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He Wholly Followed the Lord

C Jones, Cardiff

One sometimes hears of people being saved who are advanced in years, and some just before they die. It is wonderful to hear of people of any age being saved through God-given faith in the person and completed work of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, when a young person is saved that person will normally have time ahead in which to learn of God, of His ways and His will. The young person will have a lifetime in which to serve God, glorify Him and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ.

For the person who is saved while still young, the Christian life can be likened to a marathon as opposed to a sprint. Time provides not only opportunities for God-directed service but also potential for failure and backsliding. As they go through life, believers are surrounded by temptations on every hand from the world, the flesh, and the devil. There are sins which are particularly attractive at different stages in life. Some sins appeal especially to young people (Ps 25.7; 2 Tim 2.22). Those who are middle-aged might be tempted through covetousness and worldly ambition to neglect the Lord’s work (Ps 119.36; Lk 12.15). Older people might be conscious of a decline in physical and mental powers and be overtaken by feelings of despair, despondency, and discontent causing them to spend less time in prayer and study and meditation on the Scriptures.

Solomon…his heart was not perfect with the Lord (1 Kings 11.4)

The experiences of King Solomon make salutary reading. He had been instructed by his father, King David, to walk in the ways of God and keep His commandments (1 Kings 2.3-4), and this he did in his early days (1 Kings 3.3). However, Solomon disobeyed God’s commandments regarding separation, married many foreign wives, and they led him away from God and into idolatry (1 Kings 11.1-11). Believers today are warned not to be "unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor 6.14). As he got older, Solomon became more and more involved in things which were not in accordance with the will of God and "his heart was not perfect with the Lord".

Solomon lived a lavish lifestyle, seeking for pleasure, happiness, and satisfaction, but eventually declared that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccl 1.14). True happiness, satisfaction, and "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Phil 4.7), are enjoyed only by those who prayerfully feed on and obey the Word of God and lead lives which are separated from the world and to God (Ps 1.1-3).

Solomon’s riches, lifestyle, and disobedience to the will of God caused him to backslide and lose "the joy of the Lord" (Neh 8.10). Solomon did not keep close to God; "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel" (1 Kings 11.9).

Caleb…followed me fully (Num 14.24)

The Word of God tells us many things about Caleb who believed God’s promises and followed, trusted, and obeyed Him fully and consistently. What we are told contrasts markedly with what is recorded concerning Solomon. Caleb was one of the twelve men sent by Moses to spy out the promised land (Num 13.1-20). The spies reported that the land was good and fruitful, and that the inhabitants were powerful and the cities strongly fortified (Num 13.21-29). Ten of the spies reacted adversely to what they had seen and said, "We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers" (vv.31,33). The ten spies discouraged the people so that, despite what they had seen of God’s power in the past, they were not prepared to go in and possess the land which God had promised to give them (Num 13.2). Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, were prepared, relying on the power of God, to go in and possess the land: the others wanted to return to Egypt. Caleb said, "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it" (Num 13.30). Both Joshua and Caleb sought to encourage the people to take possession of the good land saying, "The Lord...will bring us into this land, and give it us...rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people...the Lord is with us: fear them not" (Num 14.8-9). The people were prepared to stone Joshua and Caleb (v.10), but the two trusting, believing, and faithful men did not fear the people as much as they feared God, with a holy, filial, love and reverence. Today, if, by grace, a believer wholly and consistently follows the Lord then he will inevitably experience some form of persecution for "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim 3.12), but we must remember that "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe" (Prov 29.25).

In response to Moses’ intercession, God did not destroy the fearful and unbelieving people. Nevertheless, He decreed that the people would wander in the wilderness for forty years and that those who came out of Egypt and were more than twenty years old would die in the wilderness. Only Joshua and Caleb were to enter the promised land (Num 14.11-39). Concerning Caleb, the Lord said, "But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it" (v.24). Joshua and Caleb continued to serve God amongst a disobedient, unbelieving, and fearful people, and only they entered the promised land (vv.29-30; 26.64-65).

Caleb was forty years old when he attempted to get the people to trust and obey God and enter the land (Josh 14.7). He followed, trusted, and obeyed God during his long life, and when he was eighty-five years old (v.10) he was given Hebron "for an inheritance…because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel" (vv.13-14). Caleb’s faith, belief, and trust in Almighty God were constant, for he knew that the Anakims were there and that the cities of Hebron were well fortified, but he said that "if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said" (v.12).

What was it that caused God to say of Caleb, he "hath followed me fully" (Num 14.24)? Caleb feared and loved God: he had faith and trust in God and obeyed His commands. The other spies saw themselves as "grasshoppers" compared with the inhabitants of the land, but Caleb saw the inhabitants as nothing compared with his God.

Fruit in old age (Ps 92.14)

The believer who communes with God in prayer and who feeds on the Word of God, obeying what is revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, will, by grace, continue to make spiritual growth (1 Pet 2.2), and will continue to serve God in old age. The fact that a believer is still alive and not yet with the Lord can be evidence that there is still work the Lord wants him to do and that there may still be the possibility of further spiritual development.

Steadfastness is a basic requirement in a believer’s life. We read of the early believers that "they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2.42). We read of "Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple" (Acts 21.16), who was still serving the Lord. The psalmist prayed, "Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come" (Ps 71.18). Older believers possess experience and, in many cases, knowledge and wisdom which can be used to help younger believers. Towards the end of his life, Moses still served God and used his experience and knowledge to help, guide, and encourage Joshua as he took over the leadership of the Israelites (Deut 3.28). Older believers should help and pray for, and not simply criticise, those in other age groups when they see them in danger of falling into those sins which are particularly attractive at their time of life.

As life progresses, a believer might be led by the Spirit into new avenues of service which could well differ from those undertaken when he was younger and will "still bring forth fruit in old age" (Ps 92.14). The basis for effective God-honouring service is the same at any stage in life, and is founded on staying close to God through prayer, feeding on His Word, obeying His will, and having and exercising faith and trust in Him. Concluded.


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