Weekly Parashah

Parashat Shelach

26 Sivan 5782/ June 25, 2022

By Rich Birndorf

 

This Week's Readings:

Torah: Numbers 13:1-15:41                               

Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24                                      

Brit Chadashah: Jacob 2:14-26                         

                                                                            

 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of realities not seen.” This verse from Hebrews 11:1 summarizes a foundational Biblical principle by which we should live out our lives. But, what exactly does faith lived out in the life of a believer look like? I would like to touch on two specific aspects of how I believe we can practically put our faith in G-d into action.

 

First, and most fundamentally it is imperative that we live out our lives in unwavering and steadfast faith to G-d as He has revealed Himself to us. This means that we must seek Him out and try to comprehend what His will is for us individually. He gives us all direction based upon both His word and what he imparts to us through our private quiet time with Him. So, therefore our faith becomes active when we put into action that which He has revealed to us. I’ll further discuss this when examining the Brit Chadashah portion. We’ll see that the result of an active faith is the accompanying works of the believer. A second component of living a life of faith is that it hopefully produces a strong witness to those we encounter. We cannot merely assert that our belief in G-d is based on our faith. Why do we believe what we believe? What is the basis of our faith? Instead, we must boldly proclaim what that faith personally looks like in our own lives. Scripture provides numerous examples of fulfillment's of prophecy and many occurrences of G-d answering prayer. The countless examples of G-d’s reliability provides a solid foundation by which we can assert our faith. Most importantly, in terms of defending our faith in Yeshua as Lord, we should not merely be providing a general answer of “well it says so in the Bible'' or “this is what I was taught” but rather provide a position of faith based upon several supporting facts.

 

The following list is not meant to be exhaustive nor will I go into detail on each, but rather the vast array of reliable evidence is quite staggering. The amount of prophecies that Yeshua fulfilled varies depending upon criteria, but the number 300 is within reason. There are many sources that refer to or directly acknowledge His existence, death and resurrection. Besides the four gospels which provide direct eyewitness accounts to his life and resurrection, there are many other references throughout the New Covenant. Other sources include the writings of Josephus, as well as both Roman historical writings and Talmudic references. There is of course much more that can be shared regarding the veracity of G-d and the Bible, but this is not meant to be a lecture on apologetics.

 

The Torah portion focuses heavily on the topic of faith, or more precisely the lack of faith as demonstrated by the Israelites prior to entering into the promised land. To give some historical perspective, we can actually start the discussion going all the way back to Genesis when G-d, through the Abrahamic Covenant, made a promise to Abraham that he would give his descendants the land of Israel. Many years later while the Jews were being mistreated by their taskmasters in Egypt the people began to show, with reason, great discontent.

 

The passage begins with the L-RD instructing Moses to take some men, in particular a leader from each of the twelve tribes and send them to scout out the land and bring back a report on their findings. Actually, the origins of this process is found in Deuteronomy 1:21-22 and it is the people that urge Moses to send men into the land to determine by which way they should enter the land. G-d in turn allowed Moses to go forth with the plan knowing the consequences. However, Moses’s charge to the twelve appointed men differs from his original discourse with G-d. Originally, the accepted plan was only to determine where they were to enter the land and which cities to occupy. Instead, Moses instructs the men to spy out the land to see what it is like and describe the inhabitants that dwell there. The men then return from their journey and give a favorable report about the land, but share a dire warning regarding the people living there, that they are stronger and more numerous. The lone voices of opposition are Caleb and Joshua, however as is often the case in scripture, it is difficult to speak the truth against the majority.

 

In the next chapter the community lifted up their voices, wept, grumbled against Moses and Aaron and claimed that they would have been better off either dying in Egypt or while traveling through the wilderness. Their solution was to appoint a leader and return to Egypt! Joshua and Caleb come to Moses and Aaron’s defense and try to reason with the people that if G-d is pleased with them then they must not rebel against Him and not to fear the people of the land because they will be defeated.

 

The people’s response was to stone them, however G-d intervened. His response was to put an end to all those in opposition. Moses in turn reasons with G-d sparing the immediate destruction of the people. In the end the people then decide to take the original advice and try to defeat the occupants of the land against Moses warning. Of course, the Israelites are defeated.

