In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Yehuda Bachana: Faith and the lack of faith – Shelach [2023]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

This Torah portion deals with several topics and raises a variety of thoughts. Undoubtfully, the central and most important story of this week is the sin of the spies. Their terrible punishment caused the people of Israel to wander the desert for 40 years, until the entire generation died. Another thing that catches our attention is the divine saying – “Salachti kid'varecha”, or: “I have forgiven, according to your word.”. We repeat this verse often during the Yom Kippur prayers. God forgives, and yet, Israel still receives the punishment.

What lesson can we learn from this story about God's forgiveness, and about the forgiveness of Yeshua the Messiah? Towards the end of our Torah portion, we encounter yet another difficult story about the man who gathered wood on Sabbath.

His harsh punishment results in him getting stoned to death. The Torah portion concludes with the commandment of the ‘tzitzit’ (which are knotted ritual fringes or tassels), which serves as a reminder of God’s commandments.

Let's return to the beginning of Shelach Lecha. The spies receive the order to scout out the Promised Land and prepare the way for Israel’s entrance to it. The spies were important leaders, tribal chiefs and commanders. The idea was to send out a pioneer squad, a leading force, a commando unit, with the purpose of preparing a detailed navigation map for each tribe. This battle plan would map the tribes’ strengths and weaknesses for the tribal chiefs.

The first question we need to ask is whose idea it was to send spies to scout out the land of Canaan. If it were God’s initiative, then why would He do so? God knew the spies would fail. As a result, they would even cause the nation to fall, too. What is the point of this divine order to send the spies to a mission that would most-certainly fail?

I want to remind that the sin of the spies caused the people of Israel to wander the desert for 40 years, until the entire generation died, instead of the original 2,5-year journey. Now, if the idea to send the spies did not come from God, whose idea was it then? Was it the people’s request to inspect where they were heading, as knowledge equals power and security?

Perhaps the tribal leaders themselves took the initiative, taking charge and taking on their role of leadership and responsibility. In order to prepare a strategy to enter and conquer the land they needed more knowledge.

Soldiers and reservists of the IDF know that every exercise begins with a ‘vantage point’. The commanders and those with important tasks climb up to high ground, in order to understand the terrain and the battlefield that lies ahead. From that spot, we pass the information to the other soldiers, knowing that that knowledge will make us much more efficient soldiers.

If that were the case, maybe it was Moses’ idea to send out leaders to taste the goodness of the Promised Land, so they would return with stories of a land flowing with milk and honey? Hoping that these spies would manage to lift the people’s morale, by planting a seed of hope and the expectation of the homeland and the inheritance they had truly longed for. Seeing the area with your own eyes makes it much easier to imagine the rest.

The question of who initiated sending out the spies is important, because it enables us to discuss biblical interpretation. In answer to the question, I think that the people - encouraged by their leaders - wanted to send out spies in order to prepare a detailed plan of entrance to the Promised Land. They wanted to know about the existing roads and cities they would settle in.

It seems plausible to accept that Moses repeatedly received this request from the people and then decided to bring it to God. God then answered Moses:

“Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” (Numbers 13:2)

Here we touch upon the topic of biblical interpretation. Somewhat justifiably, Bible students will bring verses to my attention that clearly state that it was God Who initiated the sending of the spies. For example, in Numbers 13 it says that:

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men (…) So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran.” (verses 1 and 3)

This is a great example of a problem that affects us all. Most of us read a verse, a paragraph, a chapter or even a book, on its own, and not as part of the entire Word of God. We often quote a verse or a single paragraph and base an entire teaching on it.

In order to understand the full picture, we have to read the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelations. It is truly very important to read the New Testament, as it illuminates and adds much to our understanding of the Scriptures.

Hebrews chapter 3, for example, quotes Psalm 96 and provides us with a current interpretation of the story of the spies. Here, the New Testament asks us not to harden our hearts, but rather to encourage one another daily so we won’t stumble and sin due to a lack of faith, as was the case with the spies in the wilderness.

“As has just been said ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’ Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:15-19)

The New Testament clarifies that that wilderness generation did not enter the Promised Land, because they lost their faith and did not believe they were capable.

We must be careful not to base the foundations of our faith on half-verses and half-paragraphs, while completely ignoring the other half of the Word of God.

As an example, I would like to look at one of the foundations of the Christian faith, stating that one is considered righteous in the eyes of God by faith alone. This revolutionary idea was brought to the world by Martin Luther in the year 1520. This theology is based on a verse from the prophet Habakkuk that states that:

״The righteous shall live by faith" (2:24)

This verse is also used by Paul at the beginning of his letter to the Romans. Luther claims that one can gain salvation by faith alone, regardless our deeds. From that time until today, we witness ‘a theological battle’ on the subject of faith and deeds. This discussion trickles down to the Messianic Jewish world, with the opinions being clearly divided.

It is necessary to mention, that the original quote by the prophet Habakkuk, never argued Luther’s claim. Rather, it is an answer from God to Habakkuk, that the people of Israel are more righteous than the people of Babylon, and that therefore Israel will live.

The Jewish text that is closest to Luther’s interpretation was written 1300 years before Luther, and says that: (Tractate Makkot 23-24)

One of the commentaries on this Talmudic text explains that:

“even if faith is the only commandment he keeps - he is still part of Israel, and through this faith he will live and will come to keep the rest of the 613 commandments.”

So, instead of justifying Luther’s argument, this text says the opposite. It emphasizes that faith is the first step towards a life filled with commandments and good deeds.

Our Torah portion and Haftara share a common hero: Joshua the son of Nun. In the Torah portion he is one of the spies, and in the Haftara, he is the leader who sends out the spies.

In Joshua chapter two, the spies arrive at the house of Rahab, which was located within the city walls. This was the ideal place to observe the habits and changing of the guards, plus the ways in and out of the city of Jericho. Eventually, the spies are revealed and Rahab saves them. The New Testament uses this story to show that faith alone is not sufficient, and that the deeds that follow are important and significant, too:

“You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body
without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:24-26)

The commandment concerning the tassels follows towards the end of our Torah portion:

“You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them.” (Numbers 15:39)

‘Remember and obey’. The Torah and the New Testament command us to remember. We ought to remember God’s goodness, promises and redemption. We must also remember Yeshua the Messiah and His works. All along keeping in mind that the intent behind remembering, is to get to action. We observe the commandments of God by doing them.

Here we need to highly emphasize, that the internal discussion on faith and deeds is mostly theoretical. In practice, in our actual life as Messianic believers, our faith in the New Testament and in Yeshua is obvious and visible in the way we live out our faith, regardless of our position in this discussion. Whether agreeing with the idea of ‘faith alone’ or ‘faith with deeds’, in both cases, our faith in Yeshua is visible by how we live our life, and Yeshua’s light shines through us.

Yeshua and the New Testament have this great power. The power that causes me to move away from the selfish center, and to place my Messiah Yeshua there instead. Now, when my own self does not fill the center of attention, it leaves space for those around me.

