Welcome to our Torah / Bible study for this week, which is called ShelachLecha (Send Forth). “Then Yahweh spoke to Moses saying, ‘Send out for yourself (shelachlechaשְׁלַח-לְך) men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers' tribes, everyone a leader among them." (Numbers 13:1–2).
Last week in study section “Behaalotecha”, God commanded Aaron to light the lamps of the Menorah and the tribe of Levi was initiated into the service of the Sanctuary. This week’s Parasha (Scripture portion) describes how God tests the Israelites by sending out 12 meraglim (spies) to check out the situation in the Promised Land (as God had commanded them) before going in to take possession of it.
The Promised Land Is Bountiful.
“Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.’ Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.” (Numbers 13:20).
God instructed Moses to send one chief from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to scout out the land of Canaan. Among the spies were Caleb, son of Jephunneh from the Tribe of Judah and Hosea (Hoshea), son of Nun from the Tribe of Ephraim. Later, Moses changed Hosea’s name to Joshua. When Moses sent out the spies, it was the season of the first ripe grapes. They were to go in with courage and bring back a sample of the fruit of the Land. They were also to assess the characteristics of the inhabitants, the fortification of the cities and the existence of any trees.
After 40 days, they returned with a cluster of grapes from the Valley of Eshkol (cluster), which was so bountiful that they had to tie the cluster to a pole and carry it on their shoulders. Today in Israel, the grapes begin to ripen around mid-July in the heat of summer. So it is likely that the spies went into the Promised Land around the end of July.
The Number 40.
Why were the spies scouting the land of Canaan for 40 days? Why not a month or two weeks? The number 40 is significant in the Torah / Bible as it is the number of testing, preparation and leadership, as well as the harbinger of something new (according to Jewish Wisdom in the Numbers).
We see this pattern many times in the Scriptures:
1) In a dramatic new beginning, rain fell for 40 days and nights during the Flood before the waters stopped and the world was repopulated. (Genesis 7:4).
2) Moses lived in Egypt for 40 years, was prepared for leadership in Midian for 40 years; and finally led the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years as a new nation.
3) Moses fasted on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights before he went down the mountain with the tables of stone from God.
“Moses was there with Yahweh forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant the Ten Words” (Exodus 34:28).
4) Goliath challenged the Israelites twice a day for 40 days before David defeated him, which began a great following by the people. (1 Samuel 17:16)
5) Yahshua was tested by the devil in the wilderness for 40 days before He began His public ministry“Then Yahshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’” (Matthew 4:1–3).
6) The period from the resurrection of Yahshua to His ascension was 40 days, a period of preparing the disciples for the work that lay ahead (Acts 1:3).
10 Spies Inspire Fear Rather Than Faith.
“There we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 13:33).
After 40 days, all 12 spies essentially testified to the entire Israelite community and Moses that the land “does flow with milk and honey!” just as God had promised. Despite that, they also saw that the cities were fortified and that giants lived in the Land. Rather than focusing on the great fruitfulness of the Land, they focused, instead, on the great size of the inhabitants in contrast to their own smallness.Caleb tried to counter their defeatist attitude by assuring the people, “We are well able to overcome it” with God’s help. He urged them, “Let us go up at once and occupy it.” (Numbers 13:30).
The other 10 spies, however, instilled such fear in the people that the whole Israelite community began to cry and shout, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!” (Numbers 14:1–2). In their apprehension, they forgot how Yahweh had sent ten plagues and even parted a sea for them, so they cried more: “Why is Yahweh bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. ... We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Numbers 14:3–4).
Of course, this is not the first time the people wanted to go back to Egypt. In study portion “Beshalach”, the people stood trapped between an advancing Egyptian army and the Red Sea. Terrified, they told Moses, “Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:12). Then God parted the Red Sea and crushed the Egyptian army. When they reached the other side of the sea in safety, they were already craving the food back in bondage: “If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." (Exodus 16:3). Many people have the mentality of wanting to be provided for rather than work and provide for themselves. Fortunately not everyone in the world is of that view otherwise there would be no employers!
Then God sent manna every morning for them to eat.
In portion Behaalotecha last week, we saw that they got tired of the manna and remembered the fish they “ate in Egypt at no cost. Also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic” (Numbers 11:5). Then God sent quail, along with judgment for their continual complaining.
Throughout their wilderness journey, they complained to Moses and about Moses for many reasons. Each time, they witnessed God’s judgments and mercy. Yet, they still did not fully apprehend His love for them, nor His ability to keep His promise to give them a land of their own.God said it best: “How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” (Numbers 14:11).
