Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Image from A Land Flowing With Milk and Honey
And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
— Numbers 13:27-28
After two years in the desert, after building the tabernacle and receiving the commandments carved in stone the Israelites arrive at the borders of Canaan, the promised land. Rather than entering all two million or so at the same time they send twelve spies, one from each tribe to reconnoitre the region, to check out the quality of the land and assess the risk of entering. They return with this report: great food, terrifying people (the children of Anak are earlier described as giants). Ten of the twelve say the venture is too dangerous. Only Caleb and Joshua believe Israel can conquer, but their opinion is drowned out in the mournful cries of the masses, siding with the ten. In His wrath at their disbelief God inflicts a further forty years of wandering on the Israelites.1
It is a moment of despair for Moses, and for Aaron, Joshua, Caleb and a few others. To have come so far and lose heart at the last moment is intolerable. For the masses this is a crisis of faith. The faith of the people up to now has been wavering, to say the least, and this moment crowns it. Reluctantly led, and continually pulling back towards Egypt and the relative comforts of slavery the Israelite masses, with a few exceptions, display little of the faith God requires of them to build a nation. Fear battles faith, and loudest voice wins.
Left unattended, fear will always be the loudest voice—in this case with a ratio of ten to two, it is five times louder. The voice of faith is the still small voice 2 that requires us to be still ourselves, to quieten our minds in order to hear it. Fear rages, claiming for itself reason, logic, knowledge, and 'facts', while mocking the faithful whose faith that can claim none of these. Few thus possessed will lower their self-righteous facade to let even a little faith come in. Thus our choices and decisions are driven far more by fear than by faith, a fact that becomes more and more apparent as the covid19 months roll by with (in some countries more than others) ever-increasing state control and ever-decreasing autonomy and decision-making for the citizen. We call this being safe. We live in a state of terror, and we have become convinced that this is what safety looks like.
The Israelites would rather head back towards slavery than risk their safety, even for the one thing they have been waiting for all there lives. They want an iron clad guarantee, and nothing less will suffice. God's anger amidst this faithlessness is understandable. And if God's chosen people could be in such a faithless state, on the borders of the promised land, how much more so must be the current generation, in the current crisis. The wilderness is not only geographical.
1 Numbers 14
2 1 Kings 19:12