THE PROMISED LAND: FEAR VS FAITH, THEN AND NOW
Oh, the wonders of the WORD!
Numbers 13 - 15:41 & Joshua 2, the Torah and Haftorah readings for this Shabbat, provide fabulous insight into the radical reality of having Almighty God, YHWH, living among you.
Tribal memories of the land YHWH had promised their Forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had grown rather dim during nearly the 400 years in Egypt. Now, again on the margins of that land, after experiencing the drama of YHWH's miraculous PRESENCE in their redemption from Egypt, and throughout the desert journey, Moses sends spies ahead to check out the land before entering to possess it.
The 12 spies, one selected from each of the tribes, except the Levites, included Caleb son of Jephunneh, tribe of Judah, and Hoshea son of Nun, whom Moses renamed Joshua, tribe of Ephriam.
Ten of them, even though they could hardly manage to carry the single bunch of grapes from the valley of Eshcol, and other produce of the abundantly fruitful land, to a man, reported that they saw sons of Anak, who, in their imagination, quickly became sons of the mythical Nephilim; their fear compelled them to ignore all of the Miraculous Divine Action they had just witnessed along the way, and declare that they were like grasshoppers in the face of the enemy and, of course, would be foolish to go in. Although they give no evidence of actual Anakite threats, the very sight of them was enough for them to counsel appeasement. (Have modern day "appeasement" addicts inherited this attitude from these guys?)
At any rate, their advice ruled the day and the people, to their detriment, accepted, and rebelled against their God.
What happens next seems a bit extreme, but, remember, we are looking at a time in the history of YHWH's people when He Himself, in the Pillar of Cloud or Fire, was physically Present in the Tabernacle in their midst. They were His people and He was their God, and, as Moses pointed out, whatever happened to His people after what the Nations knew about Him from the Exodus out of Egypt, reflected on Him and who He was. (Numbers 14).
So, when the 10 succeed in convincing the people to disobey YHWH, they condemn Israel to 40 years, one for each day spent inside the Promised Land, of wandering in the Desert, and they themselves die of a plague instantly. Even after the people apparently repent and, against Moses' advice, some of them try to "redeem" the situation by going in after all, only to be soundly rebuffed by those people they had been told were too strong for them, they are condemned to wander.
Without skipping a beat, the Torah text continues on with instructions from the LORD, "After you enter the land I am giving you as a home..."! Some of them behaved in an atrocious way, so badly that an immediate plague from the LORD fell upon them and all died, yet YHWH their Redeemer will keep His promise and carry them into their inheritance. When this happens, He instructs them on how to bring their gifts of thankfulness appropriately.
After the 40 years of wandering, and the death of Moses, who because of his own mistakes is not allowed to enter, Joshua, one of the 2 faithful spies out of the initial 12 sent into the land by Moses, now is installed leader in Moses' place. The LORD says to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 2).
With this transition and Promise from YHWH Himself, Joshua sends 2 spies to Jericho before crossing the Jordan to possess the Land YHWH had given to them. Remembering what happened 40 years ago, I'm guessing that Joshua looked rather carefully for these 2 godly young men; trusting they would return with the true reality on the other side.
To be sure, they had just experienced the victory over Sihon King of Heshbon and Og King of Bashan, east of the Jordan River, under Moses, and heard all of Moses' final instructions, (the Book of Deuteronomy), including the instating of Joshua as Israel's leader in the place of Moses. They better be ready.
In Jericho these 2 find safety in an Inn, where the Innkeeper tells them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
The tables have been turned and now it is the inhabitants of the land, not the Israelites considering entry, who are quaking with fear. Israel has learned during the ensuing 40 years that YHWH does, in fact, Provide and Protect them. Joshua and the people are ready to not only believe in YHWH's Faithfulness but to act on it.
No more appeasement or placating hesitancy; they are ready to do what they are called by their God to do.
Would this were true of today of all Israelis living in Israel, and of Jews everywhere in the world; but, alas, we are not quite there yet, as this article in the Observer indicates: http://observer.com/2015/06/former-chief-rabbi-of-england-calls-for-jewish-surrender-in-europe/
Why do we, including Israel, still take seriously the pressure from world governments to "divide the land", and "land for peace", when YHWH says clearly, in Joel 3:
“In those days and at that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will gather all nations
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will put them on trial
for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel,
because they scattered my people among the nations
and divided up my land." (Emphasis added)
Why is the appeasement of giving "the Mountains of Israel", Judea and Samaria, the heartland of Ancient Israel, to a group of people who have vowed, and written into their statement of identity, that they will annihilate the State of Israel, that is, the Jews, even considered, let alone promoted, by any sane person who knows history and can recognize Truth behind all the Lies that have masqueraded as truth?
Is the word of the EU, UN or Mr. Obama of more value than the WORD of YHWH spoken through Moses?
It seems impossible for me to understand.
The Joshua story we have reviewed, however, gives us confidence to continue PRAYING that YHWH's purpose in restoring His people to their LAND "for the sake of [His] Holy Name" will continue till all is as it should be.
AND THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT ALL WILL BE AS IT SHOULD BE WHEN YHWH IS DONE!