Utterly disheartened by the spies’ evil report, the Children of Israel fell into despair, rebelled against Moses and refused to enter Canaan. Their rebellion and their failure to enter the land is the subject of the midrash in Hebrews 3:7-4:11 which quotes from Psalm 95. Unfortunately, the Hebrews passage is often pointed to as evidence that the literal seventh day Sabbath rest has been replaced by a ‘spiritual Sabbath’ for the People of God. This interpretation is far from the actual intent of the passage. The writer of Hebrews warns the believers reading his epistle that just as God did not spare the generation of the wilderness, neither would He spare the current generation. He compares entering the land to entering faith in Messiah. Both Messiah and the entrance into the land came as the culmination of the covenant promises. Both Messiah and the entrance into the land require faith and obedience. “Those who disobeyed…were not able to enter because of unbelief,” (Hebrews 3:19) the writer of Hebrews says. “We who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘As I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter My rest,’” (Hebrews 4:3 quoting Psalm 95).
What is the ‘rest’ which they were not able to enter? The writer of Hebrews points out that God’s rest began on the Sabbath following creation, but it has never ceased. He did not go back to work creating on Sunday. Therefore the Sabbath rest of God is an eternal Sabbath rest. It is the rest of the World to Come. There remains a Sabbath rest for God’s people, and it is something more than merely the seventh-day Sabbath, and it is something more than merely the Promised Land. The generation in the wilderness is used as an example. The writer of Hebrews says, “Indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2) From the perspective of the writer of Hebrews (a First Century Jewish believer writing to other First Century Jewish believers) the situation is analogous to that of the generation about to enter the land. The entrance into the Promised Land and the message of Messiah are similar because, just like the Promised Land, Messiah is the culmination of the whole Torah. Everything’s been leading up to this point. Just like being poised on the edge of the Promised Land, the believers he was writing to were poised on the edge of the World to Come in Messiah. “[It is] the World to Come of which we speak” (Hebrews 2:5). The book of Hebrews was written to calm the concern and answer the question of the people, how would they atone for their sins without the temple which the Romans were planning to destroy. Paul said they would have a better sacrifice through faith in Yahshua’s blood rather than that of animal.
Moses Intercedes for the People
"I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they” (Numbers 14:12).
Because of their rebellion and unbelief during this test of faith, God threatened to destroy the entire community of Israel instantly and start all over again with Moses. God gave Moses this same opportunity in study section “Ki Tisa” when the people He had just delivered from bondage worshiped a Golden Calf instead of Him (Exodus 32:9–10).
Being the most humble man on the face of the earth, however, Moses refused again to accept God’s offer to replace Israel. Instead, he appealed to the Yahweh’s merciful nature, asking to forgive the people; the same people who railed against Moses and Aaron and threatened to stone Caleb and Joshua just a short time earlier. Moses reminded Yahweh: “Yahweh is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, ... Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (Numbers 14:18–19).
Moses also appealed to the Lord’s reputation as a God of integrity who is able to do all that He promises: Moses told Him: “They [the Egyptians] have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people. ... if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, ‘It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness” (Numbers 14:14–16).
Because of Moses’ intercession and his appeal to God’s reputation and merciful nature, God relented from completely destroying the entire nation of Israel; nevertheless, He decreed judgment on those who refused to trust in God the way Joshua and Caleb trusted in God.
“I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times — not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Numbers 14:20–24).
The entire generation (ages 20 and up) who had just been counted in the census would not enter the Promised Land they so feared; instead, they would die in the wilderness; that is, all but Joshua and Caleb would live to enter the Land.
The Lessons for Us Today.
What lessons may we learn from this account of Israel in the wilderness? First, we need to be people of faith, seeing ourselves as sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords and not tiny grasshoppers to be crushed under some giant’s foot. We need to believe that no matter what challenge we face today, we are “well able to overcome it” with God’s help. This is the kind of faith that pleases God. Without it, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Second, as people of faith, we need to guard our speech and speak forth faith-filled words. Why did the whole community of Israel die in the wilderness? They reaped the fruit of their faithless, fearful words. The people said many times, “We will surely die in this wilderness,” doubting God’s promise. Almost like blaspheming the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God as it is called in the Old Testament.
“Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above” (Numbers 14:28–29).
For each of the 40 days that the Israelites spied out the land of Canaan, the Israelites would wander in the wilderness a year until that generation over 20 years of age died by 40 years later. Only Joshua and Caleb, who had a different spirit and wholly trusted in the Lord would enter the Promised Land along with the next generation.
