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B'Midbar/Numbers 13:2 "Send men on your behalf to reconnoitre the land of Kena'an (CJB)
Rashi devotes many words to commenting in this phrase. He points out that this is not a command that G-d is giving Moshe; rather that G-d is permitting Moshe to send men out if the people felt it was necessary, at Moshe's discretion (Devek Tov). He deduces this by comparing this account to that related by Moshe some forty years later: "You approached me, every one of you, and said, 'Let's send men ahead of us to explore the country ...'" (D'varim 1:22, CJB). So we see that the people asked Moshe, and Moshe asked G-d, and G-d said, "If you want/need to". The Talmud adds that the very act of asking to send a forward party to investigate the Land was already showing a lack of faith (Sotah 34b), for had G-d not promised "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Shemot 3:17, CJB). From there, one thing led to another; the people received the bad report from the spies and refused to enter the Land, "a good and spacious land, flowing with milk and honey" (Shemot 3:8, CJB).
Early in Luke's gospel we read about a certain priest, Z'kharyah by name, who was visited while burning incense in the Temple, by an angel of the L-rd who told him that, "your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elisheva will bear you a son and you are to name him Yochanan" (Luke 1:13, CJB). Only five verses later, as soon as the angel had finished speaking, Z'kharyah makes the same mistake, "How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man; my wife too is well on in years" (Luke 1:18, CJB) and is bound to silence until the birth of the child as a punishment for his lack of faith.
Thirty or so years later, we find an impulsive fisherman falling for the same problem. Remember how Yeshua had sent the disciples on ahead to cross the Lake (the Kinneret) while He sent the crowds away and then caught them up in the middle of the night by walking across the Lake to join them? Then Kefa calls out to Yeshua, "L-rd, if it really is You, tell me to come to You on the water" (Matthew 14:28, CJB). So far, so good, and Yeshua replies, "Come on then!". So Kefa gets out of the boat and walks towards Yeshua on the water. But then Kefa sees the wind (v30) and entirely forgetting that Yeshua had told him to come, he panics, loses faith and starts to sink so that the Master has to grab hold of him (v31). Which made Kefa feel worse? - starting to sink or Yeshua's rebuke, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
When we have a clear promise and instruction from the L-rd, we must persevere over our doubts and push ahead to obey Him in faith, if we don't want soaking wet trousers or, worse, 38 years in the desert.
Further Study: Judges 6:36-40; Romans 5:1-5
Application: When the going gets tough, it is easy to doubt G-d's call, even if we were certain of it at one time. We start asking other people if G-d really meant it and trying to re-evaluate the call in the light of our personal circumstances. If this is you, now is the time to stop looking at yourself and to start trusting G-d and holding on.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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