just a footnote
In Numbers 13, Israel was encamped at Kadesh-barnea at the edge of the Negev and on the cusp of realizing God’s promise of the land made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God commanded Moses to send twelve spies out from Kadesh to explore Canaan and to bring back a report. Forty days later, the spies returned bearing a huge cluster of grapes from Eshcol as well as pomegranates and figs. Surely, they reported, this land “floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it” (Numbers 13:27) . . . BUT . . .
. . . My friends, there really is nothing new under the sun. As is said in Hebrew, a very familiar phrase to Israelis from the Book of Ecclesiastes: Ein Kol Chadash TaChat HaShamesh (ואין כל־חדשׁ תחת השׁמשׁ). Even today, there are plenty of BUTTs in the Body of Christ, the yeah . . . but type:
Yeah, what you are preaching is true, BUT they way you are going about it is wrong.
Yeah, the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination, BUT I have family members who are gay.
Yeah, Jesus Christ did say He was the only way, BUT there are good people who don’t believe that.
Yeah, I trust the Lord, BUT what if I don’t have health insurance and I have to go to the doctor?
Yeah, the Bible says to wait on the Lord, but if I don’t get this job right now, how will I pay my bills?
Yeah, abortion is murder, BUT the women who abort their babies are unfortunate victims.
Yeah, the Scripture is clear, but it doesn’t apply to me in this situation.
The mantras drone on and on. Yeah, Canaan is exactly what the Lord said it would be BUT it “is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:32-33). The spies saw giants in the Judaean hill country, and despite God already having worked many mighty miracles of deliverance among them, they freaked out and brought an evil report to the people. The rest is history. That generation spoke their own judgment, and they fell in the wilderness. None, save Joshua and Caleb entered that land, and when these finally did with those who were twenty years old and under on that fateful day at Kadesh, something that once seemed a really big deal turns out to be nothing but a footnote.
The Book of Joshua provides a detailed account of the conquest of Jericho, Ai, the Amorite Kings, Southern Canaan, and the northern victories over those with a host of horses and chariots.
Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses (Joshua 11:18-20).
Then, at the end of this recap, you have to read carefully, or you might just miss it: “And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities” (Joshua 11:21). What seemed such a big problem, what caused the hearts of the people to melt at Kadesh-barnea forty-five years earlier (cf. Joshua 14:7-10), turned out to be no big deal. In fact, it barely gets mentioned in a detailed chronicle of the conquest of Canaan. How foolish were those who had faithlessly gone to pieces about it!
There is a lesson for us in this. In fact, there was a lesson for me in this as I traveled around Israel back in March. To make a longer story short, I had a dental problem arise suddenly back at the beginning of the year, something I feared would prove an issue for our upcoming trip to Israel, so much so that I actually toyed with the idea of flying down to Peru to handle some logistics ahead of this summer’s Team Yeshua and get the problem fixed there (roundtrip plane ticket to Peru + dental work = cheaper than bill from my local dentist). Unfortunately, things didn’t work out, and at the advice of my local dentist, I decided to put things off until June when I could get it resolved in Lima. A few months, he said, shouldn’t make that much of a difference. So, Eric and I drove to Nova Scotia and flew to Israel, and I carried along some extra floss and coconut oil. Two days after arriving in Jerusalem, we sat down on a Friday evening to enjoy a Shabbat dinner with some Christian brethren. Ironically, as I was eating soft, warm Challa bread and a little white rice, the problem tooth literally broke off with its crown, and I swallowed them both. What remained were a few shards and a gaping hole.
Initially, I got up from the table, walked back to my room, and behind a closed door had a bit of a Kadesh-barnea reaction. I murmured to myself, “Now, this trip is ruined. Why didn’t I just go to Peru and get this thing fixed? In fact, why didn’t I just throw down the $1100 and have my local dentist do the work? As expensive as everything else is in Israel, who knows how much it’s going to cost now? How am I going to travel around this country for the next month and be of any use in the work with a gaping a painful void in my mouth? Why did God bring me over here in the first place? . . . blah, blah, blah.” Suddenly, I remembered Israel’s murmuring in the desert, and then Eric helped me get my head back on straight enough to shut up and seek counsel of the LORD. Well, dental contacts of my Jewish friends weren’t an immediate option. The sun had gone down, and it was the start of Shabbat. Everything was closed until Monday. So, we pulled up Google Maps and found a 24-hour emergency dental clinic about a mile away in a higher-end Jewish neighborhood. There seemed no way this clinic would really be open, but I walked down there nonetheless. When I knocked on his door, someone came downstairs from his living quarters and said, “Come on in; let me have a look.” He was an Arab man, and his office was literally in his house. This dentist said he could fix it; I bargained with him a bit until I got the price UNDER $700 (about 40% cheaper than what I would have paid back in NC); and I was out of there in about an hour. A week later, when I was back in Jerusalem anyway, he fit a strong new crown in there, and the problem was solved. I took a few minutes that night to file a claim and submit some paperwork online to my travel insurance company; and two weeks after that, before I even got home from Israel, every dime I spent on that problem had been reimbursed back into my bank account. So, what initially seemed like an enormous problem proved only a small footnote that cost me nothing and inhibited nothing along what turned out to be a long and fruitful missionary journey. Moreover, I was blessed by the opportunity to share the Gospel with a Muslim dentist who gladly received a Hebrew-Arabic Injil (i.e. New Testament) from my hands. In hindsight, my initial reaction really does seem as foolish and ridiculous as that of the ten faithless spies at Kadesh-barnea.
