On the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, in an ancient section of what is now Tel Aviv, lies one of the oldest cities in the world: Joppa (also called Jaffa and Yafo). Notable structures, including its port, date back thousands of years. Some claim Joppa was named after its founder following the universal flood: Noah’s son Japheth.
Many empires and people groups have controlled Joppa over the centuries. The apostle Peter ministered to a small Christian community God raised up there at the home of Simon the tanner. Acts 10 records the vision God gave Peter in Joppa, affirming His inclusion of Gentiles into the body of believers in Messiah Jesus.
But one of the most striking stories is the account of those who rejected Joppa. That’s the story of the tribe of Dan. When Joshua led the Israelites to conquer Canaan as God commanded, seven tribes did not immediately claim their inheritances, apparently because of the difficulty of conquering the remaining fortified cities. Joshua even chided them, asking how long they would delay taking the land God had provided (Josh. 18:2–3).
These tribes were given land by casting lots. Dan received its inheritance last: the coastal plain surrounding Joppa and the low foothills to the east, abutting the terrifying city-states of the Philistines and Amorites. Dan took the hill country but never conquered the coast, including Joppa. In fact, the book of Judges records the life of Samson the Danite, a story of Dan’s assimilation into Canaanite culture.
Ultimately, Dan rejected its mission altogether; uprooted itself; and sought greener pastures far to the north. In the process, the Danites became idol worshipers, corrupted a priest, and destroyed a people God never asked them to destroy (Judg. 18). The Danites rejected Joppa because the task God gave them looked too hard, and they took an easier path.
How often do we do likewise when the tasks God gives us look too difficult? Yet God’s mission for us often transcends the boundaries of our comforts or strengths to force us to depend on His help.
When God directs us, He will go with us. For the tasks He commands, He will provide the strength. He has given us the power of the Holy Spirit and the promise of His presence and will never leave us or forsake us. Joppa is a reminder of what is possible when we truly trust in Him.
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