Sh’lach L’cha – “Send For Yourself”

The name of this week’s parasha is Sh’lach L’cha, which means “Send For Yourself” and covers Numbers 13:1-15:41.  Adonai told Moses in chapter 13 to send leaders from each of Israel’s tribes to explore Canaan.  Included in this list are Caleb, representing Judah, and Hoshea (whom Moses re-named Joshua), representing Ephraim.

Moses told these men to gather information about the people and crops in Canaan, and to bring back a sample of its fruit.  After scouting the land for 40 days, the spies returned with pomegranates, figs and a cluster of grapes from the valley of Eshcol so massive that it took 2 men to carry the pole holding it! Eshcol actually means “cluster”.

The men returned to the camp with their report and food samples.  They described Canaan as a land flowing with milk and honey. But ten of the twelve spies gave a discouraging account, frightening the people with descriptions of fortified cities and the powerful inhabitants of the land, including the giant descendants of Anak.  Caleb protested against this report and said the Jewish people should take the land because with God’s help they were capable of doing so; but he was opposed by the majority, who insisted the people there were too strong.

This negative report by the majority of the spies so demoralized the Jewish people that they again challenged Moses and Aaron’s leadership.  In response, Moses and Aaron fell facedown, and Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in despair.  They implored the people, reminding them that the land was extremely fruitful, and if Adonai were pleased with them, He would go before them and give it to them.  They pleaded with the people not to oppose Adonai or fear the Canaanites, because God was with them.

Unfortunately, the people rejected their wise words and wanted to stone them to death, but the glory of the Lord suddenly appeared at the Tent of Meeting.  Adonai told Moses that He would destroy the Jewish people for their disobedience and make a new nation from Moses’ descendants.  Moses pleaded with God to spare His people, lest the Egyptians misinterpret Israel’s destruction to mean that Adonai was unable to fulfill His promises.  While interceding for them, Moses reminded Adonai of His prior promise to bless the Jewish people.

Adonai was moved by Moses’ intercession, but stated that only Caleb and Joshua, because of their faithfulness, would enter the Promised Land. The rest of that generation, who no less than ten times opposed Adonai and treated Him with contempt, would die outside the Promised Land.

The reference to “10 times” could either mean the combined number of instances where the Jewish people opposed Adonai in Exodus and Numbers, or else simply be understood to mean “many times”.  Either way, we are meant to see that opposition to Adonai has serious consequences, so let’s be sure to obey His instructions!

Because of their rebellion, Adonai consigned Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years, one year for each of the days the spies were on their mission. Everyone 20 years of age and older counted in the census would die in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua.  The ten men who gave the negative report about Canaan were killed by a plague.

The Jewish people were distraught when Moses told them Adonai’s decree, and decided to go into Canaan after all; but Moses warned them not to try it. Because of their unbelief and rebellion, they had forfeited Adonai’s protection, He would not be with them and they would be defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites.  Sadly, they again disregarded Moses’ warning and were badly defeated.

In chapter 15 Adonai gave Moses instructions for the offerings once Israel would enter the Promised Land.  These instructions, including sacrifices for unintentional sins, were to be followed by the Jewish people and any Gentiles living among them. Anyone who sinned intentionally was to be cut off from the nation.

The parasha ends with the putting to death of a man who broke the commandment against working on the Sabbath. The man had been found gathering wood on the Sabbath, and Adonai ordered Moses and Aaron to have the Jewish people assemble and stone him to death. They did what He commanded and the man was put to death.  Adonai then instructed Moses to tell the Jewish people to make tassels on the corners of their clothes, which would serve as a reminder to obey God’s commandments and not follow other gods.

To summarize this passage, we see the importance of being obedient to Adonai.  We would be wise to obey His commandments, because they are meant for our well-being. We also see that disobedience to the God of Israel has serious consequences. For example, the fact that nothing is known about the name or people group of the man who was stoned to death for breaking the Sabbath shows the complete separation from fellowship with God and God’s people due to intentional sin.

In contrast to the deadly plague by which the ten rebellious spies were killed, Caleb was richly rewarded for his obedience to Adonai.  His life was spared and he was given his very own portion in Judah (Joshua 15).  Joshua’s obedience to Adonai made him the choice to succeed Moses as Israel’s leader in Deuteronomy chapter 1.  His name was changed by Moses from Hoshea (salvation) to Joshua, which is pronounced in Hebrew as Yehoshua (the Lord saves), and Messiah Yeshua was given the same name by Yosef and Miriam (His earthly parents).

Obedience to God today means transferring your loyalty to Yeshua the Messiah, the Anointed One sent by God with the Good News. He was the only one who has ever lived in perfect obedience to Adonai and His Torah. That is why salvation is found only in Him!  We as Christians and Messianic Jews are now commanded by Yeshua to go and tell others this Good News. Being obedient to Adonai will bring us blessings and the peace that comes from a right relationship with Him. So let’s obey Him, openly acknowledge Yeshua as Lord, live our lives in obedience to His commandments, and tell others how they can have eternal life!