Parashah Shelach Lecha 2018 (Send out) Numbers 13 – 15

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The people have been travelling in the desert for a little more than 2 years and have come to the border of the Promised Land. Moses, per God’s command, sends out spies to reconnoiter the land; one member from each of the 12 tribes. They come back 40 days later and of the 12 men, only Caleb from the tribe of Judah and Joshua from Ephraim give a favorable report. The other’s announce that they saw fortified cities and the Nephalim there (giants who were traditionally fallen angels) and that they could not possibly conquer those peoples. They spread fear and disappointment among the Israelites to the point where the people wanted to stone Moses. God tells Moses he will destroy these people and make a new nation out of Moses, but Moses intercedes (again, as usual) for the people. God relents what he was thinking of doing and decides to kill the 10 men by plague who started this rebellion, and that everyone over the age of 20 would die in the desert for their part of the rebellion. The people decide to attack anyway, and get their tuchas waxed. The parashah finishes with a man gathering sticks on Shabbat being stoned for his blatant disregard for God’ commandment, and the wearing of ztit-ztit  (fringes hanging on four sides of the garment) so that people will see this on other’s garments and remember to obey God.

Should we discuss the importance of the number 40, here in 40 days of spying and 40 years of wandering? Or maybe we can discuss how could people remain so faithless after 2 years of living with wondrous miracles happening every day (cloud, fire, manna)? The faithfulness of Joshua and Caleb is also something that could have deep meaning for us, in that we need to show faith is still alive even when living among faithless people.

I would like to talk about something that we see in this parashah but isn’t actually part of the story.

It came to me as I was reading about how God said he would make a nation out of Moses. My thought went right to: really? Moses is already in his 80’s, and I know that God can certainly give Moses more children at this age. But to make a nation out of him? It took some 400 years living in one of the most fertile areas of Egypt for the family of Jacob (initially numbering about 63 people) to grow into the nation Moses was leading.  Was God really willing to put everything on hold for another 400 years or so before the people entered the land?

As I was asking myself this question I thought about the idea of predestination. First off, I do not believe in predestination, but I do believe in predetermination. The difference is the former implies we have no choice and there is no real free will, whereas the latter means we have been chosen but we have free will so we can choose to accept or refuse. The “glitch” in predetermination is this: if God has chosen me for something and I refuse to do it, then what?

The answer is what Mordecai said to Hadassah (Esther) when she refused to see the king to intercede for the people (Esther 4:14) :

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place,{underlining added} but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

God had predetermined that Hadassah would be the means for him to save his people from the enemy of the Jews, Haman. She had the option to do nothing to help, and some people won’t like hearing this but the fact is that at first that’s exactly what she did. Her message back to Mordicai the first time he asked her to intercede was that the king normally will kill anyone (meaning wife) not called to him. Essentially, she was saying, “No way!” Then Mordecai pretty much threatened her with discovery and death herself, and then she realized she didn’t have much of a choice.

Now, back to the parashah. Moses could have told God “Fine with me- I’ll get busy with Zepporah tonight.” And then the bible we know today would be different, but the end result would be the same.

That’s the point. God promised the land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham. It was predetermined that Moses would lead those descendants into the land. If the ones Moses had with him chose not to enter, so be it. God would raise another nation out of Moses to enter, but one way or another the children of Abraham would have that land.

This is the reason that throughout history God’s promise that Abraham’s seed would be in the land has been dependable.  It doesn’t matter when something God wants to be done gets done, the point is that it WILL get done, sooner or later.

How many people do we read about in the bible who refused to do God’s calling and never changed their minds? No one, you say? You don’t recall anywhere in the bible reading about someone who God had determined to do something wonderful but never accepted the calling? Of course not. I am sure there were many who fit that description, but because they did not accept the call, they never made it into history.

God’s will is insurmountable. His will will be done; if you are called to do it and do so, you will receive wonderful blessings for obedience. If you are called to do it and refuse, you just keep on going as you are and someone else will be raised up to take your place.

This is why it is so important for us to keep our eyes open and our ears cleaned out. When we hear God’s calling on our life we need to be willing to answer with “Whatever you say, Lord.” or we will be missing out. This doesn’t mean a faithful worshiper of God will be refused his or her place in eternity- not accepting the call from God doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be damned. It just means that the wonderful things that God had planned for you will go to someone else. I don’t know about you, but I would rather take God’s blessings than give them away.

I confess to you that my biggest fear in life is to not hear or ignore God’s calling, if and when I have one. Right now I believe this ministry is what God wants me to do, and I pray for its success (for his glory) and also that I am right when I think this is his calling for me. I really do fear that I may miss the calling God has for me.

Pray that you hear the calling God has for you, and even more so, pray for the strength to accept and fulfill that calling if, and when, you hear it. It’s one thing to hear the phone ringing and another thing altogether to be willing to answer it.

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