Past miracles strengthen present faith
Torah Portion: Shelach (Send) B’midbar (Numbers) 13:1-15:41
Haftorah Readings: Joshua 2:1-24
Today we read one of the most perplexing Torah portions of the year. In this portion we see G-d instructing Moshe to send twelve men to go up and check out the Land of Promise, the Land He had promised Avraham. This is the dream that had been before the people for hundreds of years and now here is the fulfillment of that dream.
However, as we read these verses we are shocked to see ten of the twelve men come back with a bad report. We see the people become discouraged to the point of wanting to return to Egypt. In verse 14:11 we read G-d’s reaction to this situation. He sounded frustrated at the repeated failure of the people to take Him at His word. He sentenced them to wander for 40 years in the desert. I want us to look at this sad situation and see if we can learn something that will help us understand what happened and how we can avoid the mistakes made here in our verse.
First, let’s look at the men chosen. They were all leaders of their tribes, men of renown. As we read our verses Joshua and Caleb stood on the side of going up and possessing the land, the Promise of G-d. While the other ten men saw it as a mission impossible.
One clue that might help us is a Hebrew word used over and over in our portion. When Moshe sent men he used a word that is not normally used for “to spy.” Rather the word used was “latur,” This is an interesting word in that it sounds like an English word and it means to tour. What is the difference in to tour and to spy? To help us, look at Genesis 42. In this chapter Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy food because of a famine that had struck that area. Joseph accused them of being spies. He used the more common Hebrew word for spy which is mayragel. In fact, Joseph went on to give us a definition of spy. He, in verse 42:9, accused them of being spies, “to see the nakedness of the land.” He continued to use the common word for spy thorough out the following verses.
As we read in our portion today, the mission of these men was far different. Maybe they did not understand what G-d was asking them to do from the beginning. G-d was wanting them to tour the land, take it all in and appreciate what G-d had promised Israel years before. Then they could give witness to the people concerning the land G-d had promised but as yet none had actually seen. Only Joshua and Caleb seemed to get the true purpose of their mission.
We read in 14:7-8 where these two men gave their report. They used the word latour, meaning to tour. They described what a good land it was and how it flowed with milk and honey. This was G-d’s point in sending the men in the first place. They were to be eye witnesses, confirm the goodness of the land that G-d had promised. Ten of the twelve men got stuck on their misunderstanding of why they were to go on this trip. They did not have faith in G-d’s promise before leaving so they went looking for something different. They went to spy out the land. They looked at the land and found it unattainable. They did not consider G-d and His promises anywhere in their calculations.
Do we sometimes fall into such a trap? G-d gives us a task, a call and we get so wrapped up in “can we or can’t we” that we lose our perspective and miss an opportunity the Father has put before us. In the Messianic scriptures we see a great example in Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water when summoned by Yeshua. After a few steps his brain kicked in, his faith became weak and he started to sink. Matthew 14:28-31.
Here in our story of the 12 men sent out we see ten of the twelve who thought they were part of a spy mission, so they looked at the wrong things. They forgot Who had sent them and the promises He had given them so they missed out on the promise of G-d. I pray we always keep our eyes on Him and keep our ears open to His direction in our lives.
Now, I would like to go back to verse 14:11 and look at another truth we can use to strengthen our faith in these times. Here G-d said the people had no faith in Him. In Genesis 15:6 we read where G-d talked of the faith of Avraham and it was counted to him as righteousness. Avraham totally committed his life and his future to following the L-rd. This was a commitment that these ten men did not make. In spite of what happened when G-d brought them out of Egypt, fed them manna and appeared to them on the mountain. G-d, even in our verses today, was visible as a cloud above the Tabernacle or Mishkan. Even with all they had experienced, their faith still wavered. Miracles of the past did not increase their faith in G-d, rather they focused only on what their eyes could see.
G-d’s feeling is shown in a short phrase in verse 11 where He said, “How long will they not have faith in Me.” Lest we feel this situation did not happen in the Messianic scriptures look at Matthew 17:5 and Mark 9:18. Here we see the same frustrations in Yeshua’s’ words, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you, how long shall I put up with you.”
My point being, all of us come to those times of discouragement and feeling alone. These times should remind us that G-d has not left us. He has not forsaken us. So we continue our walk of faith. We do not lose heart but we stand firm in what He has told us.
Bless you all