Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Thirty-Seven.

Dr Clifford Denton.

Shelach Lecha: Numbers 13:1-15:41.

29th June 2024/23 Sivan.

Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole …… There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight. (Numbers 13:23, 33)

Picture by Helen McNeill

How strong are we as Christians today? What do the coming days hold as we await Yeshua’s return? Can we learn something relevant from this week’s portion?

The unambiguous teaching of Scripture is that days of difficulty will deepen for the Lord’s people. We will almost certainly not face literal giants like the descendants of Anak, but the spiritual battle – a battle of a different kind – is intensifying across the entire earth in our day. Physically, we may be on the brink of a world war and potential economic difficulties, and all this will be the beginning of the era in which the antichrist will appear. The Book of Revelation has much to say about this. If the Children of Israel feared the literal giants, will we do any better through days of tribulation?

Both the character of mankind in their fear of powers stronger than they, and the uncompromising character of God are shown in our portion this week. Lack of faith kept a generation of the Children of Israel from entering the Promised Land. Once God declared that those who witnessed the miracles in Egypt would not enter the Land, it was no use their trying in their own strength. The decision was made.

Our reading this week in the Book of Numbers is brought to clear relevance in the early chapters of the Book of Hebrews.

However, let us consider another parallel to the taking of the Land of Canaan – our Lord’s great victory for us when He triumphed over satan and entered Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Whatever our challenges may be, they are far less than He experienced, both spiritually and physically. Our Lord Yeshua faced up to satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Significant as that confrontation was, it was only the beginning. For three and a half years He went on, confronted by the opposition, sin and sickness of many people as well as the powers of satan, never once flinching. On the night before His crucifixion, the pressure He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mathew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22) was immense. The pressure was so heavy that His sweat fell like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Even that was less than the pressure that He must have felt on the Cross.

By contrast, how light was the challenge to faith for the Children of Israel to trust God for victory over giants in Canaan!

If it’s all you do in your family Bible study this week, make sure that you meditate upon this great truth and the greatness of Yeshua, on whom we are exhorted to focus as the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2) Unlike 10 of the 12 spies, who caused Israel to not enter the Land of Canaan until an entire generation had passed away in the wilderness, He focussed completely on the victory that He alone could win and made a way for us to the heavenly place – a much better place than the land flowing with milk and honey. What a Saviour!

This also puts in perspective our challenge for the days ahead which, with God’s help and through faith, we will endure. Look, therefore, at the early chapters of Hebrews to make sure we understand what God expects of us. Throughout all generations, the battle of faith has been strong for both Christians and Jews. Our enemies can be both spiritual and physical. The battle for faith is applicable in various degrees to all believers in the world. We would be wise to prepare for the times ahead when the battle is likely to be of increasing intensity, according to the Lord’s clear warnings in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13, as well as from the biblical Prophets.

The preparation for these days is more in the life of faith than according to our human skills, no less than it was for the Children of Israel contemplating entry into Canaan. Our strengthening begins with Bible study and prayer and the most important place for this is in our own family.

Consider carefully the teaching in the Book of Hebrews. Here we have a direct reference and contrast to what is written in our portion this week, especially in Chapters 3 and 4. To study this prayerfully together is a beginning to taking the challenge of our faith even more seriously. If we think we have reached maturity, consider the challenge of Hebrews 6, beginning in verses 1 and 2:

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame.

What is considered advanced in many Christian circles is listed as elementary to the writer to the Hebrews. It is vital that we, our children and our grandchildren are prepared for the challenges ahead. Our Saviour has gone before us having won the ultimate victory. It is for us to stand firm in faith to receive the inheritance so wonderfully won for us. Let us think on these things more seriously than perhaps we have before. We must learn from the failure of the Children of Israel to possess the Promised Land as we seek to strengthen in faith to enter into our eternal inheritance. This inheritance has been prepared in advance for us so magnificently by Yeshua HaMashiach, our great Saviour. Yet it can only be taken by the same faith in God that was required of the Children of Israel so long ago.