Summary: Moses, Pt. 11 of 15
THE PRICE OF DOING THINGS HALFWAY (NUM 13-14)
Isaac Asimov told of a rabbi who was at odds with his congregation. The president of the congregation said, "Rabbi, we must have a conference to settle the dispute once and for all." The rabbi, the president, and ten elders met together to discuss the issues, but the rabbi discovered that he was the sole dissenting opinion. The president of the synagogue said, "Let’s vote and allow the majority to rule." When the votes were collected, the president said, "Rabbi, you are outvoted eleven to one. We have the majority."
The offended rabbi rose to his feet and said, "So, you think that you’re right and I’m wrong because of the vote. Think again. I will call upon the Holy One of Israel to give us a sign that I’m right and you’re wrong." Immediately, a deafening clap of thunder sounded and a brilliant flash of lightning struck the mahogany table they surrounded and cracked it in two. The room was filled with smoke and fumes, and the president and the elders were hurled to the floor. The rabbi remained erect and untouched, with eyes flashing and face beaming with triumph.
The president slowly rose from underneath the table. His hair was singed, his glasses were hanging from one ear, and his clothing was in disarray. Finally he responded, "All right, eleven to two. But we still have the majority!" (Asimov Laughs Again)
Astonishingly, the Israelites had survived enforced slavery and desert wanderings only to reject new opportunities in the Promised Land. Again, they wept, sulked, and fussed (Num 14:1). They had learned nothing after more than a year in the desert (Num 10:11). However, two of the twelve spies - fearless Caleb and faithful Joshua - surveyed the land, saw the people, and supported the measure. The duo returned with a favorable report, stood firm on God’s promises, and lived to enter the Promised Land. God wanted to build from Moses a new generation, to permit only two to enter Canaan and to destroy all the unfaithful ones.
What awaits those who believe, follow and claim God’s word? Why is it necessary to withstand unhealthy and negative peer pressure, public opinion, and people power? How does God want us to trust Him?
BE CERTAIN AND FOLLOW GOD CHEERFULLY
14:1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 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! 3 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?" 4 And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt." (Num 14:1-4)
A promising young man wanted to join a monastery. So he talked the priest of his parish, who tried to discourage him and warned him of the extreme discipline that was required. Failing so, the priest reluctantly recommended him to the proper authorities.
The superior in charge of the monastery told the candidate he would be allowed to speak but two words for the first ten years. At the end of the exhausting period, he was tested, "Do you have any comment?" "Food bad," the man said the two words allowed him..
Ten more years passed by and he was again asked, "Do you have anything to say?" The man voiced, "Bed hard."
After another ten years later in the monastery, he was again asked to comment. "I quit," the man said tersely. "Good," replied the superior, "you’ve done nothing but complain for the last thirty years."
The Israelites lived a cheerless existence for the length of their stay in the wilderness. They wore their sour attitude, black face, and uncooperative spirit on their sleeves, making the trip harder, trickier, and crazier than it already was. Their absence of joy made them stick out like a sore thumb, boil over like a bad attitude, and squeeze, suck and smother the life out of others.
The Israelites raised their voices, wept out loud (14:1), and flexed their muscles. For the first time, stoning, battery and murder (14:10) were on their mind, in their heart and out their mouth. Joshua and Caleb had the impossible task of confounding the majority, countering their might, and clearing the misinformation. The ten spies moaned, “The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan" (13:29). They claimed that the highlands were taken, the lowlands were occupied, and the shore was populated.
Battles are often won or lost in the heart, mind, and psyche. The Israelites had defeated Pharaoh’s army without lifting a finger and routed the Amalekites in their first battle (Ex 17:8-15). They had never lost a battle they fought but this time they lost to an invisible army they never met or fought.