Torah Reflections 37
Torah Portion Numbers 13 : 1 to 15 : 41
Haftarah Portion Joshua 2 : 1 – 24
The Torah of YHWH given to Moses
It was time for the Israelites to prepare to enter the Land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, fulfilling the unconditional promise God had made to them. But it was inhabited by the Canaanites in the low lying areas, and by Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites in other parts.
In our day, much is made about ‘original ownership’ rights. There are two places in our Bible (Exodus 19:5 and Leviticus 25:23) where God puts ‘ownership’ in perspective. On both occasions He reminds the Israelites that the earth is His. That the occupation of any land is by His grace and favour. In this case, He had chosen to give that right of occupancy to the Israelites, but on the condition that they would order their lifestyle in accord with His instructions. A lifestyle that was to be a beacon of light to those nations around them.
Twelve tribal leaders were chosen to spy out the land. Trustworthy men of their respective communities. The two names that stand-out, (because we know the end of the story) Joshua and Caleb, were from the tribes of Ephraim and Judah respectively.
This story is well known. There would not be a person who ever attended a Sunday School class that could not repeat it. But I always think it was a big ask of these erstwhile bunch of recently freed slaves, expecting them to face an unknown foe, who were in their own familiar territory, ready to defend themselves to the bitter end. Especially when some were of giant stature. I ALWAYS ask myself how I might have behaved in like circumstances. And I ALWAYS find myself having sympathy for these Israelites. Such is my frailty.
Well, as the story unfolds, they decide that it is all too hard for them, and we see the result. Not one of those Israelites aged above 20 years (except the aforementioned Joshua and Caleb) survived the rest of their 38 year journey. So, apart from Joshua and Caleb, ALL the Israelites who did eventually enter the Land, were less than 59 years old. Imagine that, a whole nation of people under 60 years old! Everyone active. No-one on the age pension!! And God had another 38 years to meld them into a people He could work with and use as an example to other nations.
I never cease to be amazed by the dialogue, recorded in this passage, between God and Moses. The story is told in a manner which elevates Moses to a position of an elder statesman. He appears calm and rational in his argument, seeing the quite disastrous consequences which would most likely follow if these fearful Israelites were to be punished for their fear, and consequent lack of faith in Almighty God. But returning to Egypt was never a viable option, even though they contemplated it. Then they tried another option, to ‘go it alone’ as it were, against the very strong word of advice from Moses. “The Lord is not with you” he said, “don’t even think about it”.
But that did not stop them, or their complaints. But it did move Almighty God to develop another course of action, “plan B”. The long route.
Does it ever occur to you that it could well be that we too may be experiencing God’s “plan B”?
(Of course that is hypothetical. We will probably never know (or we know it already). I recall hearing a well-known missionary, speaking at a church, of which I was once a member, declare that he was quite sure that because of an earlier rejection, by him, of God’s first missionary call, that he was now experiencing God’s second best!)
The lesson for us is all too clear. The Israelites, in our parashah today, were clearly experiencing God’s leading in their lives. They were in a place they could never have been without God’s active leadership. How many of us can identify with that experience today, in our relationships, in our employment, in our friendships, in our church, in our personal circumstances? How much of that is due to our own carefully orchestrated planning, and how much because we have been led by Almighty God? Do not underestimate God’s ability.
There is so much more, as always, on which we could ‘reflect’ in this reading, but the lesson for me is this. When I recognise the call of God on my life, when I receive that “rhema” from His word, when I know, because I know, that He is speaking to me on some matter, then I have a choice to make. I can choose the short route, or suffer the long route. God’s way is perfect and His plan for me is written before the foundation of the world. As it was for Israel.