Back to the question of whose idea it was to send the spies to scout out the land. At the beginning of our discussion, we discussed that it was the people’s initiative. They had approached Moses with the request to send spies in order to prepare an organized map of advancement. We learn this from the beginning of Deuteronomy, which describes the events in the wilderness, and allows for a wider picture:

“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.” The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe.” (Deuteronomy 1:21-23)

The book of Deuteronomy gives additional information that reveals a strong possibility that the nation was behind the initiative to send out the spies. Moses asked God, and He answers that if they want to, please, “send the spies.” The book of Deuteronomy reveals that Israel was very close to the Promised Land, the Land of Israel. It shows that Moses wanted to raise the morale of the nation, encouraging them by saying: “Go up and take possession! Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged!”

Hebrews chapter 3 states that the people lacked faith. This is the reason that the people and the leaders came to Moses with the request to send out spies. They wanted to know the way of advancement, due to their lack of faith and trust in Moses and God. They wanted to see it for themselves.

Retrospectively, we know the results: the spies speak negatively about the Land. Instead of giving an encouraging and hopeful report, they cause the people to be fearful and even to panic. The spies, who were among the leadership, now cause a rebellion.

The people follow their leaders and actively participate in the spies’ rebellion. They want to stone Caleb and Joshua to death. They also rise up against Moses and Aaron. Then suddenly in front of the entire nation… God’s glory appears at the entrance of the Tabernacle and saves the day at the very last moment.

God’s reaction was harsh. The Bible tells us that God hates rebellion against leadership. We saw this when Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, and we will see this again next week, with the rebellion of Korah. Both the Torah and the New Testament require to adhere to the leadership structure.

An example from Titus chapter 3 is to: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good” (verse 1). Like many other texts, Paul reminds and requires us to keep the
leadership structure and to beware of anarchy and its dangers.

As a reaction to the rebellion of the spies in the wilderness, God tells Moses to separate himself from the People of Israel, as God will transform Moses into His chosen nation. Moses, who was gifted with the power of conviction, begins his famous dialogue, that later on became an inseparable part of our Yom Kippur prayers:

“…forgive the sin of these people… Lord replied, “I have forgiven them according to your
word.” (Numbers 14:19-20)

Following this speech, we encounter a display of God’s ultimate forgiveness. Nonetheless, disappointment follows directly after:

“Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times — not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (Numbers 14:21-23)

God forgives, but His mercy is directly followed by true sorrow. God announces that this entire generation will not enter the Promised Land, but will rather die in the wilderness, instead. What kind of forgiveness is this?

This discussion on forgiveness teaches a very important lesson. It seems there is no such thing as forgiveness followed by a clean slate. The reason being that forgiveness is a process. There is a vital need to earn forgiveness and then to rebuild the trust that was broken.

In my opinion as a Messianic Jew, we should not diminish Yeshua by saying: “By the way, Yeshua forgave my sins.” Yes, Yeshua does forgive our sins; yet, in return, He demands that we truly change our lives, instead of going back to the same old sins over and over again. Proclaiming that Yeshua forgave our sins is not something you can mention ‘by the way’.

Truly, it is the essence of the Messianic faith. Yeshua grants us a new beginning and a new opportunity. He grants us the impossible by handing us a clean slate! However, it is up to us not to repeat the sin of the wilderness generation by lacking faith. And so, the key point is faith, because:

“without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Joseph Shulam: Faith and the lack of faith – Shelach [2023]


Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Shelach – Part 1 [2022]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam and we are continuing recording the teachings from the Torah portions that are read in every synagogue next Shabbat.

The Torah portion that we’re going to be talking about today is probably one of the most interesting and more challenging Torah portions in the whole five books of Moses. There are several of these challenging portions and dramatic portions, like the giving of the law in Mount Sinai, chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus.

And now we are going to deal with Moses, commanded by God, to send men of renowned leaders in the camp, to tour the country and to examine the country that God promised Abraham to give him as an everlasting possession.

The portion starts in Book of Numbers, chapter 13, verse one, and ends in the book of numbers, chapter 15, verse 41. The Torah portion is called Lech Lecha in Hebrew, which means, dispatch these men. The section from the prophet that is being read is from Joshua chapter two, verse one to verse 24. The section that we’ll read from the New Testament is Hebrews chapter three, from verse seven to chapter four, verse 13. And of course, I recommend all of you to read as much as you can of these texts, because that is the most important thing. Also, what’s just as important, is to know that the product is more important than the salesman; which means that the preacher, the pastor, I, or any other teacher is less important than the product itself.

The product is the word of God. What we’re talking about starts with the words, “And God commanded Moses saying send to yourself men, to tour the land,” to examine the land, to scout the land, to traverse the land. Whatever the translation you want of the Hebrew word, latur, all these meanings catch. I repeat to scout, to tour, to traverse, to examine; all these words mean “tur” in Hebrew. God tells him what kind of men he should choose for this mission. The men that he is to choose are the presidents, the leaders of the tribes. There are 12 tribes, and he should send 12 men. The men that are sent are supposed to be men of renowned, selected leaders of the tribes; and we have their names. From verse four we have the names of the representative of the tribe of Ruben, who’s the oldest son of Jacob. Then tribe after tribe, we have the names of the people that are sent.

Among them, of course, is Joshua, the son of Nun and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. They are supposed to be among 12 leaders. I am repeating this. If you want to understand stories, you have to understand the beginning of the story and the end of the story. Everything in between the beginning of the story and the end of the story is a filler, important details, but it’s a filler. The fact that the story starts with the men that are chosen to go on this mission to scout the land and they are the presidents of the tribes of Israel is very, very significant.

In other words, Moses did not choose just anybody who wanted to go. He chose the best, the ones with the most talented gifts as presidents of the tribe. That makes the story much more significant. They’re supposed to go, examine the land, peruse the land, scout the land, and bring back a report. In verse 18 of chapter 13, we are told what they’re supposed to do; what they’re supposed to bring. They will look at the land; what kind of land it is? They will look at the inhabitants of the land that live on the land; are they strong or are they weak? Are there few or are there many? This is a strategic examination for somebody who’s getting ready to wage war. He has to know who is his enemy, how much power his enemy has, how many men his enemy has, and what kind of training they have?

In verse 19 of chapter 13, we read, what kind of land it is. Is it a good land? Is it a bad land? Are they living in fortified cities or in unfortified cities? In camps? In fortresses? This is all information that a good spy ought to bring back to the headquarters in order to be able to assess what is before them and what kind of force they need to conquer such a land. Is the land fruitful or not? Can it sustain such a large public as the children of Israel coming out of Egypt? Do they have fruit trees? Do they have grapes? Because grapes were not only for eating, but for wine, which was important.

And the men, these 12 men, get up and go in verse 21 of chapter 13. They cross the desert of Zin go all the way to the north, to Lebo Hamath, which is today in Lebanon. They go from the Sinai desert, all the way to the north of Israel to the Lebanon, to Lebo Hamath; and they tour the land, examine the land.

They come to the Negev and stop in Hebron, which is, and was, one of the major cities, where Abraham bought the tomb of Machpelah to bury Sarah and himself; and Isaac was buried there, and then Rebecca is buried there. Then Jacob is buried there, and Leah is buried there; in that same cave of Machpelah that Abraham brought from Ephron the Hittite. They meet there; Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai that were descendants of the giants, in Hebron. And they give us a date that the city was built before the city of Zoan in Egypt.

