20230617 Parashat Shelach – A Different Spirit

Torah Portion                         Numbers 14:18-24

Haftarah                        Joshua 2:1-9

Besorah                         Hebrews 3:12-19

The thirty-seventh reading from the Torah is called Shelach, an imperative verb that means “send out.” The portion is so named from the first few words of the second verse: “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:2). The Torah reading tells the tragic story of how the spies returned with a bad report about the Land of Promise and influenced the congregation of Israel to rebel against the LORD. Thus God consigned the generation of Moses to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

As you can see, the title of today’s drash is “A Different Spirit”.  What does it mean to be different?

To be different means literally that something does not conform to the standard or the norm. Different can be a positive thing. In fact, we have been called to be different than the world around us. This morning I want examine the life of a man who was indeed different from those around him, and God brought blessing into his life.  As many of you know Caleb is one of my all-time favorite characters in the bible.  He caught God’s attention long before I discovered him.

Numbers 14:24  However, My servant Caleb, because a different spirit is with him and he is wholeheartedly behind Me, I will bring him into the land where he went—his offspring will inherit it.

Today I would like to talk about the Caleb Principle:  If we give ourselves wholeheartedly to God, He can do the impossible within us.

  1. A Different Passion

Let’s break down that scripture about Caleb.  It says that he followed God with all his heart.  Caleb’s devotion to God was not a half measure.  He was one hundred percent committed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In fact, Calev, in Hebrew, is a combination of two words “Col” and “Lev” meaning “whole” and “heart.” It is no wonder that the words together have become the definition of “dog” who loves faithfully and wholeheartedly.

Every ounce of his being was dedicated to the Lord.  Caleb lived out the Ve’ahavta every day.  I like the translation from David Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible.

Deuteronomy 6:5  and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.

William Borden, the heir to the Borden Dairy Company, wrote these words in the back of his bible. No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.  That’s the kind of life Caleb lived. He held nothing back and gave his all to God.

As a result of his spying adventure in Canaan, Caleb found a new strength.  No, he was not working out at the Canaan Club.  He found his strength was in God and not himself.  Caleb’s confidence was in God and not himself.  Now Caleb could see that his very future was in the hands of God.  It’s like that old advertisement about being in good hands with Allstate.  You are in better hands with the Lord.

Caleb followed God through the challenges.  What challenges?  Well, how about a land filled with big people with heavily fortified cities.  Jericho was one, as well as Hazor, and other cities belonging to the Amorites on the east side of the Jordan River.

This week I was reading an article in the Biblical Archaeology Review about the Amorites and how strong they were.  Their cities were well fortified with massive walls and large dry moats around them to foil any siege towers.  Some of their citizens were said to be descendants of the Nephilim, giants from a previous age. So yeah, Caleb saw the challenges, but he saw that God was bigger than his enemies.  He was so convinced of God’s greatness that when Israel was conquering Canaan, he wanted to settle Hebron, the land of the giants.

Caleb also faced challenges from his own people.  The people heard the size of the enemy and they melted in fear. They focused on their fear and forgot their faith.  The Israelites were even talking about stoning Moses, Joshua and Caleb.  But God was greater than all that negativity.

  1. A Different Perspective

Wisdom is looking at things from God’s point of view.

Joshua 14:9-12  So Moses swore on that day saying: ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have fully followed Adonai my God.’  (10)  So now behold, Adonai has kept me alive, just as He said, these 45 years, since the time that Adonai spoke this word to Moses while Israel was journeying in the wilderness, and now behold, I am 85 years old today.  (11)  I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me—as my strength was then, so is my strength now, for war and for going out and coming in.  (12)  Now therefore, give me this hill country about which Adonai spoke on that day. For you heard on that day how the Anakim were there as well as great, fortified cities. Perhaps Adonai will be with me, and I will drive them out, just as Adonai has spoken.”

We see several things in this passage that need to be emphasized.

Caleb followed God in faith.  Even though he was going through the wilderness for 40 years Caleb never lost faith is what God had for him to do.  All the military men from the age of 20 and older were condemned to die in the wilderness because of their lack of faith.  As he got older, Caleb saw all his contemporaries, some younger and some older than he pass away.  That had to be disheartening.  But Caleb never lost faith.

