The year was 1786 and a pioneer family from Virginia, having heard of the rich lands in the unsettled territory of Kentucky, purchased a large tract of land there and began to establish their homestead. Unfortunately for them, the wilderness of Kentucky was dangerous and so it was that on one ominous day, the patriarch of the family, Abraham, along with his three sons – Mordecai, Josiah and Thomas – were attacked by hostile Indians. Abraham was killed instantly.
The oldest son, Mordecai, sent Josiah racing to the nearby settlement to fetch help while he ran to the family’s cabin. Picking up his rife he turned to see a native warrior coming out of the forest and sneaking toward his youngest brother, Thomas, who was now kneeling beside his dead father’s body. Taking careful aim, Mordecai fired and killed the Indian where he stood – just feet from young Thomas. With that fateful shot, Mordecai Lincoln - who could not have known it at the time - most likely preserved a nation. You see, the young brother he saved that say, Thomas Lincoln, would one day become the father of the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln.
History is saturated with these kinds of “what-ifs.” This one in particular stands out for this reason: we all understand how important Abraham Lincoln is to American history and how instrumental – even critical – he was to the preservation of the Union. So what would the nation be like today if Mordecai had missed? What if Thomas Lincoln had not survived that day? We’ll never know for sure but one thing we can be sure of is this: though most people have probably never heard of Mordecai Lincoln – he is considered to be insignificant – what he did that day is monumental when viewed within the context of its ramifications on the course of American, even world history. From that perspective, Mordecai Lincoln becomes very important and, thus, he serves as a great example of what we’ll call the significance of the insignificant.
The second son born to Jacob and Leah was named Simeon. His entrance into the world is recorded in Genesis 29.
“Then she (Leah) conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.’ And she called his name Simeon.” - Genesis 29:33
The name Shimon (Simeon) comes from the Hebrew word sh’mah which means “to hear.” As she said, this son's name was intended to remind everyone that God had heard and acknowledged her lament of being unloved and – if you’ll allow me to put it this way – insignificant. Furthermore, when it comes to her son's familial status, there isn’t a lot of information recorded in Scripture about Simeon, thus hinting at his own insignificance.
We do know that he had a hot temper and was prone to react harshly, as in the incident involving Dinah, so much so that Jacob rebuked him (Genesis 34:30). We know that he was the one Joseph kept as a prisoner in an effort to entice his brothers to return to Egypt with Benjamin, suggesting that Simeon played a big role in Joseph’s sale into slavery (Genesis 42:24). We know that the tribe of Simeon’s inheritance was established within the tribe of Judah, effectively dispersing them among Judah to the point of being rendered almost irrelevant (Joshua 19:1). Beyond that, there isn’t a lot more said about this son of Jacob, especially when compared to other sons like Judah, Levi, Joseph and even Dan. Consequently, it would have been easy for Simeon to think that he was unloved, unappreciated and insignificant.
Yet, the reality of the situation is this: however insignificant Simeon may have considered himself, the family called Israel can’t be complete without him. Without this tribe, the Messiah’s purpose of restoring the nation and kingdom of Israel can’t come to fruition because Simeon is destined to be one of the twelve tribes sealed at the end of days (Revelation 7:7). From this truth we learn that those things and those people who seem to be or feel like they are the least in the kingdom, maybe even perceived as insignificant, are nevertheless critical to the Creator’s plan.
Jot and Tittles
When one considers the components of the Wilderness Tabernacle or the Temple in Jerusalem, it is quite easy and quite natural to focus on the beautiful furnishings or the elaborate veils – all very important parts of the Sanctuary. Yet when speaking of components not so grand or quickly noticeable – things like bronze clasps meant to hold the tent together – the Scripture says their purpose is so that the Tabernacle “might be one [Heb. echad]” (Exodus 36:18). Each and every one of those clasps had to be made by a craftsman and, in turn, the craftsman needed someone from among the people to contribute the bronze in order that he might make it. In other words, God’s Presence could not – would not - have resided in the Sanctuary without those “insignificant” components of the process being completed. Everyone and everything had to be where they were supposed to be and had to do what they were designed to do.