Then they looked at the agriculture; they found grapes, beautiful grapes. The grape bunch was so big that they had to have two men carry it on a pole, which is the symbol of tourism in Israel; the symbol of the Ministry of Tourism is two men carrying a huge grape bunch hanging on a pole between two men. The verses also tell us that they called the place Nachal Eshkol, which means the river of the grape bunch, and that the children of Israel picked there in that place.

And after 40 days of touring the land, they came back to Moses. Now, again, numbers in the Bible are typological. They’re not only arithmetic, they’re not only mathematical, but they’re typological. Anything to do with the number of four, 40, and 400 is a sign of testing. The children of Israel were 40 years in the wilderness. They were tested these 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus, 40 days and nights in the wilderness. He was tested by the devil in these 40 days and 40 nights. And these 12 leaders of the tribes that were sent to examine the land, to tour the land, to scout the land, spent 40 days walking up and down the land, examining the fruitfulness, the fertility, what kind of vegetables, what kind of trees? What kind of fruit, what kind of cities, what kind of inhabitants were in the land? 40 days, it’s not an accident that it’s 40 days, folks. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. The Torah is telling us this mission that Moses sent these 12 men, the presidents of the tribes, was a test. Not only to test the land, but to test the leadership of the tribes of Israel that were chosen men to go and do this scouting of the land.

Verse 26 of chapter 13, they came back to Moses and Aaron. And the whole community of Israel were camped at that time, in Kadesh, Kadesh-barnea by the desert of Paran, which is west of Beersheba. It was probably several days walk from Beersheba westward to Kadesh-barnea. And they bring with them their own impressions, their witness. They also bring and show the fruit of the land that they gathered and carried with them to show Moses and Aaron and children of Israel how fruitful that land is. Their answer comes in verse 27, of chapter 13 and says, “this is what we saw, you sent us to a land of milk and honey, and these are its fruits.”

The phrase, “the land of milk and honey” appears several times in the law of Moses, also in the Book of Exodus and also in the Book of Numbers and also in the Book of Deuteronomy; it appears several times. It’s a formula and there is a big debate amongst scholars about what it means: milk and honey. Are they talking about cow’s milk, goats milk, sheep milk, what kind of milk? And what does the honey mean? According to many of the scholar, they’re talking about date honey, “silan” in Hebrew and in Arabic. It’s not bee honey that bees make in a beehive, but it is honey that comes from the dates, processing the dates. It’s very similar to bee honey, but different taste, different consistency and different character. Some scholars say it is the date honey and others say is the bee honey. Whatever it is, its honey, that I can tell you for sure.

A land of milk and honey. What is the thing about the land of milk and honey? And that is, that men have nothing to do with the milk. They have to milk it out of the goat, out of the sheep, out of the cow, if they had cows. They had cows we know because in the sacrificial rights, they had bulls and cows as well, like heifers and veal and beef. They also had the land of milk and honey, which means these are two things that men have very little to do with. Milk is produced by the animal from God and honey, whether it’s bee honey or date honey is produced by the bees or by the dates themselves from the tree.

It’s not something that they had to till the land and feed the bees. No, it’s something that is independently provided in the land of Israel, by the land and by God; we see this in Isaiah. In Isaiah, when it’s talking about the land of Israel, and that is a land that is independently endowed by God, it says it’s blessed by God and the milk and the honey are produced by God, not by men; they don’t manufacture it. The bees, if it’s bee honey, the bees manufacture it. If it’s date honey, the dates manufacture it. And the milk comes from the goats or the sheep or the beef. Yes, which means that it’s a land that is independently sustainable by its nature.

We continue in verse 28 of chapter 13, “the people are strong.” Well, the people are strong. They are settling the land in fortified cities, big fortified cities, very big fortified cities. And they are descendants of the giants that we have seen there. And Amalek, the perpetual enemy of Israel, is settled in the Negev desert, the Hittites and the Jebusites are in the mountains, in the central mountain rage. The Canaanites are sitting in the Jordan valley and on the seashore. And now, they’re painting a picture of a complex situation in the land of Canaan.

Nothing is simple, what they’re saying is, nothing is simple. And then Caleb bursts into the scene in verse 30, says, be quiet. Caleb says to the people and to Moses, “We can go up and inherit that land and we can do it!” In other words, we can do it, it’s doable. “For us Israelites that we’re a generation of slaves, our fathers and our grandfathers, our great-grandfather were slaves in Egypt, but we are now free men and we can go and take the land.” But the people that were with him, the other spies, people that scouted the land together with Caleb said, “Oh, we can’t do it. These people are much stronger than we are.” And they brought out an evil report of the land as a result of their scouting the land. It’s a land that devours its inhabitants. That’s what they say in verse 32, “a land that devours its inhabitants and all the people that we saw there were big guys, strong guys.” True. “And we saw there the Nephilim, the sons of the giants. And we looked like grasshoppers next to them. And they looked at us and they thought we’re grasshoppers.” And they complained to Moses and to Aaron and the children of Israel and in front of all the leadership of the community that came out of Egypt into the desert. And they said, “We wish we were dead.

Yes, they discouraged the people. They robbed the people of faith, of hope, of confidence, self-assurance. And then they say in chapter 14, verse three, “Why did God even bring us out of the Egypt? Did he bring us out so we could die by the sword? Our women, our children will be devoured. They will be, you know, ashamed, put to shame. It would’ve been better for us to stay in the land of Egypt.”

Now, this is a very serious situation, folks. They’ve been going now for several years, several, I would say decades, maybe a decade since they left Egypt. And they’re at the edge of entering the land that God gave Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And now they’re saying, “Oh, we wish we had died in Egypt. Why did we even leave Egypt?” You see, this is one of the big issues of what faith means.

See, faith does not look only in the situation that is reality. Faith does not rely on our own strength. Faith relies on our track records of the past. Yes. The lamp from the past is the path for our future. That was one of Ben-Gurion’s mottoes. The first prime minister of Israel, the light from the past is our path for future. That’s what that leadership of the 10 tribes didn’t have. They didn’t calculate. We left Egypt. The sea was in front of us. The Egyptian army was behind us. Did we have a chance? No, but God took us through. We were in the wilderness. We didn’t have water. We could have died from thirst, from drying up. God provided water from us by striking, Moses striking the rock in chapter 17, I’m talking about, not the second time in the Book of Numbers. God told him, strike the rock. Water came out of the rock. They had the Amalekites attack them. Did they have a chance? No, but Aaron and Hur held the hand of Moses up in the air and the battle was won by Gods. All these events, they didn’t take into account. They didn’t take in God’s track record in taking care of his children. They looked at the reality and they allowed the reality to poison their faith.

That was the big sin of these spies, of these scouts, of these men that were sent to examine the land, to scout the land. It was not the issue of the reality that was in the land of Canaan. It was the issue of the lack of reality of how they saw themselves with God as their leader, as their general, as their president, as their warrior, that fought the battles for them and provided all their needs in spite of their complaining and their murmuring. That was the big sin of these 12 tribes.

That’s why only two people that left Egypt entered the land Canaan; Joshua, the son of Nun and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. From among the people that were sent by Moses, the presidents of the tribes, only these two had faith.

