This week we head back into the Old Testament and hear a bit about Caleb. Thanks Anne Don, for telling us more about this man and why he is a hero for you.
If you don’t know the name Caleb or where he fits in the history of the Israelites, I suggest you have a look at the references that Anne has given us. They are Numbers 13 & 14, Deuteronomy 1:34-36, Joshua 14:6-14; 15:13-19 and Judges 1:11-15. This is a telling of a man who, along with Joshua, spoke against what the main group who had spied out the promised land were saying. Now it’s not always easy to speak against something or someone no matter how passionate or right you feel you are. Both Caleb and Joshua were rewarded for their stance by getting to enter the promised land, the only two of the original Israelite people who escaped from Egypt, and this was because they voiced their trust and belief in God and all that God has promised and would do for them, as well as telling the truth in what they found. So, for Caleb, speaking the truth ended well for him.
Unfortunately, that is not the case in our reading today. The passage I’ve chosen for today tells of the death of John the Baptist. John was in goal because he had been telling truth to Herod, and it did not go down very well. Now I have to admit that John didn’t mince his language and it was probably really hard for Herod to hear. But it was the truth, and the truth can be hard to hear. It also takes a fair amount of courage to stand up to people of power, you never really know how it’s going to be received.
But John’s truth telling was not all the truth that he could have spoken to Herod. John didn’t challenge Herod on his opulent life style, nor did he challenge Herod on his attempts to be part of the Roman style of politics to the detriment of the Jewish people. John was a prophet of God and as such was called to speak the gospel truth. That gospel truth was full of repentance and righteousness. His call offered no room for negotiation, no room for mediation, no room for dispensation. John the Baptist’s call required the gospel truth of repentance and reform. And this call made no impact upon Herod but it did impact others and the consequence of that was Herodias’ desire for the death of John. Agents of God who challenge those in power usually suffer significant consequences. And that is just what happened to John, but those consequences were not good. Caleb, on the other hand, received better consequences from his words of truth.
What about us? Do we have the courage to speak truth to power knowing that at times it will not go well?