This week our parasha is Shelach Lecha which means “Send For Yourself”. Parasha Shalech Lecha covers Numbers 13:1 – 15:41. In this parasha we see both the mercy and justice of the Lord. We also see the consequences for constant rebellion.
We begin in Numbers 13 with our people near the border of the Promised Land. The Lord instructs Moses to send out 12 scouts, one leader from each tribe, to scout out the land. The scouts depart and return 40 days later with their report and a sample of the crops. They bring back an enormous bushel of grapes and state the land is as good as the Lord had promised us. But most of the spies’ also report that the land is filled with men in fortified cities. They are giants we cannot possibly hope to defeat.
As the majority gave this negative report Caleb, one of the spies, interrupted. He believed that everyone should go and take possession of the land. He trusted in the promises of God and was not afraid. The rest of the spies then responded in an even more negative way, that there was no way we could take control of this land.
After they gave their report, ten of the spies went out among the people and shared their negative assessment. They said this was a land that devours people, and that our people would be devoured and killed by the giants of these lands. The Canaanites and others were described as Nephilim, half-human half-fallen angel. If we went to war, then our children would be taken they said to everyone.
With most of our people scared after hearing the report of the 10 spies, rebellion against Moses began once again. Our people went to Moses and Aaron and wished that they had just died in Egypt or the wilderness. Why had the Lord allowed them to come to this land only to die? They were afraid now that their wives and children would be taken. So, they wanted to pick a new leader and go back to Egypt.
In their fear they had forgotten not only what the Lord had done for us but also what the Egyptians had done. Everyone was worried about their children but had forgotten that Egypt was the place many Jewish male babies had been killed.
Moses and Aaron fell on their faces to try and persuade our people to stop. Caleb and Joshua, two of the spies, stepped in front of the vast crowd, tore their clothes, and bravely pleaded with our people to trust in the Lord. Imagine stepping in front of hundreds of thousands of people! Once again, they reported it was a good land and that with Adonai’s help they would be victorious.
Sadly, our people were not persuaded and began to talk about stoning them all. At this point the Lord made His presence dramatically known. The glory of God shone in the Tent of Meeting to all our people. He then spoke to Moses and stated once again that He was willing to make a new people from Moses. However, Moses again interceded for us and asked the Lord to forgive our people.
The Lord relented in His mercy, but His Justice was also shown. He swore that the entire generation who had grumbled against Him so many times would not enter the Promised Land. Only Caleb and Joshua who had spoken rightly would be allowed to enter.
We were told that the Lord would have been with us as we took over the land, but the clear majority had rejected His promise. It is a pattern we see repeated over and over throughout God’s Word where the majority follow their own way and not the Lord’s.
The Lord promised our children would be allowed to enter but only after this generation had died off. We were told to turn back into the wilderness and stay there for 40 years, one year for each day we spied out the land.
By rebelling against the Lord once again that entire generation had sealed their fates. The Lord is slow to anger but they had reached the end of that slowness. Their rejection of God’s promises resulted in severe consequences. The 10 spies who had caused all this were killed by plague the next day.
When our people heard this report, they decided in their fear that now they would go into the Land to conquer it. Moses pleaded with them again to turn back and accept the judgement of the Lord. Without Moses and the Ark they went out to battle and were driven back into the wilderness.
The final chapter of this parasha Numbers 15 serves as a break between this rebellion and the next and emphasizes following the commandments of Adonai. It includes rules for offerings and that we should treat foreigners fairly and with respect.
Our parasha today has many lessons, but I think the most important is to remember it is not how we start but how we finish. Psalm 95 reminds us that we need to learn from this rebellion and that, Today, while we have a today, to not harden our hearts against the Lord. That generation died in the wilderness because of their rebellion and refusal to believe and act on the promises of the Lord. They let their fear and pride overwhelm them and walked away from all the blessings the Lord had in store for them.
Today we need to have faith in God’s promises, and trust that He will be with us as we hopefully remain faithful until the end. Through Messiah Yeshua we have the promise of eternal life, much greater than physical land. It is bad to wander for 40 years and die, it is even worse to rebel against God’s promise of eternal life through His Son. We also must encourage one another just like Caleb and Joshua, building one another up as Hebrews 3 teaches us.
May we believe the encouragement of others to stand firm in the lord and reject those who stir us up with fear and uncertainty. May the Lord enable each of us to run the race set before us faithfully to the end.