And when they heard what the other ten spoke, what did they do? They used the customs of mourning for the dead. They tore their clothes in chapter 14, verse six. And they said to the community, to the crowd of the children of Israel, “We have gone and scouted the land and the land is very good! You could say that it is hard. You could say that the people there are big and sons of giants. You could say that they live in fortified walled cities. All true, but the land is good and we can do it. It’s a very good land and we can win it. How can we win it?” Verse eight of chapter fourteen. “If God wants us, if God brought us to this land, if God gave us this land, the land of milk and honey, with God, we can do it.”

This is a lesson for all of us folks. All of us, sometimes in our, life face, I would say, insurmountable difficulties. And we don’t know how we’re going to get out of it. And we don’t know where our salvation is going to come from. And we say, well, it’s time to give up. We’re giving up, I’m raising my hands, Lord, I can’t do it.

But Joshua and Caleb knew God. They were not only religious. All of them were religious. They were presidents of their tribes. But it’s possible to be religious and not to have enough faith. And the 10 spies, the 10 leaders of the tribes, they knew the facts; the land is beautiful, there’s fruit, grapes. It’s a good land, the land of milk and honey. But what they didn’t have, those 10, is that they didn’t trust the boss, our boss, the boss of the whole earth. The one that the whole earth is his footstool, the father and the creator of the world, the sun and the moon and the stars and everything in our galaxy; at least our galaxy, maybe more. That is the one that they didn’t know. And without him, yes, it looked hopeless. It looked bad, it looked hopeless. But the people who knew God, and they looked at the backlog, they looked at what God has done for them in the past. They said, we can do it. Not alone, with God’s help, we can do it.

And I want to tell you this; we are commanded in the letter of James, that whatever we decide to do, to say, if God helps us, in Arabic, Inshallah, in Hebrew, Reh-Tzone HaShem, with God’s will. And if you talk to a Jew, Orthodox Jews or to Muslim Arabs, they are not going to commit to anything. They’ll say God willing. We’re commanded to say God willing. I hear people in Israel, Arabs, and Jews, all the time say, God willing. They say, will you come to visit us next Friday, come to our house as a guest? God willing, I will come. The Arab will say Inshallah, I will come, but I don’t hear Christians keep the command that the letter of James tells us. We don’t say Inshallah. Joshua and Caleb said with God’s will, we can do it. And they did it.

We’re going to talk about this next section of the Book of Numbers and we are going to celebrate the punishment and the repentance of the children of Israel that equip them later to enter, to cross the Jordan, to enter the land and to take it. Let’s all take our land of Canaan with faith.

In Yeshua’s name, amen.

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Shelach – Part 2 [2022]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam and together with Brad TV, we are doing every week, a teaching from the portion of the Torah that is read in every synagogue around the world.

I did a first session for the portion that is called Shelach Lecha, which means dispatch these people to tour the land. This portion is so central and so pivotal in the whole history of the Jewish people and in the settling of the land, that I think that I need to do a second session, a bit shorter session, to compliment the first session of this portion. So, you will have two sessions, of the same portion of Shelach Lecha, that starts in Numbers 13:1, and ends in chapter 15 verse 41.

So, in the first session, I stopped at dealing with the lack of faith of the 10 spies, tourists, or investigators, travelers, however you want to define them, that Moses sent.

Moses chose from every tribe, not just a representative, but the president of that tribe, the elect people, the people who are capable to lead. These led the group to check out the land, investigate the land, tour the land, bring a report of the land. What kind of land it is? What about the agriculture? What about the cities? What about the military defenses; fortresses whatever.

And they come back. They’ve been 40 days in the land touring about, walking about all the way from the Northern border of the land of Israel to the Southern border of the land of Israel. And 10 of them say, “Oh, it’s a beautiful land. It’s a wonderful land, but we can’t take it. The people there are too strong, they lived in fortified cities. They’re giants, we can’t do it.” Two men, Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, say, “This is nonsense, we can do it. It can be done. We can go up to the land and conquer it and settle it.” And they try to encourage the people.

But both Moses and God are angry. Why are they angry? They’re angry because they have already spent several years in the wilderness and it’s toward the end of their tour. And they have seen the hand of God, miraculously deliver them from hunger, deliver them from thirst, deliver them from cruel enemies like the Amalekites. They have crossed the sea on dry land. The older people that were there at this time, still like Joshua and Caleb. They saw the plagues on Egypt. They ate the lamb on the night before they left Egypt and got liberated from their slavery of a couple of 100 years. They saw the hand of God, and the voice of God delivering the Torah to them in Mount Sinai. This is all happening after all these events and both Moses and God and these two men, Caleb and Joshua, had faith that God is with them and that they can do it. What seems impossible if you analyze it strategically with the mind of men and you don’t take into account that there is a creator that’s in control of his creation, then you may say like the ten did, “too hard, too hard, no, we can’t do it, we can’t do.

We look like grasshoppers in the eyes of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.” They complained to Moses and they said, “Let’s get ourself,” new head, not Moses, and go back to Egypt.” This is after years that they had been wondering in the wilderness, let’s go back to Egypt.

Of course, God saw that as an affront to Him, as doubt in His reign, as doubt in His ability to rule and protect and guide the children of Israel whom he chose through Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.

Now, what is interesting is that the all the spies, all these messengers, actually said the truth. It’s a wonderful land, wonderful fruit, wonderful agriculture, a land of milk and honey, but they lacked that vitamin, called faith. And faith is a result of experience not of doctrine. True faith is trust, not doctrine. And that trust that they had already experienced so many times in the years of their wonderings in the wilderness, they didn’t have.

And in chapter 14 verse 9, Moses tells them, “You are rebelling against God.” “Don’t be afraid of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan because they’re like our bread. We can eat ‘em up. They have lost their shadow. They’ve got no substance. Don’t be afraid of them.” But what was the reaction of the people? The reaction of the people is, let’s stone them, stone the leadership. Joshua and Caleb and maybe Moses, and the other leaders that were, had faith. Some of the people there, said, “let’s stone them.”

And God says to Moses, in verse 11 of chapter 14, “That’s it, I can’t take it anymore. These people are not going to believe. They have not believed the signs and the wonders that I’ve done among them. And I will destroy these people and take you Moses, and create a new nation from you. I will strike them and make a new nation from you, a great nation from you.” And Moses argues with God and says, “When Egypt will hear that, they know that you have brought these people out of Egypt with great power. And then other people of the land will hear it that you are their God, in the midst of them. And that you have shown yourself eye to eye. And everybody knows that there is a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night that guides them; that you lead them. So, if you kill these people in the wilderness all the nations are going to say, ‘What is this?’ God could not bring these people to the land that He swore to them. And He destroyed them in the wilderness. Your reputation, God, will suffer.”

That’s Moses argument here. Didn’t you tell us in Exodus 34, that you are a long-suffering God, full of grace and truth? And you don’t overlook crime and sin, but you punish the sinners and the criminals to the third and the fourth generation? Moses challenges God to forgive these people.

And God says in verse 20 in chapter 14 “I forgive them just as you said, just as you asked, but I will fill the whole earth with the glory, my glory. For the people will see my glory and my signs which I have done on Egypt and in the wilderness. And they have tried me 10 times. They’ve tried me in the wilderness. I swear to you Moses that that generation, except Caleb and Joshua are not going to enter into the land.” Such a pivotal point.

