I know – It’s been an extended absence, but how worth it! My family and I recently returned from an amazing experience, helping harvest the vineyards in the mountains of Israel. (See Isaiah 61:5, Jeremiah 31:5 – Our G-d keeps His covenants!)
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!” – Isaiah 52:7
Several months before our departure, I started hearing “prompting” to go barefoot over there. Though I had been to Israel before, I hadn’t been to the vineyards, and those I asked about the barefoot possibilities were pretty skeptical. “Lots of thorns!” they said. But I kept noticing things about feet in the Scriptures. The main reasons we found there were:
1. Holy Ground – We consider the entire Land of Israel to be holy ground, and following Moses’ example seemed appropriate.
Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. – Exodus 3:5
2. It speaks of humility, since we were coming as servants, and not as conquerors. Historically, foreigners who came to the land shod were desiring to conquer and subdue the Jewish people. Our desire was to come as servants to assist them in their own efforts to reclaim the land.
Now I say that Yeshua the Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers – Romans 15:8
3. It seems to be part of the process of claiming the land, scripturally, to tread with the soles of your feet, particularly.
Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours – Deut. 11:24
Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.- Joshua 1:3
Then my daughter found an article in Answers magazine about the health benefits of barefooting. (Click here for the article: The Barefoot Professor.) That led us to some sites on barefooting, and were amazed to find quite a subculture of barefoot enthusiasts. Notably one article, The Barefoot Path in the Western Contemplative Tradition, resonated with us. This is an article on bare feet in history, tradition and symbolism in Judaism and Christianity, including very interesting discussions. If you don’t have time to get into it, the bare bones is here:
“Thus going barefoot in the religious tradition of the west is serious symbolic business, representing by turns:
- A sign of proximity to holy ground
- A token of humility, mortification, or penance
- A prophetic “sign to the Nations”
- Obedience to Jesus’ advice to ministers
- Unstinting reliance on Providence
- Identification with the poor
- Experiencing the holiness of the redeemed earth.
I will argue that the seventh representation, walking in unity with the redeemed earth, is the symbolic center of the barefoot path in the contemplative tradition.”
We started looking more seriously, and taking practical steps by removing our shoes for the summer, nearly everywhere we went. We wanted to toughen our feet for the potential thorns, and be ready to obey what we were hearing. We cleared the plan with our group’s coordinators – and prayed.
When we arrived at our vineyard workers’ base camp, we were amazed by the sheer number and variety of the thorns! Let the lessons begin!!
1. Hazards are many – thorns, glass, ants, etc. – but they only inflict temporary damage. Fear of them is not a reason to quit! They are only temporary distractions. You learn to step lightly, and pick them right out. They also puncture less easily, when you have callouses built up.
2. The path of obedience doesn’t promise to be easy. The instruction to “possess the land by treading with the soles of your feet” doesn’t exclude thorns and difficulty.
3. Watch the road ahead. Plan every step carefully.
3. Stick to the path that has been laid out for you.
4. It only works in the light. Darkness hides the thorns, so you can’t avoid them.
5. Sometimes, when you are busy watching your feet, you get smacked in the head by a tree branch.
6. A large part of redeeming this land from its previous curse is removing thorns and thistles, products of both the original curse on the earth – the price of disobedience in the Garden (Genesis 3:18), and also the curse that came on this Land when its inhabitants were spewed out for disobedience to G-d’s laws (Isaiah 5:6, 7:23-25). Seeing the obvious fulfillment of the previous curse only highlights the truth of the promised restoration that is beginning before our eyes!
7. The safest, most sure footing is only found on the Solid Rock!
Maybe these seem obvious, but it’s always fun, to me, to see how G-d’s truth pervades His natural world.
For the record, I didn’t manage to go barefoot the entire time, but I obediently did SOME in each location we visited, which included Jerusalem, Shiloh, and Hebron, in addition to the vineyards. Per the above lessons, there were things I wanted to look at in the Land, besides my feet!
Here are just a few examples:
There’s so much more I could share, but it’s bedtime!
P.S. Credit where credit is due – these last three shots were all taken by my 11 year-old son. 🙂