The last few months, I have been reading and studying Joshua. The battle narratives of the Old Testament often contain rich imagery and lessons paralleling God's working in the church today. It has been a source of great encouragement, challenge and correction for me and has specifically given me great insight in the midst of my transition out of one ministry and the beginning of a new one.
Joshua 14:12: "So now give me this hill country 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."
These words of Caleb from Joshua 14 were pretty much unknown to me but have greatly encouraged me, a jewel hidden in the midst of chapters about land allotment and inheritance in the promised land.
In Joshua 14, Caleb has come to Joshua to request his inheritance in the promised land. Caleb is now 85 years old. Joshua and he are the only remaining Israelites from the Desert generation. They were the two spies who pleaded with Israel and Moses in Numbers 14 that though the promised land was full of giants and fortified cities, they should go into the land to take it because the LORD was with them. Tragically though, the Israelites believed the majority report of fear and trembling and rebelled against the LORD. Refusing to enter the promised land resulted in 40 years of wandering in the desert. But now, 40 years later, it is Joshua and Caleb again and Caleb is is asking for his inheritance just as God had promised him.
What land does Caleb want? What inheritance does Caleb ask for? He asks for the land of the Anakim. He wants precisely that very land with fortified cities and giants that caused the spies to tremble and fear and turn back running. He could have asked for some piece of land already cleared of enemies at least containing weaker ones. But he wanted the very land that no one else dared to claim.
Caleb wants this land. He wants it to conquest and claim. At age 85 he says,"So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard 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."
What is so striking to me is the nature of Caleb's courageous faith. It is a faith that is based on the promise and power of God. The Lord has said that he will drive out Anakim and give the land to the Israelites. He has promised his deliverance and conquest and in the battles of Jericho and Ai. It has already begun to happen. Caleb simply believes that God will do what he says.
But more striking to me is that it is a "risky" faith. Though the Lord has promised to drive them out, Caleb doesn't presume to know how it will happen or who he will use to do it. For all Caleb knows God may choose to use someone else. Caleb doesn't presume on God's sovereign ways or works.
So Caleb's venture is risky. It is throwing himself into an adventure, the conclusion of which is not guaranteed. This risk is summarized so well in the words, "It may be that the Lord will be with me and I shall drive them out..." In other words, maybe, just maybe, God will do it through me.
This passage has meant much to me, because although the land of Metro Boston and the Albanians that live there are not Canaan and the Anakim, in their own way they are certainly intimidating. New England is certainly "fortified" in the hardness of secularism, with the 2nd lowest percentage of evangelicals in the United States. Various people share how as they arrive in New England, they feel a different sense of darkness and spiritual coldness. And the Albanian population feels, at times to me, like the Anakim. Unreached by the gospel and hardened by 40 years of intense atheist propaganda, they have been singularly focused on the American dream. Though I love them and love their culture, often the soil seems rock hard.
Yet, in strange ways, the Spirit of God is stirring in me the beginning of that same desire of Caleb and a longing for his faith. "Give me" that place and that people. Precisely this place and people that seem so far challenging and difficult. I want to labor to see the name of Jesus exalted and worshipped there and to see them join the joyful community of God's people. I don't presume to know what will happen as we begin ministry among them. Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe we will spend years in faithful sowing of the word among them and there will be no fruit. Missionaries throughout history have experienced this; living and ministering in places for 40 years without a convert, or with very few. This very well could be what God has for us as well, to be prophetic sowers of the word of God in ways that only later generations see fruit.
But maybe, just maybe, God will choose to work and move among us. Maybe, just maybe, he will pour out his Spirit bringing mini-revivals in lives and families and the Albanian community.
Though I don't presume to know what will happen, there are promises that give me great hope. Word pictures that God gave us that give expectation that one day, sooner or later, there will be Spirit movement in New England and among the Albanian community.
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. John 10:16
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." Matthew 9:36
Do not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. John 4:35-36
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14
And the amazing thing that I am convinced of is that to accomplish all of this, bring his glory and reap the harvest and gather his sheep God will mostly likely use someone. Someone weak, limited, broken and sinful. For as I Corinthians 1:26 reminds the early church and us:
"For consider your calling, brothers; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But he chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is slow and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being may boast in the presence of God."
Yes, believe it or not, God uses someone, even someone like me and someone like you to lead the charge into the land of fortified cities and the Anakim. And so, with joy and sobriety, confidence and trembling, realism and yet expectation, we launch ourselves out onto God as we venture toward this new place and people.
Jason and Kristine Stryd come to Boston after 10 years together in ministry among Albanians and other immigrants in Philadelphia. Jason previously lived in Kosova and grew up in Michigan. Kristine grew up in Needham, Mass. and is excited to return home. Their two children Caleb (4) and Evette (2) bring them much joy and keep life very interesting!