God’s patience with his children has a limit. That’s something that our Christian brothers don’t realize. There is a limit to grace. There is a limit to mercy. There is a limit to forgiveness. It’s not endless, and it’s not without consequences. And this story is one of the best places to learn this because God says in verse 27 of chapter, “How long are they going to continue this evil, this complaining, this bad talking? I’m tired of hearing them.” And as you’ve said, as you wanted, that’s what’s going to happen to you. You are going to die in the wilderness. You are not going to enter into the land. I’ve carried you, the word here, “I carried you like a baby. I carried you in the wilderness.”

“So, you’re not going to enter, but Caleb and Joshua are going to enter and your children are going to enter. Your bodies are going to die in the wilderness and your sons will wonder for 40 years in the wilderness and they will carry their spiritual prostitution to the end. 40 days you were out there in the land. Now you’ll spend 40 years in the wilderness and you will carry your sins with you 40 years. And you will know me, that what I’ve spoken to you and to the whole community, is true; and everybody will witness this.”

Now, this is the pivotal point. Two people out of 10, out of 12, two people out of 12, Joshua and Caleb, entered into the land, participating in the conquest of the land. Built their families in the land and received their inheritance in the land. But the other 10 presidents of the tribes and their generation didn’t.

What can we learn for ourself today from these events? Number one, we can learn that God keeps His words. Number two, we can learn that a man of God can argue with God and change His mind. God’s mind is not set in cement. Moses was able to change God’s mind more than once. Abraham was able to change God’s mind. Jacob even was able to get through when he fought the angel in the river, crossing the river Jabbok.

So yes, this is a very important lesson. It’s an important lesson because all of us tend to allow our fears to control our actions and our faith then sits in the backseat. We have got to move our faith to the front seat and hold the steering wheel of our life and drive looking forward, based on the promises of God. That’s our highway. And this reading of the portion that’s called Lech Lecha, dispatch, go forward is very important for us to learn. And that the lack of faith, not of the people or the plain people of the leadership, can sink the ship.

Yes, that’s why to be leaders is such a big responsibility; it’s such a big job. It’s a lonely place; Moses was lonely. But if you want to be leader, if you are called to be a leader, if you’re called to be a teacher of God’s word, you’ve got to realize that what you do will have consequences to all the people. And you need to be able to bear the criticism, bear the lack of faith. And as the leader, you’re holding the steering wheel in your hand, and all the train is behind you; all the way to the caboose. Those that want to get on that train like that old song, “This train, don’t carry no sinners;” whatever the words are of that song, English folk song, is that we are looking forward with eyes of faith.

God’s promises are being fulfilled every day. Especially if you look at the land of Israel, and the people of Israel, and the nation of Israel. After 2000 years of the dispersion around the whole world, we are a living fulfillment of God’s promises. We’ve got all kinds of Jews here. We have Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Jews from the Arab countries, tomato Jews orange Jews, carrot Jews, all kind of Jews. You want, we’ve got ‘em here. And all of it is a result of fulfillment of God’s promises that he gave to our forefathers thousands of years ago.

So we have no reason to be despondent, no reason to be fearful, no reason to hold back. Our Aliyah returns to the land. We have to look forward, standing on the promises of God, as the song says.

And until then, dear brothers and sisters keep reading the Torah. It is a word of wisdom, a word of encouragement a lesson to be learned every day.

God bless all of you. Amen.

Joseph Shulam: Put the Flock Before Yourself [2021]

The Torah reading this Shabbat of June 5, 2021 is Shelach Lechah – Numbers 13:1 – 15:41. The reading from the prophets is from Joshua 2:1 – 24. From the New Testament we are reading Hebrews 3:7-4:1.

Every week when I read the Torah portion (the parasha) and the portion from the prophets (the haftarah) and from the New Testament texts, I find something relevant to the current situation in the land of Israel.

Israel like the rest of the world has gone through a horrible near two years of coronavirus tribulation. Although I can honestly say that, thanks to our prime minister who took intelligent decisions, and Israel is one of the countries that vaccinated the population early and put this pandemic under bearable control, it was still over a year and a half of a triple tribulation.

We had the coronavirus to deal with. We had the internal political total mess to deal with. There has been no country in the history of modern democracies that in 18 months, during a pandemic, had four election campaigns.

The third near-disaster was the relationship with our Arab/Palestinian neighbors from the Gaza Strip. This last round in the month of May 2021 was one of the worst war-like confrontations with the terrorist organization of Hamas/Hezbollah.

The flood of more than 4000 rockets that were launched at Israeli cities, villages, kibbutz farms, was like 12 days in a “Star Wars” attack of the aliens from the hellish planet Gaza. A non-stop 11 days of steel and explosives raining down on cities like Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderoth, Be’er-Sheva, Holon, Bat-Yam, Tel-Aviv, and Jerusalem.

These rockets, with explosive heads carrying over 400 pounds (200 kilograms), were aimed at civilian neighborhoods with the fully-malicious intent of killing as many civilians as possible. To create terror who’s aim was to take steps and measures (metaphorically speaking) from the notebooks of Adolf Hitler.

The aim of the Hamas and the other Arab/Palestinian terrorist organizations is not a secret. It is written signed and ratified. To delete Israel and the Jewish people out of the God-given land of Israel.

I can sincerely say that the majority of Israel is grateful to the almighty God, and father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah for His mercy and protection. And also thankful and more then grateful to the Israeli military and Air Force that was able to intercept 85 percent of the 4000+ rockets (made in Iran with the inspiration of North Korea).

The 15 percent that the “Iron Dome” was not able to intercept hit apartment buildings, private homes, schools, and kindergartens, businesses, roads, and parking lots. The Hamas and the other terrorist organizations hiding like rats under the ground aimed their rockets at civilians, including civilian children, and elderly people, and adults, who were killed in Israel, while much private property was destroyed.

The Israeli Air Force bombed Gaza terrorist installations and underground tunnels that were created and intended for military/terrorist aims. Yes, it is true that the Israeli Air Force did everything possible to avoid any collateral damage to civilians. It is also true that the terrorist organizations use human shields planted by force in and around their storage for rockets, and military factories that put these rockets together.

This is the plain and simple reason why there are more casualties of war in Gaza than there are in Israel. The number killed in Gaza is about 250 people, including several children. This number is four times the number of casualties in Israel.

The United Nations condemned Israel for killing more people in Gaza than were killed in Israel, in Israel the number of dead is about 60 people. The wave of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews in the streets of New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and others increased by thousands of percents.

In Israel, the internal Arab/Palestinian terrorism carried out by young Arab criminal gangs and the lynching of innocent people is a very alarming new type of Arab terrorism, internally in our ancient biblical cities like Lod (Lyda) and Jaffa, a new phenomenon. I am sharing these things now because this so-called old/new phenomenon is actually a repetition of the actions of Amalek in the Bible.

The Jewish Disciples of Yeshua (the Messianic Jews) in Israel uniformly believe in coexistence and good neighborly relationships with our Arab/Palestinian neighbors. Here is what I am asking you to do in the name of our Lord, our God and Father.

