Pastor Joseph Prince of New Creation church recently launched his latest book, “Give me this mountain!”, a phrase declared by Caleb as he was confronted with the opportunity to enter the Promised Land for the second time.
I’ve always learnt something new from Ps Prince’s sermons, they often provide a solid springboard to do further studies, which I did in my Bible college days. Ps Prince also introduced me to the depths of the mysteries of God’s hesed and binah, for which I am always thankful, which started a chain reaction years ago that ended up with me writing this post.
Most people have different degrees of challenges in life, some harder than others, but most can function. But what about those people who the doctors gave no chance, where they cannot even get an internship, where even their families or close friends don’t think they have a chance in life? What if that person only had a few years left to live?
I was that person. Click here to read the longer story.
“Give me this mountain”, spoken by Caleb has always had a special place in my heart. It’s stored just above my boxes of disappointments with the world, my near-death experiences and faded scars to where wounds on my body used to be. Today, those boxes are covered by a scarlet cloth that make those boxes that were once decrepit to redemptively unmistakable.
I suppose you can call this blogpost “what Give Me This Mountain!” means to a person with a few years left to live.
The Broken Window
Very often we look back at certain opportunities we had in the past that we lost and feel that we can never get it back again.
I know I did for years… and it was soul crushing.
For myself, I thought that I had a window to get all the things I wanted around my college years. I was a young well-liked church leader, I was about to graduate with honors from an ivy-league university, I was sporty. People from all my different circles liked to hang with me and share personal things with me. I thought I could be able to get upon that good career train, find a beautiful Christian girl to marry, become that solid rock in a local church… get a good headstart in building a legacy.
But then a slew of unimaginable circumstances hit me at the same time that totally derailed those hopes.
It would turn out that there was no cure for my worsening eczema and that sores and boils would soon cover my entire body, preventing me from building any sort of life. The girl I was dating left for someone else who had more prospects. Job opportunities shriveled up. Health complications galore.
Fast-forward 10-years after graduating college and I literally had nothing to show for it.
I was career-less. I spent most of my time at home, confined to my bedroom. My waking moment oscillated by feelings of physical pains on my body, nausea and a cloudy mind due to large intakes of drugs and feelings of regret and isolation. Most of the church friends I had … well… they grew their careers and had families, and so our paths diverged and I was left alone.
Back then, I had big momentum. I was growing in every way and when you do, you attract a lot of people to you because they want to be a part of your life. I looked at myself now and wondered who would hire me, and even if they did, I couldn’t imagine the job being anything substantial… I missed the boat for that. Even getting internships to start again was difficult. It’s not easy to find work when you look diseased. I wondered who would want to date me or marry me, and even if someone did, it wouldn’t be the girl of my dreams. I wondered if my faith in God can ever be repaired, and even if so, can it be a child-like faith or some crusty, diluted faith that is not good for anything?
I could no longer imagine being able to be healthy, having a meaningful job and career, being married to someone both supportive and attractive or even being able to walk with God in redeemed joy – I felt my heart was too broken and betrayed to ever heal properly.
I felt I had lost that window for a bright future, and even if a window would come back again, I am too damaged to be able to fully enjoy / take hold of it.
People have prayed for me, then gave up. People used to admire me for my faith, then disappeared when the problem kept getting worse. I used to serve in church as a cell leader and worship drummer, then I was too physically unfit to be regular. My problems were no longer the types of problems that can be solved by luck and hard work. Doctors couldn’t help me for decades, and nothing could prevent my slide into obscurity.
Have you felt this way before?
If that’s you, can I share a bit more on Caleb’s thought-provoking line “Give me this mountain!” (Joshua 14:12)
Many casual observers of the Bible usually assume Caleb’s statement means to ask God to help Caleb overcome a difficulty. The mountain is a difficulty, Caleb is asking for help to overcome it or conquer it. But such a meaning cheapens the incredible depth of this one statement and when we unpack it, we can find hope that might even make a dent on those who have struggled for too long.
The Back Story to Caleb’s proclamation
When we make mistakes, we feel awful. When those mistakes have grave consequences, we feel even worse. However, when we have to bear consequences that aren’t even our fault, this is where hope that’s truly broken down for if it wasn’t even your fault, there is nothing to learn from it, and even further, there was theoretically nothing you could have done to prevent such consequences.
This is what happened to both Joshua and Caleb.
After God, though Moses, delivered the Hebrews out of slavery from Egypt, they went on a 40-year trek towards “a land of milk and honey”, a Promised Land, that God said He had for them. During this long journey, they had interacted with God through many struggles, and God delivered, provided for the people. God hoped, that these people would know His heart for them, despite their hearts being conditioned by their experiences as slaves. God wanted sons who would love their father and in that love, develop hearts that are fitting for a king, not slaves that would begrudgingly live defensively and self-centered all their lives, thinking small all the time.
