Shelach Lekha – WEEK 37

By Dr. Michael Brown

Num 13:1-15:41

There are a number of important spiritual insights which emerge from this week’s Torah portion. 

First, we see the destructive power of grumbling and complaining. This had been Israel’s habit in the wilderness in the months leading up to this momentous account, where the 12 spies are sent into the promised land. In fact, even before the children of Israel had miraculously crossed the Red Sea, they were complaining. (See Exodus 14:10-12, then 15:23-24; 16:2-3, 6-9; 17:1-3; it really is devastating to read these verses, one after the other.)

As we get closer to Numbers 13, we see this pattern continuing. In Numbers 11, the Israelites grumble and complain about their food. In Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam grumble about Moses, and all this grumbling and complaining has a terribly negative effect, opening the door to unbelief (which we see in chapter 13), which leads to outright rebellion (which we see in chapter 14).

And it is this – Israel’s unbelief, the result of their constant pattern of grumbling and complaining – that caused Israel to languish in the wilderness for 38 years. It was not their idolatry, not their sexual immorality that brought on this curse. It was their unbelief and rebellion, which flowed out of hearts filled with grumbling and complaining. How sobering! As the Lord said, “In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me” (Numbers 14:29).

Joshua and Caleb knew that God was faithful and that, with His power, their people could take the promised land, which was so full of bounty and provision, and they knew they could conquer the giants who lived there. The other spies, all 10 of them, had their eyes on the giants and not on God, leading to their negative report.

Looking at the Scriptures, and with confirmation from practical experience, we see that:

  • Grumblers and complainers never make a quality faith decision to address and overcome present problems and obstacles by the power of the Spirit and Word
  • Grumblers and complainers are unthankful and unappreciative
  • Grumblers and complainers are faultfinders and tear down rather than build up
  • Grumblers and complainers are joyless and therefore question the joy of others (they project their own misery on others!)
  • Grumblers and complainers are never content with the present; yesterday was always better; today needs to change (of course, they quickly forget their attitude to yesterday when yesterday was today!)
  • Grumblers and complainers qualify as “fools” according to the standards or Proverbs!
  • Grumblers and complainers are faith-killers, joy-stealers, Spirit-quenchers, and blessing-diminishers

In stark contrast,

  • Praisers and worshipers are faith-builders, joy-getters, Spirit-movers, and blessing-increasers
  • Praise brings God’s presence; grumbling chases it away
  • Praise lifts us up; grumbling brings us down

That’s why, with great consistency, the Word calls us to be thankful. (And, as God’s people, we have every reason to be thankful, don’t we?) Lack of thankfulness stands out in God’s sight and is noticeable in the eyes of heaven (see Luke 17:11-19; note also Ephesians 5:3-4, 19-20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 1:10-12; 2:6-7; 3:15-17; 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Second, we see that while the 10 spies who brought the negative report – the critics of their day – prevailed over Joshua and Caleb, discouraging the nation with their hopelessness and unbelief, their names are virtually forgotten today. (If you haven’t read the weekly portion yet, test yourself and see if you can remember any of the names of the 10 spies. You’ll have a hard time remembering one! Yet we all know the names of Joshua and Caleb.)

This, too, is an important reminder for us. The naysayers may carry weight for the moment and the critics may prevail for a season, but in the end, they will be forgotten. Those who say, “We cannot take the land” will all but disappear from history – actually, when they are remembered, it will be in ignominy – but those who believe God will be honored. Those who say, “We can take the land, in the name of the Lord” will be remembered for their faith and courage.

Whose example do you want to follow? The example of the 10 spies or the example of Joshua and Caleb? What testimony do you want associated with your life, that you didn’t believe God and thereby discouraged others, or that you stood firm in your faith, thereby encouraging others?

Let’s not forget that all 12 spies were leaders among their people and so, men worthy of respect. But one group – the large majority – had their eyes set on what they could see. The other group – the small minority – had their eyes set on God. This is in keeping with the example of Moses, who “endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27), and the example of Paul, who wrote that “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). And shall I also mention that the majority is not always right?

Third, despite all the terrible judgment that fell on Israel in Numbers 14, the next chapter begins with life as usual, beginning with these words: “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you to settle in . . . .” (Numbers 15:1-2). Did you catch that? Despite the nation’s sin, God’s plan remained unchanged and His resolve remained the same: He would bring His people into the promised land, only one generation later than planned. Our unbelief may delay what the Lord is doing but in the end, He will carry out His plan. The question is: Do you get to be part of it?

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About the Author

Dr. Michael Brown is the founder and president of AskDrBrown Ministries and FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina. He is host of the daily, nationally, syndicated talk radio show, the Line of Fire, where he serves as your voice of moral, cultural, and spiritual revolution. He also hosts TV on GOD TV, Middle East TV (METV), and NRB TV. He is the author of more than 35 books, holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University, and has served as a visiting or adjunct professor at 7 leading seminaries. He is widely recognized as today’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist.

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