  1. Pray for Israel and pray for our Arab/Palestinian neighbors to find the true path of God – the path of good neighbors and of peaceful coexistence in this land that the children of Abraham are fated to share as brothers.
  2. Pray for the governments of the world to do all that is possible to protect the Jewish population and to stop and quench the present wave of anti-Jewish terrorist attacks in the streets of the major cities of the world.
  3. Share and teach your communities that to hate Jews or to hate anyone for no rational reason is against God Himself, be it the almighty God of Abraham and His seed or Allah or Jesus.
  4. Stand and give moral and political support to the Jewish communities in your countries and cities.
  5. Go out and participate in pro-Israel demonstrations and don’t be shy to do it as Christians who love Israel and the Jewish people, and stand firm against anti-Semitic actions and false propaganda against Jews.
  6. Do all you can to support the Jewish and Arab/Palestinian disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) in the land of Israel and in your own cities and countries.

Now a few words on the Torah reading for this Shabbat:

Shelach Lecha is the portion that introduces us to the sending out of the twelve “spies” to spy out the land of Canaan. This mission that Moses agrees to and chooses leaders from the 12 tribes of Israel becomes one of the pivotal events in the 40 years of wilderness wondering in the Sinai desert.

What becomes traumatic in the history of Israel is the negative report of ten of these leaders of the tribes of Israel. The two who understood better how the Lord works, Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh came with a report that is simple, based on truth and on faith in the Lord God of Israel. This mission of the 12 men to spy out the country of Canaan becomes a major lesson of faith for all ages.

The second thing that is in our Torah reading this Shabbat is also extremely important to read and understand. Due to the lack of faith of the people of Israel and the demoralization of the people because of the report of the ten spies, the Lord’s anger was kindled and a plague came from God on the people. The people murmured and again regretted leaving Egypt and being freed from slavery. God’s anger was so great that He wanted to end His relationship with the people of Israel and start a new nation based on Moses.

I believe that the motivation of the Lord was to test not only the people but to test Moses himself and see if these people were able to muster enough character and faith to be able to fulfill the calling and to handle the promises that God gave to Abraham. God wanted to see of what kind of material Moses was made, and if he is thinking of his own good or the good of the whole nation that will be following him in the wilderness for nearly forty years.

So, God offers Moses:

“Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.’” – Numbers 14:11,12 [NKJV]

The answer that Moses gives to the Lord here is a great lesson for us today and for every leader of God’s people around the world. God gives Moses an offer that Moses’s can’t refuse. I will make you a nation greater and mightier than they (than Israel). Moses does not fail the test this is what Moses answer God as a response to God’s offer:

“Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’ And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, ‘The Lord is long suffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” – Numbers 14:15-19 [NKJV]

What is the essence of the answer that Moses gives to God:

  1. Your reputation around the world will be lost. The nations will attribute to You evil intentions and weakness and inability to keep Your promises to the people of Israel; “you are not able to bring this people to the land which you swore to give them…”
  2. This kind of action that You are proposing to me and the desire to kill all of Israel is not according to Your character, and it is against Your nature as God who created this world and has chosen Abraham and his seed to bless all the nations of the world.
  3. As you are the Lord (verses 17-19), “long suffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity… Pardon the iniquity of this people!”
  4. Moses calls to the Lord and says, “Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of your mercy…”

Moses refuses to take the offer that God gives him. He turns the tables to God and says, Lord this is not like You. Your suggestion is not true to Your character and I ask You, O Lord, please forgive these people because this is Your nature.

Here is what I learn from this very important episode:

  1. God is not an autocrat. He is open and willing to hear and listen, which is what His righteous and loving and longsuffering nature represents.
  2. The Lord might offer us some great and wonderful offers, but it does not mean that we ought to think selfishly only about what is good for us personally.
  3. Sometimes God tests us with good offers, “temptations” that look wonderful but test where our hearts and our desires reside. If we especially think of what is good for us personally or for our families, and forget that we are called to serve God and His people… if we choose what is good for us and not what is good for the flock that God has given us, we might be failing our calling and our fall will surely come…
  4. Leaders of God’s people, here is some homework for you: please read Ezekiel chapter 34, the whole chapter.

Joseph Shulam: “Yes, We All Can” [2020]

This week the synagogues are reading from Numbers 13:1-15:41 the Hebrew name is Shelach Lecha (“Send Out for Yourself”). This section of the Torah that will be read in the Synagogues around the world is so incredibly significant especially for our days of Coronavirus.

From the Prophets we are going to be reading Joshua 2:1-24, and from the New Testament Hebrews 3:7-19. The Torah portion is very formative because it tells the story of Moses sending the 12 top leaders from each tribe.

The presidents of the tribes are gathered by Moses by God’s command.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.’” – Num. 13:1,2 [NKJV]

This is a reasonable command by God. Moses and the twelve tribes of Israel, numbering at least a million plus, are entering into the land of Canaan. Canaan is not a desert, an uninhabited land like the desert of Sinai.

Canaan is a settled land. A land of fortified city-states, a land of several ethnic groups who have settled between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. We know the names of these ethnic groups, and we even know where they came from to settle down in the land of Israel.

It is reasonable to send men to spy out the land! God does not need the information of who lives there with what kinds of fortifications and what these nations trade with and other relevant information like what kind of fruit and vegetables grow in this God-given land of promise.

The task of an intelligence officer is to bring information. If the intelligence officer brings relevant information, he has done his job and his responsibility has been fulfilled and with this he has completed his responsibility.

Normally speaking you do not take such important leaders and send them to do some spying in a land that they have never visited. God told Moses “send men” – God did not say chose the presidents, the leader of each tribe – the most respected men ought to go and spy out the land of Canaan.

The best human material to send for such a mission is the men and women who are the common folk that are humble enough to be trained and are able to learn and not those who are elite and spoiled with the privileges of rank and status in the community.

I imagine that Moses had some political considerations that gave him the idea that the presidents, leaders, of the tribes ought to be sent to see and spy out the land and bring their reports.

Maybe Moses, who was raised in the palaces of Egypt was used to being surrounded by VIP’s. Although, the forty years spent as a shepherd tending his father-in-law Jethro’s flocks probably had humbled Moses.

But the fact is that Moses sent the leaders of each tribe to spy out the land of Canaan. These men did a good job of gathering information. They did collect the relevant information, and all agreed on the facts. The freedom that these men took to themselves was to make the recommendation of what would be possible and advisable for the whole nation of Israel to do.

They took for themselves executive privileges that were not granted or included in their mission statement. This type of overstepping our authority and our mission statement is not uncommon even today and, in all disciplines, but it is especially glaring when it is seen among church leaders.

We are servants, none of us, teachers, pastors, elders, professors of theology, or Bible teachers, is a boss or an owner of the church, the body of Christ. The word says:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” – Ephesians 4:4-6 [NKJV]

There are other texts in the Bible that say the same thing, but there is not one single text between Genesis and Revelation that says, “Jack the knife is the Lord of the Church” – “Jack the knife ministry” – “The church of Jack the knife.”

Now what we are seeing in the Christian world is that men, just like you and me are taking to themselves a personal ownership to the church and to the ministry of the church. The administration of the church is arbitrarily carried on by the boss of the church. Although we do know that God gave the church and the five ministries, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” These five are not offices, they are services that are setup by God to serve the church.

These five ministries are not a replacement of the “Boss,” nor are they executive rights that give the men in these services authority over the body of Christ. We are all servants and we don’t have the right to re-write the Bible and change commands and practices and commandments or to make executive decisions.

