Shela Lekha
For the week of June 9, 2007 / 23 Sivan 5767
Torah: Bemidbar/ Numbers 13:1 - 15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24


The Fear Is Real

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 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." (Bemidbar / Numbers 14:1-4)

I don't criticize the people who make up the negative examples (of which there are many) in the Bible. While I would like to think that I would be a Moses confronting Pharaoh or a David challenging Goliath, I fear that I am far more like the complainers and grumblers referred to in this week's parsha.

It would be nice to think that after seeing God's power expressed so dramatically through the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea, and after delighting in his miraculous provision of food and water, that when the time came to enter the Promised Land, I would be ready go. Walled cities? No problem! Giants, armed to the teeth? No big deal. With the God of Abraham on our side, it would be like cutting melted butter!

Weren't Joshua and Caleb like that? They were among those who had spied out the land. They were confident. Even though the others brought back an intimidating report and even though they saw all the same things they did, Joshua and Caleb believed God would help them. I would like to be like them. But I have my doubts.

It's so easy to boast about faith in theory. It's another thing to be confident when facing true danger. It's easy to pretend confidence. It's another think to demonstrate real courage. It's one thing to be calm when there's nothing to fear. It's another thing to stand strong when facing the impossible.

The problem wasn't that the people were scared. It's that they didn't submit their fear to God. When Joshua and Caleb urged them to not give into their fears, but to trust God, they actually wanted to kill them.

We cannot learn the lessons from other people's failures until we can accept that we are prone to the same kind of failure. I wonder how many challenges God has brought into our lives that we have rejected outright due to fear. How many times have we let fear dictate our decisions, rather than submitting to God's direction?

It may be nice to think that we are like Joshua and Caleb, but the sooner we realize we are acting like the others, the sooner we will be able to face the fearful challenges God brings into our lives.

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