Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - Epilogue

Eric McCullough

When asked to write this tribute for A MAN CALLED OLIVER, the words of Psalm 12 verses 1-2 come to mind. "Help Lord; for the Godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail among the children of men."

My earliest acquaintance with Oliver Smith was when we first met at a conference in Garnavillo in 1949. He impressed me with his fervor in gospel preaching and warm Christian character. Two years later my wife and I moved to Iowa to establish my practice as a chiropractor.

I soon found myself engaged in gospel meetings with Mr. Smith.We preached in rented buildings as well as various gospel halls on Sunday nights.

He loved to turn every conversation into spiritual areas and had a God-given ability to do so. After a long day of visitation it was not unusual to find him asleep in his car ten minutes before the meeting in front of the building we had rented. He would say, "I haven't a sensible thought in my head." He then would preach with power and received help from God.

His zeal in the gospel, love for souls, and untiring efforts to reach the lost made a tremendous impact on me and changed the outlook for my life. This continued until September of 1957 when I was commended to the work of the Lord by the brethren at Stout.

His life affected hundreds of individuals and in a coming day many will rise up and call him blessed. The number of assemblies in this area which continue according to New Testament principles are a compliment to his memory.

I have written the following article as a tribute to Mr. Smith. He was a true Caleb in every sense of the word

The writer to the Hebrews, realizing their spiritual guides were gone and to encourage the believers of that day, exhorted them; "Whose faith follow" (Heb. 13:7).The leadership of those who went before, both of life and ministry was exemplary, but there was someone greater to follow. Thus he turned their thoughts to Jesus Christ who was still abiding; "The same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). Although he is not mentioned in the great list of God' s "Westminster Abbey of Faith" of chapter 11, it is recorded of Caleb six times over, he "wholly followed the Lord."

Our consideration of any biographies in either the Old or New Testament teach us Divine principles as well as giving further incentive for an increase of spirituality in our lives. Truly Caleb was such a man!

In spite of the discouraging report of the spies regarding the land of Canaan which had been promised by God; the strength of the people, the height of the walls and the giants, Caleb could "Still the people before Moses" (Num. 13:30); as "had another spirit with him." (Numbers 14:24). He had absolute confidence in his God and the courage of his convictions. God stills looks for men who will be faithful to Him and to His Word in a time and sphere of service; like the sons of Issachar, who " had understanding of the times" (I Chron. 12:32). Let us consider some of the features of Caleb's life that we trust will be a blessing to the people of God as a result of our meditations.

First we will consider his - Character.

His name means "whole hearted" or" a dog." Right from the mission to spy out the land of Canaan, his appointment regarding the division of the land (Num.34: 17,19), until the end of his long life of faithfulness, his name characterized him: "All Heart." This seems to echo the words of the great apostle Paul," Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death" ( Phil. 1:20). He was of the tribe of Judah which means "Praise." Undoubtedly his heart would be filled with praise as he crossed the wilderness in anticipation of entering into the land where he had already been. Like Abraham, he was a sojourner in a "strange country" (Heb.11:9).

Let us think now of his - Companion.

How good to see two men yoked together in God' s service. Often a younger man is linked with an older man. However, at 86 years of age, Joshua the son of Nun was raised up by God at the death of Moses as his
successor, Josh. 1:1-2. His name means "Jehovah is Saviour.
Joshua was born in Egypt and knew something of the bondage and suffering of slavery. The first mention of Joshua is in Ex. 17 as he discomfited Amalek, a type of the flesh. This is undoubtedly our greatest enemy. This victory over Amalek fitted him for further service and leadership, that eventually took God's people into the land of promise. Joshua was also linked with Moses when he went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Law and the Commandments of God, Ex.24: 13.
God told Moses to take him, "a man in whom is the spirit" Num. 27:18, to stand before Eleazar the priest and the congregation. Like Caleb, he was faithful right to the end. "Not one thing hath failed." Josh.23: 14, is the Divine commentary. At 85, Caleb still sought to do exploits for God. "Give me this mountain." Josh. 14:12 was his desire. He longed to possess his inheritance.
Of the 605,550 men from 20 years upward who came out of Egypt, Caleb and Joshua were the only two permitted to enter the land. Although Moses was allowed to view the land, he was denied an entrance because of his disobedience, Num. 20:9-12.

Another feature was his - Confidence.

When his fellow spies brought back an evil report of the land, Caleb displayed his faith in an unfailing God. What confidence he instilled in the people when he said,"Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are able to overcome it." Num. 13:30.
Later with Joshua they could say,"If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land." Num.14:8. As he crossed the wilderness, his heart was in Canaan, thus he illustrates the believer who can enjoy Heaven on the way to Heaven. This is the truth of the Ephesian epistle. God views us positionally as seated in Heavenly places in Christ. An appreciation of this should lift our spirits above a Godless world and cause us to long for our Heavenly rest.

Again the Hebrew epistle reminds us,"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward." Heb. 10:35.

Perhaps the most outstanding trait of Caleb was his -Consecration.

It is heartwarming to see Caleb, at the advance age of 85, asking for the stronghold of Mt. Hebron. He seems to be an exception to the "threescore years and ten" alloted by Moses in Psa. 90:10. He had "wholly followed" the Lord throughout his life, and had looked forward to this day when he would claim Hebron. Note the refrain, "The Lord spake," five times over in Joshua 14. The Word of God counselled him and his trust was in his God, not in himself,: "if so be the Lord will be with me" (Josh.14:12).

His hands were filled in service, the thought conveyed by consecration; no retirement for him. What an example to those of us who seek to serve the Master. God gave them strength to be faithful right to the end. "I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me" (Josh. 14:11). The apostle could say,"When I am weak, then am I strong,"(II Cor. 12:10).

Let us now look at his - Conflict.

Hebron means "fellowship." This was where Abraham had pitched his tent so long before. The sons of Anak were there, but Caleb was raised up by God to drive them out. God enabled him to do this, bringing blessing to others. This conquest resulted in a place of rest for God' s people.

We too have enemies to conquer as we travel homeward. We must recognize them. During the days of World War II, General Douglas McArthur said: "The greater the recognition of the enemy, the greater the potential for victory." Ephesians 6 gives us the "whole armour of God." Note there is no protection for the back! The believer is to face the enemy and never turn his back.

Finally we would mention his - Commendation.

Moses had said earlier: "Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance" (Josh. 14:9). Now as Caleb stands before Joshua he has the assurance of possessing the land as he blesses him according to the commandment of the Lord (Josh. 14:13, 15:13). About to climb the heights of Hebron, his noble spirit claims the inheritance promised by God. Any spiritual battles that we may win enable us to enjoy communion in a way others will never know. Like Caleb, we have God's Word to guide us, the indwelling Holy Spirit working through us enabling us to serve in an acceptable way.

We thank God for men with sterling character, careful of their choice of companions, with confidence in God and not the flesh, wholly consecrated to engage in conflict for God. God give us more Calebs!

"Lives of great men all remind us We may make our lives sublime, And when dying leaves behind us Footprints in the sands of time."