This is what ten of the 12 spies did when they came back from their journey. They decided that they are responsible to make the decision of what God can do and what God can’t do and what Moses ought to decide, because they are the wisest and the smartest and the most talented CEO’s of their ten tribes.

So, what can we learn from this overly complicated situation:

  1. The facts are facts and all of the 12 spies gave the same facts.
  2. The reports of all the 12 spies were based on their experience. Their experience was the same too.
  3. The 10 spies looked at the reality of the situation without taking into account that there is a God who is the master and boss of this universe and He is the one that makes things happen in His world and our trust in Him is our trust in the fulfillment of His promises.
    This is what we call faith – it is the ability to trust that the Lord God of Israel is a faithful God who keeps His promises even to the smallest detail.

It is hard for leaders, presidents of tribes, pastors, preachers, teachers and “prophets” to remember who they are, that there is truly a God who is the Big Boss of all and that all of them are only employed in the local post office.

The job and calling of all the religious functionaries, pastors, teachers, elders, preachers, prophets, is to receive and forward messages of God and to clean the diapers of the church members and put them to work spreading the good news, that Yeshua is coming back.

The minute that today’s church leaders think that the church is theirs and that they are the owners and bosses of the body of Christ locally, nationally, or internationally, as it is with some big-time preachers who need at least three or four face lifts and plastic surgeries to keep their smile constant, they will all be like the 10 spies who gave the right data, but had the wrong prognoses – they forgot that the real boss and father and savior is omnipresent and all-powerful both in the heavens and on Earth, and all of us humans are like grasshoppers in the presence of the almighty Lord of heaven and Earth.

Another important point is that if we really believe in a living and all-powerful God who is faithful to keep His promises, the conclusion will always be like that of Caleb and Joshua, trusting the all-powerful God and looking beyond the reality on Earth into the promises of heaven.

The 10 presidents of the tribes said:

“‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’ And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’” – Numbers 13:31-33 [NKJV]

Please brothers and sisters, look for the difference between their report and the report of Caleb and Joshua. What is missing in the words of the ten spies? There is only one thing missing, God is missing. When God is missing from our programs and plans and future, we are doomed at that instant.

We can do nothing good for the kingdom of God unless God is doing it with us, and we are doing it with Him. We don’t have a ministry that is ours! We don’t have a church that we are the bosses of! We don’t have power to lead, to heal, to teach the word of God, to make the church grow, or to represent the almighty God down here on His Earth.

We have only the mission and the commission that the Lord has given us and He will provide all that we need to see that His work is carried out by us. I have prayed and continue to pray that Yeshua will use me as His donkey to enter again into Jerusalem.

I realize that this picture is only speaking metaphorically, but I do want to be an instrument in God’s hand. I hope that you, the preachers, pastors, and elders, of the body of Christ, will be always ready to give the Lord the credit and also allow Him to direct, inspire, and empower the local church and enable us to do His will, and to be both humble and strong at the same time.

So, that the Lord can use us to do His work and that His agenda will become our agenda. “Yes, We All Can” is a much better slogan for all Christians to adopt these days. YWAC!

Joseph Shulam: The Error of the Spies [2019]

The reading on this Shabbat (in Israel) is from Numbers 13:1-15:41, Parashat Shelach. It begins with the words “shelach lecha” in Hebrew (“send for yourself”). From the prophets, the reading is from Joshua 2:1-24, and from the New Testament we read Luke 17:1-18:43.

One of the main episodes in this week’s Torah reading is the episode of Moses sending 12 leaders. These were not average joes being sent to tour the land of Canaan and bring back a report. As the text says, the 12 so-called spies were leaders of their tribes.

All the 12 men came back and basically told the same story, they described the land in true colors and spoke the truth. So, where was the problem? The problem is as always, the interpretation of the truth. What you do with the known facts.

This is also the problem of the Christian world. Almost everyone had the same bible, it can be this or that translation, but basically it is the same bible. If you go into the original ancient Greek text and Hebrew text it is even much more “the same” bible. The interpretation is what is in question.

One of the unholy illnesses of the majority of the Christian churches is the acceptance of the clear untruth that God is finished with Israel, and therefore the whole “Old Testament” is superfluous, not needed anymore, and has no authority today. All the scriptures that Christians today need is from Matthew to Revelation.

But this is not what the apostle Paul said:

“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:10–17 [NKJV]

Normally when Paul is used and quoted from this text, the quotation starts from verse 16: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine…”

They skip the context where Paul is instructing Timothy, his disciple, to be careful and persevere because evil men and impostors will grow deceiving and being deceived. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is to continue in the things which he learned in his childhood from the holy scriptures, which are able to make Timothy wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ.

Here now comes the declarative statement of Paul: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…” This “all scripture” is “all scripture”. The main scripture that the early church had when Paul was writing this to Timothy was from Genesis to Malachi, and maybe a few of Paul’s letters.

The New Testament as we know it today was not yet complete with all the books that we have today. So, to ignore the Torah and the prophets is to ignore the bulk of God’s revelation given by the Holy Spirit.

What did the 10 spies say that brought God’s wrath on Israel, the wrath that caused God to keep them in the wilderness for another 38 years until that whole generation that left Egypt, except Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness? This one statement that the 10 spies made is what cost all of Israel so much sorrow in the 38 years added by God to their wilderness wandering:

“But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’” – Numbers 13:31 [NKJV]

Why is this statement so serious, and why did it make God so angry with Israel?

These people were the leaders of the tribes. They all crossed the sea on dry land. They all were daily eating manna from heaven. They all stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, received the Torah, and heard the voice of God speak from the cloud. They all drank water that was bitter and saw the hand of God and Moses make the water drinkable. They all had a hand in the building of the Lord’s tabernacle.

After all those experiences they still didn’t understand who God is, and what is His power over the universe and the forces of nature. Above all, they considered the people of the land of Canaan more powerful than the God who took them out of Egypt.

This was the big sin of Israel in the wilderness. It was even a bigger sin than Aaron and the children of Israel making the Golden Calf (an Egyptian idol) at the foot of Mt. Sinai. How do I know that it was a bigger sin? Because of the punishment that God gave Israel after the demoralizing report that the 10 spies gave Moses and Israel.

We measure the seriousness of the sin by the punishment that the Torah gives it. Sin is sin, but in the word of God, His punishment for some sins is very light and for others very heavy and harsh. So, the sins are not all alike, each has it’s degree of seriousness and is measured by the punishment that the Lord gave each sin in the Torah.

Faith in the bible is not defined by an agreement with this doctrine or another. It is defined how much you trust God with your life, and with your family, and with all that you are and possess. The lack of trust in God and His power, His love, and His guidance is the true lack of faith, even if you intellectually agree or accept this doctrine or another.

This kind of “faith” is the classical Christian Catholic faith, but not the biblical faith. There is no list of doctrines that we are obligated to believe or accept other than two things, belief in one God who created the heavens and the earth, and the belief that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of the living God.

But everyone had to love God enough to trust Him, who made all things, that He will be faithful to care for His children. The 10 spies actually put doubt in the hearts of God’s people. They said that they, Israel, the people who daily experienced God’s power, love, and miracles, could not have a victory over the pagan idol-worshiping Canaanites.