At Zerayim, our ministry priority is the Jewish people, but in seeking out lost sheep from the House of Israel, we are more than willing and able to proclaim the same message of salvation to the Gentile nations. For God said concerning the Jewish Messiah: “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). One of the most amazing things about Jewish ministry is that it puts a whole lot of unexpected Gentiles into one’s path, and these appointments are NOT just a footnote. From my encounter with the dentist, Eric and I were inspired to seek out additional opportunities to distribute the Scriptures in the Arabic as we traveled to many places from Dan to Beersheba.
There were two elderly Palestinian women and a young man sitting in the street near the top of Tel Hebron, in the heart of one of those most dangerous Area A spots in all of Israel. Earlier that same day and only a few blocks away, a Palestinian youth walked up and tried to stab an IDF soldier from behind. He got three rounds to the chest. With IDF permission, Eric and I hiked up to some archaeological ruins atop the old tel, a place, ironically, that had been the location of one of the Anakim strongholds so feared by the ten spies who gave a wicked report at Kadesh-barnea. The tombs of Ruth and Jesse, the father of David, are nearby. I started speaking with the two women on the other side of a large fence, and the young man walked up very suspicious. I’m sure he was asking himself, “What the heck are these two white guys doing up here?” Anyway, I explained that I wanted to give them a gift that had once been given to me, a gift that changed my life. I then passed a copy of the Holy Scriptures through the fence and covered my heart with my hand. I pointed out that it was an Injil in both the Hebrew and Arabic languages, and that it was an eyewitness testimony of the Messiah, the only One who can bring peace to this land. They were very grateful, and the young man shook my hand with a kind resolve that made my day.
There was also an Arab man working at a car wash near Soreq. He told me thank-you multiple times after I gave him an Arabic Bible. He was just getting off work and immediately sat down at a nearby picnic table to read. There were also a couple of Arab school kids in the Abu Tor neighborhood of Jerusalem and a young lady from Yafo that I actually met in the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum. These also received the Scriptures in a language they could understand.
Hardly a day went by on the ground in Israel when a Bible didn’t go into someone’s hands. Most of these were Hebrew New Testaments that went into the hands of Jewish people that the Lord put into our path. But, there were also Arabic Bibles that went into the hands of lost sheep from the House of Ishmael and Esau. I praise God for that, and it all started because what looked to be a giant problem proved only a footnote.
Please pray for us in the coming weeks. We are traveling to a wedding in South Dakota for a young couple that served with Team Yeshua in the past, and the Team Yeshua 2019 term begins here in North Carolina on June 8th. Lord willing, we will all be heading down together to Huaraz, Peru on June 11th. The next month will be a roller-coaster. But, the Lord has already provided the plane tickets and suitable housing for the Team. So, it would be foolish to view any obstacle as the Israelites once viewed the Sons of Anak. Team Yeshua will be in Peru until August 21st, and my family and I will remain there until October.
I’ll wrap it up with an interesting fact. In Joshua 11:21, we see a footnote concerning Joshua’s cutting off of the Anakims from the mountains of Judah (Oh, and by the way . . . ). What Israel so feared in Numbers 13 proved only a footnote in the eventual conquest of the Land. Later, we learn that this cutting off of the Anakims under Joshua was mostly carried out by Caleb and his family (Joshua 15:13-20, Judges 1). Moreover, the name of Hebron at that time was Kiryat Arba, named after Arba, a great man amongst the Anakim giants. Caleb easily conquered that place, and Jews, surrounded by hostile Palestinians, still live there today. The Jewish settlement right off Highway 60 as one enters into Hebron is called Kiryat Arba. I’ve driven right through there and even enjoyed an Americano at the little Yellow gas station.
Kadesh-barnea is also still around today; it’s a Jewish kibbutz right on the Egyptian border. We drove way out of the way to see for ourselves, and even there, we had opportunity to sow a few seeds. Unfortunately, the road from there back to Beersheba was closed, and Tim missed a shower and nearly missed his flight back to the United States. But hey, that was just another momentary big deal that ended up a small footnote. He got home safely; our wives got home safely; and eventually we got home safely.
My friends, let’s carry the lesson of Kadesh-barnea and Kiryat Arba with us as we go out to serve the Lord. Let’s refrain from making mountains out of mole hills, and let’s expect seemingly huge problems to end up being footnotes. A hysterical reaction to anything really has no place in the life of a believer. For, we serve the God of Israel, and “he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Also, the Body of Christ already has way too many BUTTS (I.e. Yeah, but . . .). Let’s be arms, legs, fingers, toes, shoulders, or elbows instead. And as William Carey, the renowned Baptist missionary once said: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Peace be with you,
Jesse Boyd, Colporter