Weekly Torah Commentary — Shelach July 1, 2016une

Numbers 13-15

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites.  Send one leader from each of the ancestral tribes.’ So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. Numbers 13:1-3


A well known passage whose message and meaning never get old.  Twelve of the leading men of Israel are chosen by Moses to go up to the Promised Land and ‘explore’ it.  What kind of people live there? Are they strong or weak? Defenseless or well-defended?  What crops grow there?

After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran….this was their report: ‘We entered the Land you sent us to explore and it is indeed a bountiful country – a land flowing with milk and honey.  Here is the kind of fruit it produces.’  Numbers 13; 25, 27 And they showed the people enormous clusters of grapes as well as luscious looking pomegranates and figs.

So far so good.  They acknowledge that the promised land is indeed a beautiful country with abundance of produce.  If only they had stopped there.

The very next word is ‘BUT’. It’s possible that ‘BUT’ is the most deadly word in our vocabulary.

‘But the people living there are powerful and their towns are large and fortified.  We even saw giants…., next to them we felt like grasshoppers and that’s what they thought, too.’ 13:28, 33

In other words, ‘we know God told us to go up and possess the Land but…’

‘But’ is a crippling word.  It paralyzes the emotions, lies to the brain and stifles resolve.  It is most often found in words that challenge a position or situation that to the speaker seems nigh to impossible.

I’d like to lose weight but…

I’d like to learn French but…

I’d like to be close to God but…

What follows the ‘but’ is always an excuse, a rationalization to justify not doing what I just said I’d like to do!  Which means, I really don’t want to do it.  It just sounds good.

This is exactly what the ten leaders did. And in the process, they discouraged and demoralized the community.  Only two of the twelve took a different position; and only ONE of the twelve spoke up.

But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it.” Num. 13:30

The Bible tells us that Caleb had a ‘different spirit.’  His attitude was based on what the Lord had said, not on the visible circumstances.

Circumstances can ruin your faith and make you a ‘but’ person if you give them more authority in your thinking than you give to the Word of the living God. 

But I can’t…but I’m not educated….but I’m poor…but I’m scared…but I don’t have the experience…

All twelve of these men were leaders.  But only ONE spoke the Word of the Lord. Ten of them let circumstances overwhelm them and gave up.

One of them says nothing – Joshua.  Did you notice that?  Ever wonder why?

I believe that at least in part it was because of his humility.  Joshua was Moses’ servant. He was always in the background. The Bible says that when Moses would pray in the Tabernacle, Joshua watched and often stayed on in the Tabernacle after Moses left.  Wouldn’t you love to know what he prayed in those times?

Joshua was your professional #2 man.  People don’t stand in line to be #2.  Being comfortable with a secondary position doesn’t come naturally to the ego.  But Joshua was the quintessential #2 man, the servant of Moses for 38 years!  And the result was that it was Joshua, the one in the background, the faithful servant, the #2 man, whom God chose to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land after the death of Moses.

Wow – there’s a lot to ponder there, my friends.

In Tune with Torah this week = neither circumstances nor our own ego deserve to be #1 in our thinking and emotions.  The eternal, unchangeable, unstoppable Heavenly Father must be preeminent in every aspect of our lives – thoughts, words and deeds.  HE and HE alone is #1.  When that truth is the bedrock of our lives, nothing is impossible.

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