“According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the LORD have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die’” (Numbers 14:34–35).
Third, we need to repent of our unbelief and begin trusting in God or else we cannot move forward. And sometimes, our lack of faith may prevent us from moving forward in a particular area even after we repent. If your belief is weak, pray like the man in Mar 9:24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. In this reading, the Israelites were suddenly remorseful for their behaviour and gathered up the courage to go up and take the Land, but it was too late. We ought to obey God at the time He tells us as delayed obedience is disobedience and the blessing promised may be lost. [See Numbers 14 and Deut 1:34-46].
Moses warned them, “Do not go up, for Yahweh is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies,” but they rebelled again, went up in presumption and were, therefore, defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites. Also, the ten spies who had brought back the evil report of the Land were struck down by Yahweh in a plague; but Joshua and Caleb were left alive. God had rendered His final decision and they were now “not able”.
Fourth, we should be a humble people given to intercession for others of the faith or desiring to come into the faith whether family members to complete strangers. May we all be like Moses, who pleaded for mercy on behalf of his people.
Our faith matters to God!
The Word of God says that the power of life and death is in our tongues and we shall, in a sense, eat our words (Proverbs 18:21). Yahshua said that it is by our words that we will be acquitted and by our words we will be condemned (Matthew 12:37). May we be careful and deliberate in the words that we speak over ourselves and others, since faith comes by hearing. May our words and actions be a testimony of the goodness and greatness of the Yahweh, the God of Israel and may we take hold of His promises by faith and join Israel by following the commands of their God. Zec8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Yahweh God, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Yahweh spared the children of Israel; but He punished them by consigning them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness. He declared that they would never see the Promised Land that they had rejected. Instead their bodies would be buried in the wilderness. Their children, however, would be privileged to enter the land. Even Moses, Miriam and Aaron were included in the doom. Only Joshua and Caleb were given permission to enter the land. Yahweh said that Caleb would be allowed to enter the land because he had "a different spirit" (Numbers 14:24).
The different spirit of Caleb is evident from his report about the land. He and Joshua had seen the same Canaanites, the same fortifications and the same difficulties as the other spies but had come to a completely different conclusion. The other spies saw those things as obstacles. Caleb and Joshua saw them as opportunities for God to demonstrate His glory. You may have heard someone say, "I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist." The inference is that an optimistic person is not realistic. Accordingly, the only honest and correct way to view the world is to point out the deficiencies, difficulties and inevitable failures. For the "realist," that is the real world. There is nothing special about having a realist-attitude. Anyone can point out problems. Everyone can criticize. It takes no talent to be a naysayer. Maybe you know someone who is a rigid realist. Such a person is usually not very realistic at all. Instead a person like that demonstrates a marked tendency to emphasize the negative, ignore the positive and disregard miracles. To that person, answers to prayer are mere coincidences. Words of encouragement are irritating. Behind the veneer of cynicism is a life of dark self-absorption and self-pity.
The ten spies were just such realists. They assessed the situation in terms of their own reality a faithless reality. From that perspective, things looked pretty dismal. A quick march back to Egypt was probably the best solution. Caleb and Joshua were a different kind of realist though. To them, reality was not as big as God. They assessed the situation in terms of a reality that encompassed faith. The difference between Caleb's spirit and the spirit of the ten spies is the difference between seeing life through the eyes of faith or faithlessness. The optimist says the cup if half full. The pessimist says the cup is half empty. The man of faith gives thanks that the cup is half full, and he marvels that God will either make the half cup sufficient to meet the need or miraculously refill the whole cup. People say, "Every cloud has its silver lining." The pessimist sees the cloud. The optimist sees the silver lining. The man of faith sees the cloud and the silver lining both. He gives thanks to God who made the cloud, provides the rain, and clears the sky. Caleb's different spirit is something we should all strive to attain. To be a person of faith is something extraordinary.
ONE LAW FOR ALL.