 

So, now let’s briefly examine the history of the people from their time in exile in Egypt to the end of their journey just outside of the promised land. Each step along the way builds upon their previous unfaithfulness and culminates in G-d prohibiting them from entering their long awaited destination. So, let the grumbling commence!

 

In order of G-d through Moses intervention spares the people from Pharaoh’s oppression (Ex1:13-14), Bnei-Yisrael’s fear of being overtaken by the Egyptians as they escaped from their captors (Ex 14:10-13, grumbling because of a lack of water (Ex 15:24-25), grumbling for lack of food (Ex 16:2-3), quarreling yet again because of a lack of water (17:2-3) as well as two more occurrences described in the chapters in Numbers just prior to those read in this parshah (Num 11:1, Num 12:1-2). The most blatant example of their lack of faith resulted in their unparalleled disobedience to G-d. This grave act of sin was displayed in the creation and worship of the golden calf.

 

According to Hebrews, part of faith is “the evidence of realities not seen.” It is the proof that if something consistently occurs based on prior situations or promises it will most likely come to be. Throughout the Torah, G-d’s faithfulness is demonstrated in the many promises that are fulfilled. Evidently, the people were not aware of this as G-d makes continued promises that they would enter the promised land and in turn they continually sin against Him, proving their unfaithfulness.

 

Contrary to the lack of faith shown by B’nei-Yisrael, the Haftarah portion provides an ideal example of someone that demonstrated outstanding faith. Once again, spies are utilized to seek information about the land, Jericho, they were planning to conquer. Joshua oversaw this plan, but having been involved with the prior venture was aware that it was best to keep this secret so a possible outcry from the people wouldn’t occur. Midrash suggests the two spies were Caleb and Pinchas. Here Rahab, the prostitute, exhibited great faith in hiding the spies, knowing that she was risking her life. Her faith no doubt was the result of her belief in the G-d of Israel. Her faith was also evident in that she was risking both her and her family's lives knowing that at the time of the attack they might be killed. By faith she believed that the promise of the men would hold true.

 

The faith of Rahab is generally focused upon in this passage, however the faith of the two spies should be discussed. They trusted that Rahab would not divulge their presence while hiding out or at any time later when she could have given them up to her king.

 

It is critical not to misunderstand the intent of the topic of faith in the Brit Chadashah portion. The author is not arguing that one is saved by their works, but rather that an active faith will always produce accompanying good works. There follows examples of living out faith. First, the practical application of providing for one in need is presented. Then the premise that an active faith produces works is stated. Jacob then goes on to discuss two people that showed faith based on their works. Both Abraham and Rahab were deemed justified due to the practical ways they put their faith into action. So, although providing good works cannot bring about salvation, the resulting good works that faith produces lends proof to one's salvation.

 

Based on Hebrews 11:1 we have a biblical definition on what faith is. So, how do we practically live that out? We learned in the Brit Chadashah portion that this means putting our faith into action. It’s trusting in G-d to be used by Him in ways that we may find uncomfortable or challenging. One practical example is our sharing that very faith with others.

 

Just as the majority in the desert sinned due to their lack of faith, so today the majority say that Yeshua is not the Messiah and even more that G-d does not even exist. Both the “substance” and “evidence” described in Hebrews is lost on society. They say that we need to be open-minded and more accepting…except when it comes to believing in G-d and following His standards.

 

Living by faith in the one true G-d is difficult in today’s society. It means holding fast to the truth by constantly living out what we know is true despite the influence on others.

In today’s society, moral relativism has become the norm by which the majority deems what is acceptable. These ungodly views are in direct opposition to biblically based principles. Those of us that live by faith in the one true G-d are now seen as uncaring or narrow-minded. A biblically faith based lifestyle is usually in contradiction to majority thought. Part of our challenge is to not give into societal norms if they contradict G-d’s “evidence of realities not seen.” I bring all this up because in our ever accepting society, accepting Yeshua is the exception and thus puts our faith to the test.