The Israelites are within sight of the Holy Land, and Moses picks 12 men, princes and leaders within their tribe, to scout out the land, the people, and bring back military intelligence so that the invasion and taking over of the land can be planned.
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The men are gone 40 days and bring back samples of the produce of the land. However, although they say the land is wonderful, they also demoralize the people by saying that the land is full of strong and gigantic people who the Israelites have no chance of defeating. Except for Caleb and Joshua, the other 10 representatives of the tribes say there is no way they can win.
The people are so demoralized they want to stone Moses, but God intervenes and tells Moses to stand aside so he can destroy these people and make a new nation from Moses. Moses intercedes for the people, reminding God of his forgiveness, mercy, and patience and also arguing (effectively) that if God did destroy these people the other nations, who are in awe of him, would think he was not able to do as he said and bring these people into the land.
So, God relents but only to a point: the men who gave the bad report died from a plague, then and there, and the rest of the people were told they would wander in the desert. God decreed they would wander one year for each day the spies were in the land, so for the next 40 years, the people will wander in the desert until every single one who rebelled is dead. It will be the next generation, the generation born in freedom, who will inherit the land.
After this God reminds Moses of the requirements for worship when they enter the land.
This parashah ends with a story about a man who violates the Shabbat by gathering wood, and when brought to judgment God decrees that he shall be stoned to death by the entire congregation. In order to remind people not to violate the laws, God decreed the wearing of Tzitzit.
I think it really a shame that the generation who had been raised in slavery did not get to enjoy the bliss of living in freedom in the land that God promised to give them, but it was their own fault that they did not get to do that. If they had trusted in God and his servants, Moses and Aaron, the trip to Canaan would have been easier, there wouldn’t have been snakes or plague, and there wouldn’t have been the death of the thousands that the sin at Mount Sinai caused.
If only they had listened and obeyed, but they didn’t, so why didn’t they? Were they stupid?
No, they weren’t stupid, but they had a slave mentality. They weren’t able to live their own lives; they were able to make decisions, but they weren’t able to make good decisions because all of the important decisions, such as where to live, what to do with your life, who to worship and who to trust had been made for them.
After generations of being told what to do and what to think and how to worship, they had become mentally lazy. So, when they were given the chance to advance, to become self-determining, and to learn to trust in God, they failed to do so at every opportunity.
God had performed unbelievable miracles which they saw done in the land of Egypt and throughout their travels in the desert. Yet, despite the evidence, they still couldn’t trust in him when they came to a problem they felt unable to solve on their own. Their mental laziness had turned them into cowards and unable to trust even what they see and hear. They rejected their chance for freedom and demanded to be returned to what they were comfortable with, which was slavery.
This is the same problem we have today. People have been told how to worship and how to act for so long that they accept what they are told and don’t want to consider anything different. Religion has turned people from God-fearing (as God directed us) to religion-worshiping, doing what men have told them they should do instead of as God told us we should do.
This can only result in the same thing that happened to the rebellious Israelites: they will not be allowed into the Promised Land, meaning God’s presence which has been made possible through the Messiah.
God promised Abraham that his descendants would be in the Promised Land, and that promise was kept, but not in the way many people expected. God did not renege on his promise to that first generation of freed slaves, they refused to accept it, and God had to wait until there were people desiring to receive the promise.
If you think I am saying that there are many devoutly religious people, whether Jewish, Christian, Born Again or whatever, who worship God, who try to do what they believe is right, but who will be told: “Get thee away from me- I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21), well… you’re right! That’s exactly what I am saying.
And why would God reject those who have called on his name? Because they may have called on his name, but they are not the ones who can receive the promise because they worship as men have told them to do, and not as God said to do.
The truth is that “calling on his name” means to turn to him and worship him. It doesn’t mean to shout out whatever name you use for God- it has nothing to do pronunciation and everything to do with worshiping him as he has said to. People who call on his name but worship him and live their lives as some religion says to are not children of the covenant.
And to me, that is as big a travesty, if not more so, then the Egyptian born Jews not being allowed to enter the Promised Land. Here are people trying to do what is right, but they are too mentally lazy to certify that what they are being told is really what God wants. They have that same slave mentality, which we call a comfort zone, and they refuse to let go of it.
Emperor Constantine is not God, we all know that- no argument from anyone on that point. Yet, there are millions of Christians who follow his rules and doctrines, purposefully ignoring what God said they should do, even though they have God’s instructions sitting there on their bookshelf! The path to salvation is right there, but they would rather be told what it means than to read it for themselves and that will be the cause of their destruction.
I am not preaching Legalism; I am pleading for people to make knowledgeable decisions, coming from the knowledge that can only be gained by reading the word of God, from Genesis through Revelation, and asking God to show you what he wants from you. God has a plan for each of us, and we will never know what it is if we listen to people. We have to hear it from God.
Even those of you who have been prophesied about, then later realized the prophecy was correct, I’ll bet if you think on it, you will remember that when you first heard someone tell you what God wants from you, you had already felt it in your heart and spirit.
Learn from this parashah the evils of a slave mentality, which is a tool of the Enemy, and start to grow out of your comfort zone; a religion-based comfort zone is NOT where God wants you to be. Our God is a God of action and growth, not one of sitting around being told what to think, so get with the program and read the Bible daily, asking God to reveal himself to you and make you aware of what he wants from you.
We all start out wandering in the desert, led by men who tell us which way we should go, and we will die in the desert following them unless we change course and follow God.
God is the only one who can lead us to the Promised Land.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!