At the end of that 40-year trek, Caleb and Joshua were part of a 12-man advance party. The “spies” were at the boundary of the promise land and were scoping out the land.
Indeed, they say a big bounty in the land, the grapes were so big that a branch had to be carried via a pole by two people!
The mosaic shows two of those spies just after “they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs,” (Num 13:23)
But… just as the land was flowing “milk and honey”, giants were also found there.
They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. (Num 13:26-27)
Caleb knew the heart of God and was imbued with confidence, he silenced the people before Moses and said,
“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”Numbers 13:30
But the rest of the spies felt the opposite.
But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Num 13:31-32)
God was initially silent at the men’s fears. God doesn’t mind if we are afraid, He understands our human limitations. Many a times when we are afraid, God wants to help us when we ask him. However, God draws the line when people question God’s character and imputes bad attributes to Him. Under the Old Covenant of Law, imputing evilness to God is a big no-no.
“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”Numbers 14:2-3
The men are basically accusing God of wanting to murder them when they saw giants. It’s hard to blame them. They lived many years as slaves under heartless taskmasters. No doubt many of them were used to being abused by the more powerful and had hearts conditioned to be cynical, pessimistic and self-serving. No doubt they projected what they thought of the heartless taskmasters to this “new” God that they were following.
But because the people attributed evil to God, God gave them the harshest of punishment.
None of these people, except for Joshua and Caleb, would set foot in the promise land. All the people were to wander in the desert for another 40-years, until the old generation is replaced by the new generation.
I often wondered how Caleb would feel in all of this?
Caleb and Joshua were the only two people who were “worthy”. They had the right faith, they saw God correctly, I imagine them keeping themselves physically fit as well since they were confident to take down giants. If they were Christians today, these would be the ones who walked the walked and talked the talk. These would be the ones who obviously has a spark of God inside them and were destined for great things.
Now, because of the mistakes of other people, not even their own, Joshua and Caleb would have to waste another 40-years before they had another chance to enter the land flowing with milk and honey.
Was it soul crushing for them to know that the next time they would have this window to enter into a placed promised for them they most likely won’t even be youthful enough to enjoy it? As the 40-years go by and they see their comrades die of old age, one by one, would they be reminded of their own aging bodies and dreams of what could have been?
Was it soul crushing to know that it wasn’t even their fault, which would naturally lead a person towards fatalism? If they couldn’t help being cursed the first time because of other people’s mistakes, what guarantees that they wouldn’t get punished the second time?
Put yourself in Caleb’s shoes.
If you got horribly punished by a master even when you are the personification of the best servant a master could ever have… if you “arbitrarily” got punished for the weakness of others… how can you still trust this master? Imagine if your dad promised to buy you a car if you studied hard and get straight As for the exam. So you beat your body, deny yourself the distractions of playing, girls etc in order to be in peak performance for the exam. After much sacrifice, you get your As. But instead of being handed over the car keys of your dreams, your dad tells you that since your brother didn’t get As, you will have to walk to school for the next 5 years while knowing your other students probably have cars and are laughing at you. The difficult thing to except was, your father didn’t explicitly tell you that you will only get a car if both you and your brother get As. There is much room to feel betrayed.
Then, your father tells you that only 5 years later, you will get your car.
The question is, even though you don’t really have a choice and you’d have to prepare for the exam again next year, how do you know your Dad wouldn’t change his mind again for some auxiliary reason? How could you even prevent yourself from feeling hostile or angry with your Dad over the next couple years?
In other words, which is more natural? That you have more resentment and trust issues with your Dad over the next year, or, you are even more confident in the heart of the Father?
Even if the father does give you a car 3 years later, wouldn’t you feel that this new scenario greatly diminishes what could have been when you were younger? Imagine if you were 16 and you got that shiny car… you might have become popular is school… you might have gotten the girl of your dreams as well because you were one of the very few kids at 16 to have a car. If you got a car at 21, everyone else already has a car by then and so there is nothing special about it, and the mind makes the logical jump that this “gift” will not have the same lead-on effects that you had at 16.
How many of us feel that we missed the boat? We couldn’t get our act together in our 20s, and so we will be single forever? Even if we found someone years later, it will be someone unattractive because the good ones have already been taken? How many feel because we didn’t have the right university degree, get into the right starting MNC, we fell out of the career race and it’s too late to build something that will lead to significance?
Caleb should have felt ALL those things and even MORE because he had to wander aimlessly for 40-years…! The greatest depression for prisoners serving a life sentence isn’t living in the prison for 40-years, but rather, how the entire world would have passed them by once they come out. They would feel they have too much to catch up on, and might never be relevant to society again.
The Bible doesn’t give much detail in all the things that might have happened in that 40-years.
But I imagine many scenes where Caleb would see his comrades pass away, and wonder if God will remain faithful. I imagine many of his comrades expressing their wistfulness, their regret, their processing of why they had to experience what they experienced… from the meaninglessness of slavery, to being pushed into a desert by an unknown God, and then being prevented getting to the Promised Land right at the finish line. How many of them would blame themselves for not having enough faith? How many of them would blame God for being an a**hole?
