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Passing the Tests of Faith

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Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. For the LORD had told those Israelites they would surely die in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. Numbers 26:64-65

The Torah portion for this week is Pinchas, which means "Phinehas," from Numbers 25:10-30:1, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 18:46-19:21.

In this week's Torah portion, as the Israelites prepared to enter the land of Israel, Moses took another census of the people. This had been done years earlier; however, Scripture specifies that an entirely new group of people was being counted this time. The entire generation who had been counted in the first census had died in the desert because of the spies' sinfulness. If you remember, Moses had sent out 12 spies to scout the Promised Land and bring back a report. The spies brought back a negative report about the land, and the people lost their faith. Since they didn't believe that God could deliver them, He wouldn't deliver them. Instead, they perished in the desert.

But let's take a closer look. The verse tells us that " . . . not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun." Caleb and Joshua were the only two out of the 12 spies who refused to give a bad report about the land and tried to instill faith in the people. As a reward, they did not suffer the same fate as the others of their generation; they made it into the Holy Land. But they weren't the only ones who survived. In the original Hebrew, the verse reads, "not one man was left . . ." The Jewish sages comment, "The men died in the desert, but the women did not."

Why didn't the women die in the desert as the men did? Is it because God took pity on the women over the men? Not at all. Those women earned their right to enter the Promised Land. The sages teach that the men had lost their faith on that dreadful night when the spies spoke negatively about the land of Israel - but the women did not. They kept their faith. Even though the spies had reported enemies of large proportions, well-fortified cities, and a land that swallowed its people, the women closed their ears to the men's words. Instead, they opened their hearts to the word of God, who had promised to lead them into a good land. They had passed the test of faith.

I want to encourage us all to pass the tests of faith that come into our lives. There are times when people will tell us one thing, but God says another. Tests of faith come in many forms. They come as dire predictions on the news, as bad advice from "friends," or even as popular opinion in the world. Who will you believe? As it says in Jeremiah 17:7, "But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him." Let's choose to place our trust in God and be blessed.

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