Last week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach Lecha, gives us the story, about two years after the events of the Exodus, when the people of Israel came to camp out in the Wilderness of Paran. At the direction of G-d, they sent out leaders, one from each of the twelve ancestral tribes, to scout out the land of Canaan. Moses sent these twelve men to reconnoiter the land of Canaan with these instructions:
Go on up to the Negev and into the hills, and see what the land is like. Notice the people living there, whether they are strong or weak, few or many; and what kind of country they live in, whether it is good or bad; and what kind of cities they live in, open or fortified. See whether the land is fertile or unproductive and whether there is wood in it or not. Finally, be bold enough to bring back some of the fruit of the land. (Num. 13:17-20 CJB)
Please notice one thing – the leaders were not sent to spy out Canaan to determine whether or not to take the land of Canaan. That was a given. This was the land that HaShem had promised them. He had brought them from Egypt in order to form a people and a nation that was His, one that would govern according to His principles and laws, and be a light and beacon to the nations.
No, they were sent out to determine what tactics were needed to conquer the land that G-d had already said was theirs. They had to do their part of the planning and then, with G-d’s direction, direct intervention, and blessing, take what had been promised them. This wasn’t a “should we” mission; this was a “how do we do this?” mission.
And they failed miserably.
They came back fearful, unwilling to trust a G-d who had just seen them through some of the most miraculous events in history. They didn’t so much see a land flowing with milk and honey as a land inhabited by people and giants and fortified walls that seemed impossible to breach. Because of that failure, they delayed their blessing by nearly 40 years with aimless wandering.
You see, the Hebrews had a problem – they either couldn’t or didn't want to fathom that they had the strength and wherewithal to walk in the promises of G-d. No, they wanted a slot-machine god that would take care of them. They would put in a couple of good deeds, a few praises, a sacrifice here and there, and voila!... instantaneous gratification was expected. They thought they should see straight 7s across that slot machine screen of life.
But our G-d is not a slot-machine god. When He didn’t do things just exactly the way they wanted or expected, they started whining, complaining, muttering, and getting downright testy with Him. In essence they treated Him with contempt and spit in His face, time and time again (ten times, to be exact).
They decried their slave status while in Egypt but refused to walk the path of a freed people when released.
Could it be that we are not so far removed from these Hebrews? Look at the world in which we live – there are people and institutions that seek to silence our voices, that consider our Judeo-Christian faith to be the root of all society’s ills, and these voices seem to come from areas that are bigger than us, more numerous than us. They seem to live behind perceived walls that protect them no matter their actions and nothing vile committed against us or the G-d we serve seems too egregious or beyond the pale for them or those around them.
But this is the world that HaShem has redeemed through Yeshua, our Messiah. This world no longer belongs to the enemy because Yeshua’s death and resurrection took that ownership away from him. In fact, this world is ours and the inheritance of our Father. We were deeded it in the Garden of Eden, forfeited our rightful possession of it through our sin and thus, handed over ownership to the enemy. But in one act of momentous grace, our Messiah paid the price for the title to that land and made us the rightful owners again.
However, we sit back and moan much like the Hebrews in the Wilderness of Paran and listen to the bad reports coming from outside and think we can’t conquer this land, it’s too much for us. We cry and say they are too numerous for us, that they are giants, and we can’t fight them! We’d rather fade into the background or hide and wait for something else – something better – to drop into our laps.
We don’t want to do the hard work of ownership that a freed people engage in.
We confront the enemy every day, whether through violence, through harm, through sickness, through government policies that deny us the ability to work or live comfortably, through attacks on our family members, through pornography and sexual perversions, and in all manner of ways meant to discourage us from ever laying hold to what is rightfully ours.
Don’t we realize our G-d walks before and behind us? Don’t we know that the way is already paved, and He will give us the might and the strength to be overcomers in a world whose inhabitants are actually more fearful of us than we should ever be of them?
Why do we spit in the face of HaShem and tell Him that what we have been given, here and now, is not worth fighting for? Why do we treat this life we have been given with contempt?
Should we dream of a day when our Messiah takes His rightful place as King and sits on His throne in Jerusalem? Of course! But we must realize that our task is not to hide, not to refuse to engage in this world in which we live, but to fight the good fight and claim the land that Yeshua has already purchased for us through the price of His blood.
This is a war and a battle for the heart and souls around us. I’m not talking physical insurrection and war – I’m talking about living and walking in a way that lets the enemy know we are not afraid of what he sends our way because we know we already have title to what he is trying to possess.
It is easy to look at the events of today and let these events overwhelm us and bring us to despair. It’s also easy to use the prophetic end-times messages in the Scripture as a reason to not fight back, that the path the world is on is meant to happen and there is no use resisting it.
We shouldn’t be thinking this way! Doesn’t the story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh tell us that people can repent and turn back to HaShem and judgement will be held off? By silencing our voices, by quietly acquiescing to the enemy’s actions, we’re saying that the people of this world are not worth the mercy of G-d and that G-d is not able to reach out His arm of salvation to them.
The world does not need us to hurl bitter words of acrimony toward it. It also doesn’t need us to condone or be silent in the face of its sin. It needs our voices to speak Truth into it. It needs the sharp edge of the Sword of the Word to cut through the enemy’s blather to reach to the heart of the people.
It needs us to walk in the path before us and in our purpose – which is to show the world how wonderful it is to follow G-d’s commands, how beautiful it is to dwell in His presence, and how our G-d is a beacon of hope and life for everyone that would turn to Him.
I have been just as guilty of a willingness to hear the bad reports coming from everywhere and of slipping down into despair as the words took hold in my heart. But our G-d is asking us to be the Calebs and Joshuas of our time, to boldly proclaim that “we ought to go up immediately and take possession of it; there is no question that we can conquer it…. The land we passed through in order to spy it out is an outstandingly good land! If Adonai is pleased with us, then he will bring us into this land and give it to us — a land flowing with milk and honey. Just don’t rebel against Adonai. And don’t be afraid of the people living in the land — we’ll eat them up! Their defense has been taken away from them, and Adonai is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” (Numbers 13:30, 14:7-9 CJB)
We have a choice to make – we can either sit back, mouths closed, lives shut off from the world, and refuse to engage in what G-d has purposed us to do (which is to proclaim the good news of redemption and salvation), or we can accept our commission from the Father to walk in the path of righteousness boldly before all men, loudly proclaiming the good news of salvation and that this world is our Father’s and we have been given title to it.
We must choose this day whom we will serve. The time of quiet withdrawal or fence sitting is over.
Scriptures quoted are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.