Today, Chomolungma, known around the world as Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is regularly climbed due to the availability of modern equipment and our cumulative knowledge regarding its possible climbing routes. But throughout most of human history, the 29,029 ft. (8,848 m.) giant – along with several huge neighboring peaks – remained unconquered.
It was only after attempts by many others that the dedicated, unrelenting attack of New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and his Tibetan guide, Tenzing Norgay, resulted in the mountain finally being summited in 1953. A humble and unassuming man, Hillary’s name lives on – and always will – among slayers of giant mountains.
Thousands of years ago another climber and giant slayer, an old man of 85, exhibited the same kind of unquenchable desire to conquer a mountain region that had proven unconquerable well after ancient Israel entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. Notice the story:
Then the people of Judah came to Joshua... And Caleb the son of Jephunneh …said to him … “I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart … And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses … I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country [“give me this mountain” KJV] of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said” (Joshua 14:6-12).
Not only had Caleb served fearlessly as a spy in his youth, but now after many years – at age 85 – he still remained fearless and full of desire to accomplish the goal he could see set before him. And it was a daunting goal – not only to take over the rugged hill country area, but also to displace the giant Anakim who lived there. Although he insisted he was still physically able to do the job in his old age, he exhibited humility in stressing that “It may be that the Lord will be with me” (vs. 12) and that it would be by God’s help that he would triumph. Seeing Caleb’s determination, Joshua blessed him, and he gave him permission to take the mountain area for which he asked. And we learn that Caleb was, in fact, successful in his attempt to claim the unconquered mountain (Joshua 14:14).
Our goals may not always seem as tangible as climbing the world’s highest mountain or conquering Caleb’s mountain of giants, yet God has given us an even higher goal – a greater height to climb. What matters is that we go after our goal with the same determination that won those great heights of history. We, like Caleb, will be empowered to reach the goal if we stick with it, but – again like Caleb – no matter how long we live, we must never forget that we want that mountain.