Caleb recognized who it was that gave him his strength.  It was God that kept him alive.  It was God who kept him as strong at 85 as he was at 40.  Caleb was well aware of all the objections that the people had expressed.  The Canaanites were strong.  They lived in cities whose walls reached up to the heavens.  Some of the enemies were giants – The sons of Anak: Goliath was one of them.

Caleb believed that God would help him.

Caleb followed God with focus.

Caleb pursued God’s promise.

Caleb was strong in God.

Caleb was courageous in God.

Caleb was victorious in God.

Caleb rose to the challenge.

Nothing was going to stop Caleb from accomplishing what God called him to do. No enemy was too great, no obstacle was too large and no opposition too loud to keep Caleb from doing what God wanted Him to do

2. A Different Position

Caleb stood up for his faith.  He was not complacent or timid.  He actually believed that God could and would do the impossible.  Imagine that!

Numbers 14:7-9  … “The land through which we passed is an exceptionally good land!  (8)  If Adonai is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land and will give it to us—a land flowing with milk and honey.  (9)  Only don’t rebel against Adonai, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They will be food for us. The protection over them is gone. Adonai is with us! Do not fear them.”

Caleb believed that God would provide the victory if the people acted in faith.  He believed that God would provide the victory.  Sure the enemy was strong, but Caleb’s God was stronger.  Adonai was the protector of Israel.  The Canaanites had no such protection.  In fact, it was the opposite.  All the people of Canaan were under judgment from God because of their abject immorality.  Because of that, the enemies of Israel would be given into their hands and would be defeated.

Caleb also spoke differently.

Numbers 13:30  Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “We should definitely go up and capture the land, for we can certainly do it!”

Caleb spoke with the voice of faith, and unmitigated confidence is God’s ability to defeat the Canaanites.  He spoke of action, not sitting around hoping and wishing for something to happen.  He was like the original Nike spokesman.  “Just Do It”

3. A Different Path

I think we can say that Caleb followed the road less traveled.  He lived a different life.  He was used by God to be a leader.  He was already a leader in his own tribe of Judah.  But he was also a servant, one who could follow orders.  Moses had sent him out to be a spy.  Caleb carried out that mission with courage and commitment.  His life was a great example of what many today call toxic masculinity.  I say if that is toxic masculinity, then bring it on.  We need our synagogues and churches filled with such men of faith, courage and action.

Conclusion – Life Lessons from Caleb

  1. God has a different passion for us.

Our passion comes from our faith in the fact that God is with us and faithful to us. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  The God that sustained Joshua and Caleb through 40 years in the wilderness and 7 hard years of conquest in Canaan is the same God that walks beside each of us.  He is that friend that sticks closer than a brother.

  1. God has a different perspective for us

Our perspective on life comes from the reality that God is working in our lives.  As Believers we belong to God.  Yeshua said we can call Him Abba, or daddy.  That is a parent/child relationship that is just about as close as it gets.  We are grafted in to the True Vine.  We become one with the Creator of the universe.  There is not a thing that happens to us that God does not know about.

Yeshua gave us what our perspective should be.

Matthew 6:25, 30-34  “So I say to you, do not worry about your life—what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?

(30)  Now if in this way God clothes the grass—which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow—will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  (31)  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  (32)  For the pagans eagerly pursue all these things; yet your Father in heaven knows that you need all these.  (33)  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  (34)  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Live the Caleb perspective.

  1. God has a different position for us.

Just what is our position.  Rav Shaul put it this way.

Romans 8:14-17  For all who are led by the Ruach Elohim, these are sons of God.  (15)  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall again into fear; rather, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  (16)  The Ruach Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  (17)  And if children, also heirs—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Messiah—if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Sons of God.  That is a pretty good position to be in.

  1. God has a different path for us.

Yeshua gave us a path to follow.  He said,

John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life! No one comes to the Father except through Me.

We are definitely in the world, but we are not to be of the world.  God has called us to be a peculiar people.

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

That’s our path following Torah, following Yeshua, being led by the Ruach HaKodesh.  Be like Caleb, a different spirit.  It’s ok to be different.