Celeb would have to listen to all of those things.
Fast forward 40-years.
Caleb is at the finishing line again. He is at the boundary of the promised land and contemplating what will happen next.
In the natural, I expected someone a little bit more jaded… a little bit old and tired… a little but crusty… I expected someone that might step into the battlefield, a little more mature, but reticent about the mixture of faith and doubt he had with God. I expected someone who might have faith to step to the battle, but feel regret that he’s not young enough to enjoy the spoils of wars.
This is what is expected in the natural.
Instead, we got something completely unexpected, not just in what Caleb said, but also what happened to Caleb in those 40+ years:
10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel [b]wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12 Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”Joshua 14:10-12
Caleb declared to “give me this mountain”!
His faith to take the mountain was as strong as he was when he was younger and more immature!
Even more powerful, God preserved his youth because he was “as strong as on the day Moses sent” him 40+ years ago. In other words, when God’s appointed time came again, the greatness of the opportunity was also preserved. God warped time and space for Caleb so that what was impossible in the natural was possible. The opportunity that should have been greatly diminished after 40+ whole years was a fresh as when it was first given.
The greatest power of this text in Joshua isn’t in what many popular motivational speakers say about this moment. They say we must have the faith of Caleb… that we should have the confidence to ask God for help to overcome your difficulty.
This is true, I agree with it.
But this is the lowest of revelation. God’s word is far more powerful and mind-confounding than that.
For me, the greater revelation is what did God do in those extra 40-years of wandering the desert as punishment?
Those 40-years was supposed to be an aimless wandering where people were wasting away. Yet, it was in those 40-years that God something or somethings to Caleb that made Caleb even more mature in faith, and physically powerful.
What a glorious mystery.
That the Bible doesn’t reveal what those things are makes it even more powerful to me… because it is pointing to shadows of all the fullness of mystery of all the spiritual gifts that lay in the Gospel for us today.
So much insight and blessings lay in the Gospel waiting to transform our lives that even the great Apostle Paul had difficulty trying to explain it:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:3, 4, 8. 17-19, NIV
And the kicker:
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,Ephesians 3:20, NIV
This is the point of it all. Whatever your limits of your imagination and thought process, God necessarily goes past of all it. And, this is a great comfort. Human institutions of knowledge and clout aren’t the last word in your life. The natural selection of an unfriendly universe is not the last word in your life.
The 40-year extra wandering was supposed to be a period of waste and regret in the natural, yet it’s a divine mystery how Caleb emerged better than before, and how God redeemed Caleb’s “wasted” years.
The ways of God aren’t just to help us “get our of the desert”, it is far more mysterious and powerful, instead, it can does far more, God not only can help us out, but use that negative place to refresh and strength us as well to consolidate us for our next destination … God exceeds human expectation by giving treasure where there isn’t supposed to be any, He is “making streams in the wilderness”.
Caleb’s victorious declaration “Give me this mountain!” made Caleb a conqueror.
What God did in those 40-years of wasteful wandering that subverted natural thinking made Caleb “more than a conqueror”.Romans 8: 38
Thinking of the mystery of God using those 40-years of waste in Caleb’s life made me have a picture of what this verse could mean.
Today, I am 45 years old, far older than I expected to live, far healthier than many would have thought. The doctors have no explanation. I actually have a career I am proud of and am married to a girl I thought really attractive almost 20 years ago, what I couldn’t believe was that she was still single, almost like God had kept us for each other. With every financial calamity like the great recession of 2009, and the COVID market crash this year in 2020, God had it such that I always came out of it stronger, and more prosperous.
My life won’t make any sense to a career statistician, because I fell out of the beaten path a long time ago.
It is a mystery too, just like what happened in the 40-year period of Caleb, just like the unsearchable riches in Christ, the Gospel.
If you believe you are “more than a conqueror” in Christ, then also believe that your circumstance that you have that seems to be meaningless, that even people are mocking or scoffing at, can be used by God to accomplish something much bigger, much greater, and with much more meaning. You will find resource in unlikely places. Those adversities that is meant to destroy you will be your bread. They will strengthen you and help you grow in transformative ways that others don’t know about.
All together now.
“Give me this mountain.”
Joseph Prince’s Give Me This Mountain Book can be found here: https://mountain.josephprince.com/
The Give Me This Mountain #gmtm Vacuum Flask and Mug can be found here: https://www.amazon.sg/s?k=gmtm+dwell+here
 The mosaic is one of about a dozen that archaeologists have uncovered at a synagogue in the ancient Jewish village of Huqoq, in Israel’s Galilee. The detail and breadth of these discoveries indicate that the villagers flourished during the early fifth century A.D., when the region was under Rome’s Christian rule.