What can Caleb’s challenge teach us about marriage in the end times?
Understanding the significance of Caleb’s challenge requires that we briefly review the life of this son of Jephunneh. Caleb was one of twelve spies sent to gather information on the land of Canaan, the territory promised to the Israelite nation by God. Moreover, he was the head of his tribe. Of all the people of Judah, Caleb was entrusted with this important task, a true testimony of his character among his brethren.
After the twelve spies returned and relayed their findings to Moses, only Caleb and Joshua manifested the faith to move forward and claim the possession the Lord promised their fathers. The Lord Himself testified of Caleb’s character that day. “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Num. 14:24, NKJV).
Caleb was a man who was not afraid to take on the challenges that Israel faced, so long as the Lord was with him. This was made plain when he drove out the sons of Anak the giant, the people who once made the hearts of the men of Israel quiver in hear, from Kirjath Arba (Num. 13:32-14:3; Josh. 14:6-15). It was his faith in God, not his skill in battle, that brought him such a victory.
He was also a family man, having three sons and one daughter. Now it came to pass, that during the conquest of Hebron, Caleb sought to take the city of Kirjath Sepher. It was certainly a formidable city and in it, Caleb found an opportunity to provide his daughter a husband of strong faith. So he issued the challenge that would call such a man to the forefront.
“Then Caleb said, ‘Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife’” (Jdg. 1:12).
Only a man with a strong faith in God would prevail over such a challenge. Caleb found such a man in Othniel, the son of Kenaz, for he took the city. In Othniel’s victory over Kirjath Sepher, we can discern several lessons concerning the son-in-law of Caleb. Primarily, Othniel relied on God to deliver this formidable city into his hands. His forty years of wandering with his fathers taught him that God gave his people victory over their enemies so long as they had faith in and served only Him. Othniel relied on these past experiences among others and in humility, he asked the Lord to grant him victory. This, the Lord did.
Moreover, Othniel demonstrated a capacity to lead and execute strategy in taking the city of Caleb’s challenge. A husband is not merely a head of a house. He is its leader, charged with executing a plan that will ultimately bring his family into the Promised Land of Heaven. He is both soldier and general, under the direct command of the divine Captain of the Lord’s host.
A godly husband, like Othniel, is not reckless with the lives under his care. He has genuine concern for each member of his family and holds their lives as more dear to him than his own. With humility, patience, and gentleness, the husband is to command his children and his house after him, to keep the way of the Lord, to facilitate their Christian growth, and care for their well-being.
The development of such a godly character in Othniel relied primarily on the life example of his godly family. The family of Caleb, a family united in their love for and faith in God, was the key to Othniel’s developing into a man willing to labor for the Lord and fight His battles. The family today, in like manner, has such a duty of producing Christians of strong faith and godly character. In the face of a world determined to lead them and their children astray, parents are charged to protect their children from any influence, teaching, or practice that will take their eyes away from the Lord and His Word to them, the Scriptures. Even if such a threat is found in their church, a relative, or even within themselves, the father and mother should not, cannot, and must not let it breach the wall of protection that God has provided His people. Only by keeping such deceptions without and developing godly character within can the family facilitate the growth of Othniel-like men today.
It was the family’s role in Othniel’s development that prepared him for an even greater responsibility after the death of Joshua. After the death of Moses’ successor, all Israel eventually slid into apostasy and were consequently brought into subjection by foreign powers. In their times of tribulation, they cried unto the Lord and the Lord raised up a judge to deliver them from their oppressors and their apostasy. Othniel was the first of these judges. He judged Israel faithfully, carrying out the Lord’s will to deliver the nation of Israel and bringing peace to the land for forty years.
Othniel judged his people as well as he cared for his own family. His work for Israel was but a reflection of his home life. As his family before him, Othniel commanded his nation after him and they kept the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. Such a way, faithfully kept, brought upon Israel that which He desired for them: peace.
