“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land to which I am taking you and you eat the food of the land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD. Present a loaf from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offering from the threshing floor.’” — Numbers 15:18–20
In the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days, the Jewish people focus on Scriptures from the Torah that provide hope and inspiration as they prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is one of 12 devotions on the hope we have as people of faith. To learn more about the High Holy Days, download our complimentary devotional guide.
At the beginning of Numbers Chapter 13, the children of Israel were anticipating their arrival in the Promised Land. They had sent out 12 spies to bring back the first eyewitness accounts about the wondrous land that God had promised to their forefathers. Then, their hopes were dashed as 10 of the 12 spies brought back a bad report about the land. Forget about it, the spies told the children of Israel, the land is unconquerable and uninhabitable.
Despair flooded the Israelites’ camp all that night. The people cried about their present circumstance, their future, and they longed for their past — even a past that included slavery, hardship, and suffering. They had lost hope and faith that night and turned defiantly away from God.
God was angered by His people’s lack of faith. Hadn’t He taken them out of Egypt and sustained them in the desert? Could He not have brought them into the land, too? As a result of their doubt, God punished the people and promised that they would not enter the land. Instead, they would wander in the desert for 40 years where they would learn the kind of faith needed to enter the Holy Land.
The people sunk even lower into despair. They realized their error and bemoaned their mistake, which had cost them dearly. It seemed they were digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole.
Then, in an abrupt change in tone and topic, Scripture goes on to list laws regarding sacrifices and offerings to God. Among them is the law that a portion of all bread must be given to the Lord. What made this sacrifice different from the others is that this offering could only be given when in the Promised Land. The Jewish sages explain that when all seemed lost to the Israelites, God gave them this commandment as a promise for the future. The Israelites would eventually make it into the Promised Land. Even as God delayed them, He prepared the way.
This is a powerful message for us who might feel stuck or set back at times in our lives. We might even think, like the Israelites did, that there is no hope for our future. We’ve made mistakes, messed things up. What hope is there for us now?
However, God teaches us that there is always a brighter tomorrow. Though the path might be winding and long, it will lead us to our destiny, our personal Promised Land. As God says in the book of Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (29:11).
May it be so!