Consider the Hebrew letter yod, the smallest and, therefore, seemingly least significant of all the twenty-two letters in the alef-beit. Yet, Y’shua said that not one of these letters – which is equivalent to the “jot” - will be removed from the Word of God until all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). In that same verse He mentioned that even the insignificant “tittle” would not be removed from God’s Word until all is fulfilled. The tittle is understood to be the decorative crowns that adorn some letters in the Hebrew script. Some, like myself, also believe this may allude to the slight variations in some of the letters, without which we would be mispronouncing and, more importantly, misinterpreting the words and intentions of the Bible.
An example of this can be seen by comparing the letters dalet and resh and the words echad and acher. When you examine the letters dalet and resh, you will see that they are quite similar in appearance, the only difference being a slight extension of the top line forming the dalet as opposed to the resh which does not have this extension; otherwise they look identical. This “insignificant” difference becomes critical when we consider this verse:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” – Deuteronomy 6:4
Here’s why this difference is critical: the word “one” is the Hebrew word echad – spelled alef, chet, dalet. Were we to confuse the dalet with the resh or if we were to remove the slight extension on the dalet and rewrite it as a resh, then the resulting Hebrew word would be acher and the verse would read: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is another” – the inference being “another” of many gods. How significant that insignificant tittle just became.
Every Second Counts
The beginning of each month on the Hebrew calendar is called Rosh Chodesh and is repeated every 28 - 30 days. This recurring event speaks of many important things but one of the most noteworthy, at least as far as I am concerned, is that it, like our other examples, illustrates the significance of the insignificant. As we know, time is calculated in more than just months. Months become years and years become decades; decades become centuries and centuries result in millennia. Yet, those great blocs of time cannot be attained and cannot be sustained if seconds, minutes, hours and days are not accounted for. In fact, if it were possible to remove these seemingly insignificant components of time – e.g. seconds - all the more noticeable aspects of time (decades, centuries, etc.) would fall apart.
We understand then that what many would regard as insignificant is actually critical as it relates to the larger scheme of things. The United States might now be two nations were it not for Mordecai Lincoln. The tribes can’t become one nation if one of them – even if he is a hothead - is missing. The mishkan would not have been possible were it not for the talents of the artisans, yet, their talents would have been useless were it not for the contributions of the people. Those contributions would not have been possible if the people had not obeyed Moses by going to the Egyptians to collect gold, silver and other valuable essentials.
So, even the smallest, seemingly insignificant point becomes critical when you consider the Creator’s overall plan. One thing supports the next; the first step supports the next one and the ensuing step depends upon the success of the previous one. So then, whatever role we play in our Father's purpose - large or small, obvious to all or known to none - is significant as it relates to His purposes overall. Notice what Y’shua says:
“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” - Luke 12:6-7
Among other things, Y’shua seems to emphasize the significance of the insignificant. Therefore - and this is the main point - we should learn to be content to function in our purpose whatever that may be, well known or never heard of. Each and every one of us have been placed here for a designated purpose and we need to realize that others – whether they realize it or not - are dependent upon us to do what we were placed here to do. When the new moon first appears, we may have to strain to see it, yet we know that what starts out small will indeed wax greater until it is full. At that point, all will see the light of the sun being reflected off its face. Remember what Paul said:
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Y’shua the Messiah.” - Philippians 1:6
You and I may have a hard time thinking that we are somehow instrumental in the Father’s plan but that line of thinking would suggest that we are merely an accident or that we are just “extras” in a play that centers around a few important cast members. I don’t believe that for one second: I believe that we ALL have come into the Kingdom for such a time as this. Understanding that any of us can be replaced at a moment’s notice, I don’t believe that to be the Father’s desire. It seems to me that His will is that we all take our designated and ordained place in His plan so that it may come to fruition as He intended.
So if you are feeling unloved, insignificant and forgotten, remember Mordecai Lincoln; remember that Simeon stands just as tall as the other tribes at the end of days and remember that eons of time would fall apart if it weren’t for that one insignificant second – that one that represents you or me. In His eyes there is no such thing as the insignificant when it faithfully serves Him and His purposes. Shalom.