Because the 10 spies were the leaders of the tribes, all the tribes, all of Israel, paid the price of this lack of faith (trust) in God. Let us learn to trust God. He is the only one who is forever and 100% trustworthy to keep His promises to Israel and to the whole world.

Yehuda Bachana: A Call to Preserve the Jewish Identity at All Costs [2018]

Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

This Shabbat we read and study the weekly Torah portion, Parashat Shelach Lecha. From our portion, we read about the Israelites and how they spent 40 years wandering in the desert.

If you stop and think about it, they were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land. The Israelites were close enough to send out spies and prepare to conquer the land. They thought that in just a few more days, they were finally going to be able to make it.

However, shortly after that, the sin of the spies occurred. In fact, it was the sin of that entire generation, the desert generation, which suddenly caused them to move away from the Promised Land for 40 years.

They were so close that they could have touched it, and at the same time they were years away. This distance depended on two parameters: the first one is God and His timing. The second parameter was us humans and our level of readiness.

The Sin of the 12 Spies

The 12 spies spread a bad report about the Promised Land. We don't need to do that as well.

I would like to relate to the body of Messiah and to our level of readiness as believers to absorb the Jewish people into the local community and to faith in Yeshua as the Messiah. It's a bit of a heavy subject but nonetheless important.

Our parasha begins with sending the 12 spies into the Land of Israel, and later talks about their horrible mistake. The sin of the spies is one of the most severe sins of the people of Israel during their journey in the desert.

In the wake of this terrible sin, God punished the people of Israel, in that all of the men age 20 or older, who came out of Egypt, were to perish in the desert. Only the new generation would be allowed to enter and settle in the land.

What was the sin that was so terrible that it caused the people of Israel not to enter the Promised Land for 40 years? How do we avoid repeating the same mistake today?

The answer is spelled out in the Torah:

“And they [the spies] spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored…” - Numbers 13:32a [NIV]

The general impression was that they said the enemies were too strong. They gave a bad report about the land.

Bringing a Bad Report

Before we close the story, I want to remind you that the spies acted exactly according to the orders they received from Moses before they left for the mission:

“…he said, ‘Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many… What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified?” - Numbers 13:17b,18,19b [NIV]

A spy's job is to bring back the most accurate information possible. He is expected to focus on the difficulties, in order to be able to provide a solution for them in advance. The job of a spy is to give accurate information regarding the combat abilities of the enemy.

The sin was that the spies leaked the bad report out to the people, telling them that the land of Canaan is a land that devours its inhabitants. They instilled fear and panic in the people, and caused a rebellion and attempt to overthrow their government.

The people went along with this and actively rebelled. They sought to stone Caleb and Joshua, and rose up against Moses and Aaron.

At that moment, the glory of the Lord was seen in the opening to the Tent of Meeting, in front of all the people of Israel. The situation was saved at the last possible moment.

How Do We Connect Between Yeshua and Israel?

Here I believe that especially today, it is necessary to preserve the dignity of the state. It's not our job to bring a bad report about Israel. There are professional organizations, like BDS, that work hard to give Israel a bad reputation.

Our job is to point out the blessings and the good things that Israel has - and there is much to boast about. Our job is to declare that Israel is blessed, “A land flowing with milk and honey.”

If we return to the days of Moses, we will see a group of slaves who fear, or do not understand, their purpose. We see those who fear or do not understand the future and are unwilling to enter the Promised Land.

Therefore, God waited until the old generation was replaced. He waited for a new generation to inherit the Promised Land.

I think that the body of Christ does not understand its purpose. I do not think it is fear, but rather a lack of understanding. Our purpose is to make a connection between Yeshua and the people of Israel.

The question is, how do we do this? We believe that one day the people of Israel will be saved. How do we see this happening? What is our vision?

God Has Kept the Jewish People Alive

For nearly 2000 years, the Gentiles tried, on one hand, to destroy and get rid of us, and on the other hand, to “open” our eyes to the “truth.”

Let us begin with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. After that, in 1099, we suffered from the Crusades and the massacre of the Jews.

In 1348, Jews suffered persecution against the backdrop of the Great Plague. 1478 was the beginning of the Inquisition.

1492 was the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. In 1648, the massacre of Jews in Ukraine begins, along with the history of the pogroms in Europe, until the Holocaust in 1939.

This a brief summary to show that the Gentiles tried to get rid of and destroy us; however it did not work! Against the impossible, God kept the embers of the Jewish people burning.

Instead, we lit our Shabbat candles hidden in a closet, and we baked the Pesach matzos in the storeroom or in the cellar below the house.

Why Does Israel Reject the Truth?

On the other hand, the Gentiles also tried to show us what is good and beautiful. They tried to show us the beauty and love that Christianity has, the idea of being ​​“born again” Christians.

Why do we, the people of Israel, refuse to see and accept the truth?

This is because, throughout history, every Jew who has come to faith in Yeshua has ceased to be part of the Jewish people. He has left the tradition, the customs, the nation. He has become something else - he lost his identity.

The biggest challenge comes the moment we find the true answer and solution. I emphasize that this is the true solution - not just a band-aid, but rather open heart surgery. When we find the solution to this problem - I believe that the people of Israel will be open to Yeshua.

The challenge is identity and its preservation; when our identity is to be preserved at all costs.

When we suffered during the Inquisition in Europe - those who kept the embers burning were those who risked their lives and their families to keep the tradition and identity at any price.

When the Jews kept their identity, it was with an emphasis on tradition. Like the separation between milk and meat, the lighting of the Shabbat candles - these commandments are not from the Torah, therefore the body of Messiah today does not see the importance of such commandments.

These homes in Europe, which had a sink for milk and a sink for meat, are the ones who kept their Jewish identity, and did not assimilate. They were not destroyed.

Preserving the Jewish Identity

When we develop strong Messianic Judaism, that is unaffected by the foreign winds that blow into the country, when it is clear to us that we must preserve our Jewish identity at all costs, then we will see the Promised Land.

Therefore, we must invest in developing the next generation. For the next generation is our future.

Our generation is the desert generation, the generation that came out of Egypt, the next generation must be the one who will enter and inherit the Promised Land.

This is assuming that we will be ready. If not, we will wait for another generation, and another generation, until we are ready to absorb and preserve our identity.

If we slip up, like many before us, God will set up others in our places whose job will be to find the solution to the question of identity and its preservation, until Yeshua returns.

We need to start with the congregation; it cannot look like a Hebrew-speaking foreign church. The way we pray, our worship, the literature, has to be local and authentic.

God entrusted Israel with His book. Therefore, it’s our duty to preserve it and maintain its relevance from generation to generation. We need to understand that assimilation is not an option, and God will not allow the people of Israel to do so.

Our Jewish Identity in Messiah Yeshua

That's what we do in our community, we preserve identity. Do we have all the answers? Far from it.

But here, however, the importance of investing in the youth in education, in enrichment, in familiarity with the scriptures, in strengthening their personal ability, and in the acquisition of identity, is revealed. Exactly the same can be said about investing in Messianic university students.

What does this mean for us? We are the first example. We must show, above all, that one can preserve the Jewish identity in an authentic way through Yeshua the Messiah.

I know that we briefly touched upon many important subjects that deserve more attention. Please feel free to write us, call, or even drop by with any questions you might have.

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