Even though by now it probably shouldn’t, it still amazes me just how utterly relevant the weekly Torah portion (parsha) so often is. Not only are we seeing so much of prophecy fulfilled (admittedly, perhaps not for the first time!) before our eyes, but the lessons for what we should DO in response are just as vital now as they were to those who lived it the first time.
The story of the ‘spies’ in Numbers chapters 15 and 16 is a perfect example when it comes to current events. Not only is it the “first recorded vote” in all of Scripture, but it teaches the timeless lesson that when it comes to the choice between “believing Him” and accepting appearances, which “look correct” to us, there is no contest. Even the Hebrew word “tur” — a root verb meaning “to spy out,” seek, or explore (think “tourist”) — is revealing, and the use of the very same word at the end of the portion points to a wonderful solution as well.
The story starts out by making sure that we know exactly who the players were. Each of the representatives of their respective tribes, “every one a leader among them,” was recorded by name. And Moses gave clear instructions, (Num. 13:17-20) telling them to observe the people, the land, and what type of cities they dwelt in, but with the proviso, “Kazakh,” in the Hebrew , to “be strong and of good courage!”
Yet the vast majority* returned bearing not only the incredible fruit of the promised land, but an ‘evil report’. They failed utterly to “see” beyond the surface, as they had been directed, and were instead deceived by appearances, and their own preconceptions. Caleb and Joshua — alone — saw the Truth, and recognized that the land was “an exceedingly good land,” exactly as YHVH had promised.
And while there are many wonderful lessons which can be drawn from the story, it is the question of “what do we choose to believe” that I find particularly interesting. Yes, there were giants in the land, but Numbers 13:33 gives us more information than might be obvious at first glance; read it carefully:
“…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. ”
Imagine that! The men of the land managed to see the ‘grasshoppers’ exactly as they saw themselves. Joshua and Caleb, however, realized (Num. 14:9) that “their defense has been removed from them,” and not only should they not be feared, but (in the equivalent Hebrew idiom) ‘we will eat their lunch!’ So, we should go now, Caleb urged. As it turned out, the “whole congregation” turned on the two of them, rejected the promises of YHVH, and all of those adults ended up not going at ALL. Every one of them died in the wilderness, because they “despised” YHVH (Num. 14:11) by their failure to believe His promises, given all that they had already SEEN!
And just Who do we believe today? We have a world economy based on dishonest weights and measures — which He calls “abomination” — and it is nearing worldwide collapse. A debt which is mathematically impossible to ever “repay” is taking down the PIIGS dominoes (Greece, then Spain) first, but portends a plague of truly Biblical proportions. Unrest, riots, famine, and war will follow – as they always do, and just as Scripture warns.
And what of the governments…all of whom arguably now serve the “prince of this world”? There, too, both Scripture and the news give the same answer: Tyranny. “Capital controls” and other draconian population control measures have already been implemented across Europe, to prevent people from escaping the economic meltdown, or preserving their wealth. Cameras, airport searches, and internet spyware have long ago made the concept of ‘privacy’ laughable. In the United States, tens of thousands of drones are not only already being openly admitted to perform aerial spying, but now to being armed…with everything from Tasers and rubber bullets to machine guns and missiles.
People have even begun to bring an “evil report”: The “New World Order” is too strong to resist. Big Brother really IS watching you…and X-raying, and groping. And, just like the Borg of Star Trek, “resistance is futile”. It truly sounds bleak…at least to those without “eyes to see” His Truth.
Is what we face today really so different from the “giants in the land” that so terrified a mixed multitude who ended up dying in the wilderness?
Does the commandment to “Fear Not!” still apply? If we allow ourselves to be propagandized into seeing ourselves as the blind “tur-ists” did — grasshoppers in our OWN sight — is it so hard to see how that story would end?
And why does He end the lesson associated with the spies, and immediately the man who rebelled against His Sabbath, the way He does?
Part of the solution is in fact as simple as Scripture lays it out for us: “Choose this day Whom you will serve…serve YHVH…and Him alone.” Believe His promises. Fear Not. Seek Him…and “He will direct your paths.”
“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
There is no question that this is a time for prayer. But is there something else — practical and effective, and maybe even relatively EASY to do — that might help us learn to “walk that path”?
Yes. And it is at the end of that same Torah portion (Numbers 15:38-40). It even uses the same Hebrew word — “tur” again — to make the point:
Put a blue thread in the tzitzit on the corners of your garments.
“And you shall have the tzitit, that you may look upon them and remember all the commandments of YHVH and do them, and that you may not spy after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to go astray;
and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be set apart to your Elohim.”
Who are we gonna believe? YHVH or our own “lying eyes”? If we can learn to follow even some of His simplest commands, and look upon the tzitzit that he tells us to put upon the corners of our garments as a reminder, He is faithful enough to teach us, and guide us the rest of the way.