Parasha Shelach Lecha (Send Forth) – by Raphael ben Levi
Num13:1–15:41; Joshua 2:1–24; (conquering Jericho. The 2 spies sent out) Heb 3:1-19; (taking hold of God’s promises – entering His rest) Rom 4:1–25 (Abraham trusted God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.)
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Send out for yourself (shelach lecha שְׁלַח–לְך) men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.’” (Num. 13:1–2)
Over a year had passed since the Israelites had left Egypt and they stood poised to enter the Promised Land. This was a defining moment which would determine much for many people. God instructed Moses to elect a leader from each of the twelve tribes, “meraglim” to check out the land and return with specific information. It is interesting that the NT word for an apostle [apostolos], literally means “one sent forth.” The meraglim were those most highly regarded among the tribes, princes of the people. What was God’s purpose for the meraglim since He had already promised the land to the Israelites?
In Gen.12:7, God promised Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land.” Later, in Gen.15:18, God expanded on this: “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.”A couple of chapters later, in Gen.17:8, God emphasises that His promise irrevocable: “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you.” God later repeats the promise to Isaac (Gen.26:3–4) and Jacob (Gen. 28:13), (whose name God later changed to Israel). So for what purpose did God require the Israelites to send out meraglim?
Here was something of immense importance. God wanted to reveal their level of trust towards Him. God’s promises are all “Yes” and “Amen” in Yeshua but unless we ‘possess the land’ they will always remain in the realm of speculation. Many times, we fail to fulfil His conditions and remain skirting the edges instead of entering into the fullness.
The leaders explored the land for 40 days and returned with their report. All the 12 men basically described the land accurately. The problem concerned the interpretation of the truth regarding the known facts. There was no dispute that the land flowing with milk and honey, which the fruit bore evidence to. The bad news was that the people were fierce, lived in large fortified cities and inhabited by giants. But what was the really bad news which revealed the heart of the Israelites even the best of them – God had promised them the land of Canaan for their inheritance but almost everyone failed to believe Him. God had provided them with a brand new luxury motor car but they refused the keys.
SATAN ALWAYS APPEARS BIGGER THAN HE REALLY IS. The Nephalim who dwelt in Canaan were a hybrid people, first given mention in Gen 6 with a full commentary provided in the Book of Enoch. The Hebrew word, “Nephalim” means “Fallen ones” who were destroyed during the great Flood in the time of Noah, but not entirely, and here we see their re-emergence. The Israelites were unaware of this until the meraglim entered Canaan and it must have been a great shock to them. But how we respond to such a situation is the defining mark of a true overcomer. How do we respond when we are hit blindside in the same way as the meraglim were? Can we still declare,“Though He slay me yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15)
Only 2 of the 12 leaders, interpreted things from a faith perspective: Caleb (tribe of Judah) and Joshua (tribe of Ephraim) encouraged the people to possess the land but the others instilled such fear into the Israelites that totally overwhelmed them.
Fear is a destructive force which Satan uses to full advantage against us. Fear of man is a snare and Satan’s counterfeit to the fear of the Lord. One leads to wisdom, the other to death. One of the distinguishing marks of the Last Days is that people’s hearts will fail them due to fear. Yeshua warned that “…There will be signs (attesting miracles) in the sun and moon and stars; and on the earth [there will be] distress and anguish among nations, in perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting from fear and expectation of the [dreadful] things coming on the world; for the [very] powers of the heavens will be shaken.”(Luke 21:25-28)
Sadly, the Israelites accepted the advice of the majority and bought into the deception. They wept aloud and slandered Moses and Aaron with the intention to stone them and then appoint another leader and return back to Egypt! The worst thing of buying into a lie is that one lie begets another.
Here is illustrated in the parsha some serious things akin to the end times we are living in. The storm clouds of demonic activity are paralysing the world with the fear of man and impaling those who have become its prisoners even among God’s very elect.
