The tribulations we conquer often become the canvas upon which the stories of our lives are painted. We need only look at popular films, mythology and even history to see the ubiquitous application. To grasp the full gravity of the heroism of an individual, a society, or a people, it is essential that we gain insight into the nature of the enemy they overcame.
In our previous newsletter we came to know the hero that was Caleb the Brave. His origin story is only act one. Today, we introduce the villain. Afterall, it is the villain that confronts the hero with a threat that is significant enough to force her to draw on the depths within her.
The Strategic Objective
Caleb was after the city of Hebron. It was positioned on Mount Hebron, which is technically a 900m high plateau with the Jordan River on the one side, and the Mediterranean Sea on the other. It was the high ground.
More significantly, Hebron means ‘friendship and society’. It is a city that exemplifies what a ‘city of wholeness’ is meant to be. Additionally, it is also a ‘city on a hill’ that cannot be hidden. What Hebron is meant to be is a city of light that functions as a beacon of hope for the entire region due to its elevated position. It is the moral high ground that determines the dominant culture for all surrounding areas.
A Trio of Foes
Despite all this promise, Hebron is ruled by the three sons of Anak. These were no normal sons. They were giants. The fabled sons of spiritual beings and the ancestors of Goliath. Because Hebron was ruled by giants, the report came back 40 years before that “we seemed like grasshoppers in their eyes.”[i] So not only did Caleb have the disadvantage of the low ground, but his foes were giants. Not just one, but three. Understanding who they were gives us some insight into the true nature of the battle.
His name means ‘Who is my brother?’ This is understandable. Since his ancestry starts with the Nephilim, spiritual beings who reproduced with humans. What we see represented by this ‘Giant’ are the consequences of fatherlessness, broken families, and identity insecurity. He does not know who his brothers might be, because he does not know his ancestry.
The result is that he does not know himself. He is unsure of his own identity and place in the world. His dignity as an individual is undermined.
His name means ‘Whitish’. This may have been due to hair colour or an alabaster like appearance. What is interesting here is the ‘ish’. There is an uncertainty, an ambiguity in who he is. He is not sure what his ‘calling’ is. His significance is called in question. He is not something definite and certain. His destiny is unclear.
His name means ‘Plowman’. No doubt as a giant he had incredible physical strength. He also likely had an advantage in the activity of plowing due to his stature. What is interesting is that with his brothers, he was one of the three rulers of Hebron. What is a ruler doing plowing the fields?
We see a man uncertain of his identity and calling. This undermines his contribution. Because he does not understand his worth and calling, he settles for what comes easily and naturally. Many of his gifts and capabilities are underutilized in the process, resulting in an insignificant contribution to his society.
Buckled Beneath the Weight
Because of these three rulers, Hebron is a far cry from the city on a hill it is meant to be. Instead of light and hope, we see only darkness, pain, and injustice. We can take inspiration from the redemption of Hebron for the giants we face in our own cities. It turns out that our giants are the same.
- Spiritual lostness creeps in when giants do not know their real heavenly Father. My dignity is taken from me. When the world, society, skills, or abilities become the markers of identity rather than the opinion of a loving Father, I will be a double-minded man unstable in all my ways.
Our First Giant – Lostness
- Fatherlessness: It is estimated that 2.13 million children in South Africa are fatherless, and 9 million grow- up without fathers, a tremendous fatherhood challenge for the country (Dube 2016:2; Frazier 2015).
- Orphans: Figures in South Africa range from 4 millionto nearly 4 million. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), for instance, has put the number of orphans in South Africa at between 3.7 million and 4 million. But some projections have suggested figures as high as 5.2 million.[ii]
- Child-headed households: In 2015, Stats SA’s General Household Survey showed that there are about 90 000 children in 50 000 child-headed households.[iii]
Caleb responds with the opposite spirit. “I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.”[iv
- Social Pain is amplified when identity is uncertain. Significance is called into question. We lose hope. The underlying belief that I am worthy is slowly eroded until abuse sets in. “When the purpose of a thing is unclear, abuse is inevitable. [v]
Our Second Giant – Pain
- Substance Abuse: The statistics showed that the use of cannabis, cocaine, and tik was twice as much in South Africa as worldwide. Alcohol abuse was a major problem in South Africa and an estimated two million people could be classified as problem drinkers. The socio-economic cost of alcohol abuse was an estimated R130 billion per year. Concerning statistics were presented on alcohol use. More than 37% of adults were binge drinkers; 10% of drivers on a Monday morning were drunk; and an estimated 7 000 deaths occurred per annum due to driving under the influence of alcohol.[vi]
- Violence against women: One in five (21%) partnered women has experienced physical violence by a partner.[vii]
- Prostitution: A working estimate was reached of between 131,000 and 182,000 sex workers in South Africa, or between 0.76 and 1 % of the adult female population.[viii]
- Suicide: The South African Depression and Anxiety Group reportsthat there are 23 known cases of suicide in South Africa every day, and for every person that commits suicide, 10 have attempted it.[ix]
Again, Caleb responds with a different spirit: ‘Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.’[x]
- Systemic Brokenness flourishes in a place where the dignity and the significance of people are called into question. Systems are ultimately created and sustained by people. We cannot expect fair and healthy systems in cities where people who do not understand their own dignity and significance are expected to protect and enable it for others.
Our Third Giant – Brokenness
- Inequality: Only 10% of South Africans live in “opulence”, while 35% are ranked as middle class, and more than 50% live in abject poverty.[xi]
- Education Levels of Youth: In South Africa, the share of 18 – 24-year-old NEETs was 43.8% in 2019, which increased to 45% in 2020.[xii]
- Unemployment: The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment increased by 2,2 percentage points to 46,6% in quarter 3 of 2021 compared to quarter 2 of 2021.[xiii]
Once more, Caleb responds differently: “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there, and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”[xiv]
A Healing City
These stats may feel overwhelming. Caleb’s bravery would be nothing more than bravado had he not scouted the land and seen the giants. His faith for the city was despite his very tangible experience of the challenge that lay before him.
Exposing the giants for what they are offers up the first key to victory. Which of these giants stirs up the indignation in you? Which one confronts you with a large enough threat to force you to draw on the depths of your capacity? Perhaps it’s time you stepped up to the plate.
- In you sphere of influence, is there a person whose identity you can affirm?
- Do you know someone who needs to know their contribution is unique and valued?
- Are you following a great leader, who you can encourage? Give them a call, shout out or message.
Hebron is a friendly society. A city built first and foremost on relational proximity. You can only spot the chink in the armour when you get up close to the thing that scares you. Courage is action in the face of fear.
In our next newsletter, we will explore the tactics that position us for victory.
[i] Numbers 13:33
[iv] Joshua 14:8
[v] Myles Munroe Paraphrase
[x] Joshua 14:10-11
[xiv] Joshua 14:12
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