They have reached the Promised Land. Okay. The Children of Israel not only reach the Promised Land this week, Moses sends out 12 men to scout out the land in advance of the Children of Israel crossing over the Jordan River to begin the fulfillment of God’s covenant made to Abraham so long ago.
And it is a beautiful land indeed!
The 12 scouts see the bounty of the land. For forty days they travelled throughout the land of Israel and return to Moses and Aaron and the whole community and they bring the bounty of the land back with them. Yes, God’s promise of the land flowing with milk and honey is real. And it is right before them; within their reach.
And yet for 10 of the scouts it seems too good to be true. They get nervous and scared and begin to tell the community of Israel that there is no way to conquer the land. They say, “The people who inhabit the country are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the Anakites there” (Num. 13:28). Their negativity becomes infectious despite the fact that Caleb counters their words; “Let us by all means go up and we shall gain possession of it for we shall surely overcome it” (Num. 13:30).
The ten let their fears overcome them and they whip the Israelites into a frenzy of fear and longings to return to Egypt. How quickly a group can be influenced! How quickly lack of faith spreads! How quickly we can doubt our own strengths!
Even when countered by Caleb by Joshua (who is Moses’ assistant) the fears and lies seem to win the day. It was this moment and lack of faith in God’s ability to aid the Israelites in their tasks to settle the Promised Land that irritated God so much that Israelites had to dwell for 38 more years in the desert before attempting to settle the Land. God had enough of their doubts.
From the Golden Calf incident to now these former slaves can’t accept the gifts of abundance that keep coming their way.
Moses does intercede and plead on behalf of the Israelites and God pardons them for their faithlessness. But God knows at that moment that the generation that knew Egypt could not be the ones to settle the land. They would always compare it with the great cities of Egypt even though they were slaves. They would always possess a certain kind of mentality that would automatically cause them to think of themselves as less than. Instead it would be their descendants who would be charged with the task of settling the Promise Land and receiving the gifts of abundance.
How about you? Do you live in fear and doubt? Do you like the generation who left Egypt cling to your old ways? Or can you learn to live with the gifts of abundance that wait in the Promised Land? It is hard to have faith in a world that screams at us to doubt. It is hard to believe when there is so much hypocrisy that surrounds us. It is hard to imagine that there is a universal source of strength that can be ours (is ours as it flows through us!). And yet that is what our tradition recognizes as truth. God is our inheritance and God is in us and flows through us through holiness. We just have to use the mitzvot to tap into it! So banish those fears. Pay no heed to the fear frenzy. Be like Caleb and Joshua who say: “We shall surely overcome it!”