What did the 10 spies declare that caused them to remain in the wilderness for another 39 years until that whole generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness? This one statement of the meraglim, embraced by the Israelites cost Israel more than they could ever have imagined: “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’” (Num. 3:31)
Despite God’s constant provision and protection consistently demonstrated since they left Egypt, the Israelites were intimidated into buying into the lie. This sin was greater even than Aaron and the children of Israel made concerning the Golden Calf (an Egyptian idol) at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The lack of trust in God and His power, His love, and His guidance is the true lack of faith. In fact, in the book of Joshua, the inhabitants of the land were terrified of the Israelites. When Joshua sent spies to Jericho, Rahab told them “A great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” When the people heard what God had done for the Israelites, “our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you” (Josh. 2:9-11)
The meraglim themselves had sung at the Red Sea: “The people of Canaan melted away; terror and dread fell upon them.” Ex. 15:15-16. Something had gone terribly wrong… They had started well but ended badly.
God’s reaction in face of the bad report given by the 10 spies was full of sorrow: “How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” (Num.14:11)
God is seeking for a people who trust Him unreservedly and unconditionally! God chose not to destroy the entire nation of Israel but there remained stark consequences for their betrayal ((Num.14:20–24) and this is one of the strongest messages for us from the Torah portion. What are the things that God has provided us as a protection that we might not fall victim to the same snare of unbelief that the Israelites fell into? And here at the end of this parasha we are presented with a solution that is mirrored in the tzitzit, or fringes worn on the bottom edges of a person’s outer garment.
They were to be a reminder that God’s word is as valid today as it is always. While essential to carry His word in our hearts through the One who is THE WORD, the tzitzit provided the Israelites with a visible reminder of the One who has given us His written word as a road map to keep us walking in close fellowship with Him. It also represents His protection as represented in Psalm 17:8: “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,”
Each tassle (heavenlies) had a blue cord as a reminder of the commands of our heavenly Father and to always keep them in our minds and hearts (Num.15:38-40). The numerical value (Gematria) of the word tzitzit (fringes) is 600. Each of the fringes contains 8 threads and 5 knots, making a total of 613. This number corresponds to the 613 commandments contained in the Torah.
Taking hold of the “kanaph” is symbolic of a trusting willingness to come under the shadow of the Almighty in obedience to all His commandments, statutes and judgments. “How excellent [is] thy lovingkindness, O GOD! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” Ps. 36:7
The tzitzit beautifully reveals God’s desire to bring healing restoration for everyone who chooses to walk in His ways. Malachi 4:2 states that: “… for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings,”
One other interesting application of the Tallit, (an outer garment where the tzitzit were attached as fringes at the bottom of it) can be found in Acts 19:11-12 where we read that: “God did extraordinary miracles through Sha’ul. 12 For instance, handkerchiefs and aprons (Tallit) that had touched him were brought to sick people; they would recover from their ailments; and the evil spirits would leave them.”
How do we know that this was a reference to the Tallit and tzitzit? In John 11:44 we learn of the Hebrew custom to wrap the face of the deceased with his prayer shawl, his tallit, with its fringes in its wings, (corners):
“The man (Lazarus) who had been dead came out, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen and his face covered with a cloth (tallit). Yeshua said to them, “Unwrap him, and let him go!”
This practice was similarly observed with the burial wrapping of Yeshua (John 20:3-7). The reason why it is a tradition for observant Jews to wrap their heads in their prayer shawls is because of their belief in the resurrection. In veiling their faces even in death, it reflects acknowledgement of their hope in the life to come. Further, to be wrapped in one’s prayer shawl is to symbolise the belief that even in death the true believer is “hiding under the shadow of the Almighty’s wings,” (Psalm 91:1) the only place where we can find full security against all evil.
In these days, we choose to place our trust firmly in the promises of God who never fails and remains faithful to His Word. Of this we can be sure amid all the variables and uncertainties that are shaking the earth. Unless we are firmly rooted in a living relationship with God through Yeshua and are grounded in His Word, Scripture warns that in these end times many will be deceived, their love will grow cold and their faith shipwrecked.
This message is not a doom and gloom teaching but rather a plea for each one of us to make sure our salvation, to stand and having done all, to stand.