. Why? Presumably because he had caught a glimpse of it 45 years earlier, when he and the other eleven spies had done reconnaissance in the land, and marveled at the majestic city of Hebron. Yes, he had seen the Anakim there—the giant forefathers of Goliath. Yes, he had seen their great cities and fortifications, seemingly rising up to heaven itself. And yes, for a moment at least, he may have felt like a grasshopper in the face of such mighty warriors, cities, and fortifications.
But none of that stopped Caleb then, and none of it would stop him now. For he had also seen the goodness of that hill country, how it flowed with milk and honey, how it dripped with beauty, how it beckoned to be sown and cultivated, how it whispered soul-stirring promises of massive crops thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. Oh yes, Caleb had seen all that as well, and he had not forgotten. The vision still burned in his heart. He wanted to seize and occupy forever the hill country of the Amorites—and if God was pleased with him, he would.
Brothers and sisters, do you hear the Spirit of Promise speaking to you through this text? I think you do, for if you have been born again you have already caught a glimpse of what the hill country represents. It is not just heaven, the Land and City above, though it is indeed that. Rather, it is the One who created the Land and City above, the One who lives there, seated at the right hand of the Father. John writes, “And we beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” You have glimpsed the grace and truth, for you have glimpsed the Holy One in whom they reside.
But like Caleb of old, you and I have not yet fully occupied the heavenly Hebron; we have not yet fully come to know the Lord who calls us to the deep spiritual knowledge of himself (John 17:3). And yet, also like Caleb of old, we are intent on doing so. Indeed, what choice do we have? God’s Calebs cannot possibly be content with the lowlands. Moreover, they know this good hill country is theirs for the taking, for through the Spirit they know the LORD is with them, pleased with them, and (no matter what their age) eager to give them strength to fight, prevail, and enter in.
If you doubt all this, please listen to the voice of an outstanding New Testament Caleb: “Not that I have already obtained these things, or already reached perfection; but I eagerly pursue them, so that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself as having attained. But this one thing I do: forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forward to the things up ahead, I race towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12f) Where does such a spirit come from? Surely it comes from God himself, who is at work within us, both to will and to do according to his good pleasure. Surely it is God himself who offers us the hill country of the Amorites.
At the close of our text it is written that Hebron was formerly called Kiriath-arba, for Arba—the greatest man among the Anakim—once lived there. He still does. Your adversary the devil did not create the hill country, nor does he own it. As a matter of fact, he altogether hates it. And yet, in a mystery, he surrounds it and has a measure of power to keep people from it.
But not the Caleb’s of God. By God’s purpose and grace, they WILL take it and keep it. For as their strength was in the day when they caught their first glimpse of Christ, so it is now, only more. More than ever, the fire burns. More than ever they are eager and ready for war with every enemy of their sanctification. More than ever they go out and come in, joyful and victorious after the fight.
Yes, more than ever they are indeed occupying the hill country for which they pleaded with their dear friend and comrade, Joshua. And more than ever he thoroughly delights to give it to them.