Shela Lekha
For the week of July 1, 2000 / 28 Sivan 5760
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 13:1 - 15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24

Real Faith

Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? (Bemidbar / Numbers 14:3).

Is it possible to believe in God and yet not really believe in him? That's exactly what it was like for the vast majority of the people of Israel who came out of Egypt. These people had seen God act and heard him speak. Whether or not God existed and whether or not he was involved in their lives was not an issue to them. What they had difficulty with was whether or not he was able to do what he said he would.

The same God who delivered the people from bondage in Egypt also planned to bring them into the Promised Land. But when the people heard the report of those who went ahead to scout out the Land, they lost heart. Ten out of the twelve scouts said regarding the Land's inhabitants, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are" (13:31). The people responded as follows:

All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt" (14:2-4).

Notice they didn't doubt that God had brought them thus far. What they feared was that he was not able to take them any further.

This just goes to show that experiencing the reality of God does not ensure that we will have faith. These people had experienced God far more than most of us ever will. Yet they couldn't trust him for their current circumstances.

We see in this story that faith in God is not just about believing in his existence. These people may have accepted the concepts of the reality of God, that he is the Creator, and that he interacts with our lives. It looks like they even believed that he was in control of the situation. We can surmise this due to their statement, "Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?" Moses later on quotes them as saying, "The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us" (Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:27). They actually thought that God was doing this to them out of spite. So we see that even though they believed in God, what they believed of God was all messed up.

I wonder how many of us have a belief in God that is messed up. Or there may be aspects of our faith that are messed up.

What was it that warped their view of God? It seems that what caused them to begin to think of God in wrong terms was when they became overwhelmed by the great opposition they faced. The bad report of the scouts was mainly true. Naturally speaking the people of Israel had no chance in taking the Land. They couldn't do it without supernatural assistance. But instead of focusing on God and who He is really is, they were fixated on the difficult circumstances they faced.

Caleb and Joshua, who alone trusted God in spite of these circumstances did so because what they knew of God was derived from God himself and not upon the obstacles. It was not that they were out of touch with reality, they were just not going to allow anything to contradict what they already knew of God.

Maybe then we need to take a good look at how we have allowed circumstances to affect our understanding of God rather than knowing him for who he really is.

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