The Torah (Exo 12:49, Num 15:16) says there is to be only one law for both Jews and gentiles. On the surface, this appears to be a simple statement, but when we dig deeper into biblical studies and interpretations, it becomes a complicated issue. Most Gentile Christians do not keep the Torah’s ritual laws: Sabbaths, festivals, dietary laws. This does not mean that Gentile Christians are godless or even lawless. Jewish believers are certainly bound to keep the whole Torah, but Gentile believers have never felt bound to the Torah’s external signs in the way that Jews are. Does God through His instructions (Torah) really make different laws for Jews and Gentiles? According to Numbers 15:15–16, there is to be only one law for both Jews and Gentiles:
As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the LORD. There is to be one Torah and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you (Numbers 15:15–16). This seems simple enough. According to these verses, there is one law for both Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, Gentile believers should keep the whole Torah. That reading makes it clear that both Jews and Gentiles are obligated to the same laws of Torah, but it does not help clear up the question of Gentile believers who have not become legally Jewish through a conversion. One might suppose that the Gentile believers who were fellowshiping in the apostolic communities should fit into the category of “the alien who sojourns with you,” but when the apostles considered this question in Acts 15, they left the matter open. They gave the Gentile believers four minimum standards for fellowship within the Jewish synagogue communities, but they did not issue a mandate clarifying Gentile obligation to the whole Torah.
Acts 15 agrees with Numbers 15:15–16. There is not supposed to be a different Torah for Gentile believers. The Gentile believers are not supposed to have a different type of worship or religion. There is only one Torah for God’s people. The only question left open is to what extent the Gentile believer is obligated. All of the laws of the Torah apply equally to Jewish and Gentile disciples of Yahshua; but not the sign of circumcision which is solely for the Jew unless the gentile believer wishes to eat of the Passover meal. In the days of the apostles, the Gentile believers kept most of those things along with the Jewish believers as part of their participation in their shared religion.
(Prophetic Reading): Faith Moves Us into His Promises.
In this prophetic reading “ShelachLecha” (Joshua 2:1–24), we see that Joshua, Moses’ assistant who was one of the two spies who trusted God, has been appointed by Yahweh to lead the next generation of Israelites into the Promised Land. As Abraham’s faith moved Him forward into the role of the Patriarch of the Chosen People and recipient of the covenant, so did Joshua’s faith move him forward into his role of a leader who, with God’s help, was “well able to overcome” all the obstacles before him and take possession of the Promised Land.
In this reading, Joshua sends out two of his own spies into Jericho, in preparation for battle. Although Jericho is a well-fortified city with a well-equipped army and great walls surrounding it, the spies tell Joshua, “Yahweh has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us” (Joshua 2:24). Now in the land that their parents so feared, the next generation of Israelites witness God move and have great faith, being “fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises” (Romans 4:21). May we be fully convinced of that truth as well.
Scriptures to note:
Num 14:8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. How were they to and us today to delight in Yahweh except by doing what He had requested of them between Exodus 20 – 24:7. Many believers only focus on Ex 20:1-17.
Num 14:9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.[When we obey God, He is our portion and he makes others feed / work us “bread for us”.
Num 14:22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;Num 14:23 Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: Num 14:24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
Num 15:14 And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD; as ye do, so he shall do.
Num 15:15 One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. Num 15:16 One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you…. Num 15:26 And it shall be forgiven all the congregation of the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourneth among them; seeing all the people were in ignorance.
Num 15:29 Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. Num 15:30 But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Num 15:31 Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.
Num 15:32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. Num 15:33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. Num 15:34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. Num 15:35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.
Num 15:36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses. [Note the scripture does not differentiate whether the man was a Jew or gentile; because that is irrelevant. He broke the Sabbath law!
Num 15:38 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: Num 15:39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: [today pastors and others use their own reasoning NOT to keep the 7th Day (Friday eve – Saturday evening) Sabbath rather than “thus instructed Yahweh”. See who were the “children of Israel” in article “Heirs of the Kingdom, Children of the Promise” on www.forwardtoyahweh.com they included and were MOSTLY gentiles!!]
Num 15:40 That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.[From the beginning of Israel’s formation the direct descendants of Jacob and gentile among them were to follow the SAME commandments of God. There was and is not today any difference between “Jew” and “Gentile” save for the Abrahamic covenant sign of circumcision and only a Levite can be a priest. The New Testament and its apostles confirm this numerous times. The Messiah came to bring the world back to His father and Paul wanted the gentiles to obey by word and deed.
Jos 2:9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
Jos 2:10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. Jos 2:11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.
Rom 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
Rom 4:12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
Rom 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.[Paul here is trying to tell the gentiles they also have a calling to be of God’s people and that calling does not include circumcision of the foreskin as some Jews were teaching. Hence Paul started from the promise of being father of all nations “before” Abraham was circumcised i.e. they Are grafted in before circumcision. For a clearer understanding see “Romans in Perspective” and “Justification by the Law or Grace”.