Last week, in Parasha Behaalotecha, we read that Aaron was commanded to light the lamps of the Menorah, and that the tribe of Levi was initiated into service for the Tabernacle.
In this week’s Parasha, Moses sent 12 leaders into the land of Canaan on a fact-finding mission. These leaders were to scout Canaan to discover the physical nature of the land and the feasibility of a military conquest and bring back a report to Moses and the Israelites.
“Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.” (Numbers 13:17–18)
The Effect of an Evil Report
After scouting out the land, they were impressed by the capacity of the land to sustain life, but 10 of the leaders believed that it would be impossible to conquer the land because the inhabitants were mighty.
Their “evil report” caused the people of Israel to become discouraged and fearful to go in and possess the land.
This provoked God’s wrath, and He condemned the Israelites to wander in the wilderness, one year for each day that the spies were in the land—a total of 40 years (Numbers 14:34).
After those 40 years, only two people from that generation entered the Promised Land: the two leaders who brought the good report, Joshua and Caleb.
They were allowed to enter the Promised Land because they trusted in the Lord and believed that with His help, the Jewish People could overcome all obstacles, defeat the giants, and take the land!
Faith Versus Fear
“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
It’s important that our faith prevail over fear!
We all need to trust God to do what He promised even though it seems impossible in the natural.
1 Corinthians 10:5 explains that God was not pleased with most of the Israelites, and for this reason, most of their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
After all, they had witnessed God’s power in bringing them out of Egypt, and they had eaten the heavenly manna and drank water from the rock. They experienced the cloud and the pillar of fire guiding and protecting them.
They knew firsthand the greatness of the God of Israel, and yet they feared the military power of the Canaanites.
We certainly do not want to share this same fate! We must learn from their mistakes so that we and our children will not repeat them, but rather pass quickly through our wilderness trials, cross over the Jordan and enter the Promised Land victorious.
Complaining Versus Thankfulness
“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.” (Numbers 11:1)
In Numbers, we learn a life-saving lesson about complaining, an attitude that prevents us from moving forward. We read that some of the Israelites complained, and were therefore destroyed.
In this Parasha reading, we see that after the Israelites heard the fearful report, they grumbled once again and considered going back to Egypt.
“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2–4)
Negativity is a dangerous and contagious disease.
Complaining is the opposite of thankfulness. We can always find something to complain about, but the Word tells us to focus on whatever is good, right, true, and lovely.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
We can choose to complain or choose to find something to be thankful about.
Many of us at one point or another will have to battle ingratitude and fear.
Sometimes, we are so focused on what is going wrong or what we don’t have that we forget to be grateful for God’s mercy and all He has given us.
Sometimes, we fear the unknown. We fear things won’t work out. We wonder if God will really come through for us.
The battle is the most intense “in the middle,” when we’re in transition—when we’ve left where we’ve been and haven’t yet arrived at where we’re going to be.
Being Perfected in Love
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
The Word of God says that perfect love casts out fear.
One aspect of love is being in control of our mouth and having a tongue that blesses and doesn’t curse. Much depends on the words we speak: the power of death and life is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).
Another aspect of love is being careful of the words to which we listen!
We can choose to listen to faith-filled messages from the Word of God, or we can listen to the evil reports of fearful, negative-minded neighbors, companions, or the media.
In the case of the 10 leaders who gave an evil report, their facts were accurate, but they presented them in a way that demoralized the people.
“… it does flow with milk and honey! … But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” (Numbers 13:27–28)
The three letter word but is a small word with a big meaning. And its potential to destroy dreams is immense!
To understand what is behind this little word, it’s helpful to treat it as an acronym: B.U.T.—Behold the Underlying Truth.
In other words, when we use the word but, we are revealing what we really believe and who we really trust.
Joshua and Caleb also saw the giants, but they were unmoved because they inwardly kept their eyes fixed on God.