The old man sat, back propped against a rock, eyes squinting as he turned his face upward to feel the sun’s warmth.
There, near Hebron’s border, at the foot of the rugged hills he loved, he rested from battle. For the first time in years, his sword lay idle on the ground.
His mind roved over forty-five years of memories, many of them harsh and bitter — but none more so than that terrible day at Kadesh-Barnea, when his people turned in fear from their destiny.
On the edge of a land flowing with milk and honey, on the verge of inheriting all that God had promised them, they faltered. They chose to fear giants more than the God who delivered them so powerfully from the iron grasp of Egypt’s unrelenting cruelty.
The old man remembered the heartache of watching an entire generation pay for its rebellion by perishing in the desert. He remembered years on end of sweltering heat and stinging sand. He remembered his anger at the foolishness and cowardice of his countrymen. How could they think that God would fail them after having shown them such wonders? He remembered the unfairness of sharing in his people’s plight. Why should he have to suffer for their lack of faith? After all, he had believed God’s promise to His people.
Anger, grief, and disappointment had nearly consumed him — until the day when Moses fell prey to his frustration with Israel and forfeited his own destiny. The old man recalled how that shook him to the core. Moses was the only man on earth who spoke face to face with God; if Moses could lose the Promised Land, so could he.
He knew he had to repent. So he chose long ago to turn from bitterness and to cling to another promise God had made. The old man’s faithfulness at Kadesh-Barnea had not gone unnoticed. He would not perish in the desert like so many of his countrymen. God would enable him to see the day when Israel would fulfill her destiny; and he himself would taste the fruit of the Promised Land.
That promise had been life and hope to the old man for decades. Now, the day had finally arrived. After years of waiting, after years of fighting wars to see other men claim their portion of the Promised Land, his time had come. Joshua had given his blessing, and God would soon bring His word to pass.
The old man gave a start, awakened from his reverie. His eldest son stood before him, hand outstretched.
“I think we had better get going, Father,” he said. “The sun will set before long.”
The old man smiled, grasped his son’s hand, and stood to his feet.
“Thank you, Iru,” he said. His eyes narrowed as he scanned the hillside. The shadows were getting long. It was time.
“Tell everyone that we need to make that outcropping on the next hill before nightfall,” the old man said. “It will offer us a safe place to camp.
“We claim Hebron for God at daybreak; the men must sleep tonight with their swords unsheathed and close at hand.”
Iru bowed and turned to carry out his father’s instructions.
“Iru!” the old man called after him. “One more thing…”
A cold gleam came into the old man’s eyes. He picked up his sword and smiled before speaking again.
“Tell your brothers,” said Caleb, “the first giant is mine.”