But such a result for Israel could not have been produced without the aid of his wife, Achsah, the daughter of Caleb. Her strong faith influenced him for the better, not the worse. This is plainly seen in Othniel’s effectiveness as a judge over Israel. The duties Othniel successfully carried out for Israel can be directly attributed to Achsah’s guidance and help at his home.
The extent to which a husband can manage the affairs of his occupation, whether it be the ordering of God’s house or an entire nation, depend greatly upon the atmosphere of his home and how he manages its affairs. In this, Achsah was truly “an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). She was not his overbearing ruler or his lowly subordinate. She stood by his side and together, they navigated a life filled with many cares and perplexities.
When Othniel successfully took the city of Kirjath Sepher, he proved to Caleb that he had the strong faith needed for his daughter. Caleb kept his word and gave Achsah to him as his wife. Such an action on Caleb’s part demonstrated the importance of keeping our word, even to our own hurt (though Caleb was certainly not harmed in having such a godly son-in-law). Our word is our bond to others, within and without our faith. How much more important, then, is it for Christians to honor their word, especially in light of the last days!
Achsah was by no means a weak woman. The example of her father is a testimony of this and it showed in his children. An important evidence of this is the following testimony of Achsah’s request for a field and springs of water. The Scriptures, unlike much of the world’s literature, does not waste time with details not significant to its audience. Therefore, it is important to take careful note of what we are about to study.
“Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ So she said to him, ‘Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs’” (Jdg. 1:14, 15).
Though a seemingly minor request, there are some factors we must consider. As aforementioned, Caleb fathered four children, three sons and one daughter. But of all four children, Achsah is the only one who has such a testimony faithfully recorded in the books of Joshua and Judges. Caleb’s daughter’s testimony was given to us over any testimony concerning his three sons, a fact that testifies of her strong faith.
Caleb, the priest of his house, did not withhold from Achsah the word of the Lord. The faithful father of four charged his daughter, as well as his sons, to keep the way of the Lord. The end result of Caleb faithfully carrying out his sacred office of father, priest, and teacher was a daughter as strong in the faith as he.
This was a contributing factor to her choice to abide by her father’s challenge. She trusted in her godly father, honoring and respecting him according to the commandments of the Lord. She well understood her need for a strong leader, both in faith and practice, to rule and care for their future household. Caleb’s challenge was essential in determining that her husband was not weak in his faith. Love is vital in the marriage relationship, but it is faith that moves a marriage forward, even in troublous times. As such, material prosperity, fame, and other earthly things are comparatively insignificant when looking for a spouse. Love, coupled with faith and hope, are the quintessential qualities of a godly Christian household.
This understanding is clearly applicable to Achsah’s request. Her father was one of the men charged by the Lord to divide the land of Canaan (Josh. 14:1) and she pressed upon her husband to ask Caleb for a field. But Othniel, for reasons unknown, did not do this. Given his background, we can be sure that it was not out of a fear of Caleb. But when her husband made no attempt to ask for a field, Achsah got off her donkey and asked her father for it and for springs of water directly.
These were not the actions of a spoiled daughter or a contentious wife, but a woman that moved forward in faith to seek the means to bless her family’s land. In this, Achsah proved herself to be industrious. She did not idle her hands or her mind with vanities, gossip, or other things that would undermine her faith. She was the kind of woman who put her hands to the plow, laboring diligently for the welfare of her family (Prov. 31:10-31).
The question we must ask ourselves today is, “Why must such consideration be given to marriage before Jesus returns? Should not the matter be settled if the husband and the wife-to-be love each other?” The answer is, firmly, no.
There are many families among our faith today that, while balanced in love, are imbalanced in their faith. It varies between spouses. It is not consistent. Their combined faith, as a result, is not strong. This repeated pairing men and women with divergent degrees of faith in God has weakened our families, leading our children to fall away from the faith and the spiritual decline is passed down to each generation. As such, many families in our generation today harbor a lukewarm faith, a faith that is not ready or able to move forward and enter the heavenly Promised Land.
We will surely go into detail concerning this fatal spiritual condition so you can see for yourself how it adversely affected the family of Caleb. Stay tuned for the second part of this message.
To Be Continued…