Hannah daughter of Malach of Judah was young and lovely with eyes as blue as the afternoon sky on a clear day, and long wavy chestnut hair that danced like a halo around her as she moved. More beautiful still was the joy that saturated Hannah’s heart and generated the smile that perpetually lifted the corners of her full lips up to her sparkling eyes. Hannah created a world around her that was filled with hope and enthusiastic anticipation of more and more reasons to be glad. She was blind to evil. Goodness hidden deep within hardships dared to creep out to reveal itself only to Hannah whom she often greeted with a silent knowing calm. To the women around her complaining of sore feet, and parched lips Hannah replied, “We must be close to the Promise Land! I feel it near. I think we will soon reach our new home! Indeed it must be right on the other side of that hill!”
Her friend Milcah shrugged her shoulders and said, “Hannah, that is not a hill; it is a mountain. I will be happy when I see the Promise Land up close. For now come with me to gather manna.”
“I can’t. I must return to Caleb to tell him that Moses wants to see him.” With that she turned and hurriedly went in the direction her heart told her to go to find her brother.
Caleb was busy splitting wood for the evening fire when he saw his beautiful sister approach hurriedly. “Caleb, stop what you are doing, Moses wants you. Go quickly.”
Hannah followed her brother to find out what Moses wanted of him.
Young Caleb spotted the elder Moses entering the tent of meeting and quickly caught up to follow Moses into the big tent where he saw his friend Hosea and ten other men. Hannah stopped at the entrance flap to listen in. Men were chatting with each other, voices over voices made it difficult for Hannah to discern what anyone was saying. Then she heard Moses loud and clear say, “Okay, everyone is here. Quiet! I have an announcement to make. We have arrived! The Promise Land is near! The land of Canaan will soon be ours for our families. We can build our homes of bricks, and plant trees, orange trees! Fields of flowers will give us honey. Our cattle will have enough grass to produce plenty of milk to drink.”
Hannah heard guttural manly sounds of approval in response to the exciting news of the near end of the journey. Passover night, and crossing the Red Sea were a distant memory. Hunger and dust and the longest parade made men feel as if they were captives of a nightmare.
Moses went on, “From this Wilderness of Paran I want you to spy out the land from Zin at that mountain range over there to the west, (said Moses pointing with his finger as if seeing the mountain through the canvas tent) to Rahab, that mountain range to the east of Zin. Reconnoiter all of Canaan; it will be ours. We will ultimately remove the inhabitants to occupy the land that our God is giving us. Go and return to tell us what you have found. Now prepare for the journey. You will leave at dawn tomorrow. God be with you. Any questions?”
“What do we do if we encounter an enemy? Do we fight?” asked Hosea son of Nun.
Moses replied, “What’s your name? Who are you?”
“I am Hosea of Ephraim.”
“Well, you look like you should be called Joshua.” said Moses with authority. “Joshua, you will have no need for fighting. This is merely a spying expedition. All of you must avoid being seen. The Lord will make your path straight. Bring no weapons, but the shield of faith. Now go. Rest up for you will depart at dawn.”
Hannah ran away from the tent so as not to be seen eavesdropping. She was thrilled at the prospect that her brother Caleb would represent Judah to be among the first to see the land that flows with milk and honey. She remembered her mother telling her stories when she was a child about the Promise Land, promised to Father Abraham. How often she would return in her mind to find freedom and refreshment there when she was a slave.
Hannah ran directly to her tent to wait for Caleb. When he entered she jumped up and went over to give him a big hug. “Oh Caleb!”she ejaculated. “I am so happy for you!”
Caleb smiled because he had sensed that she was spying on the men who were being sent to spy. “You know Hannah, I don’t know what is better, to finally reach the end of this trek with all of these complaining people, or to land in a place of our very own far from Pharaoh.”
“You know Caleb, when you think of it, you will soon see with your very own eyes the land that was promised to Abraham centuries ago! What a long journey indeed. The Promise Land has been waiting for us since before Jacob worked for Rachel’s hand in marriage, before Joseph entered Egypt. The Promise Land is real and soon you will see it, my brother! But now you must rest. I will be quiet. Go to sleep.”
Caleb hugged his beloved sister and gave her a kiss on her forehead and then obediently walked over to his bedroll to sleep.
From the first days after he left, Hannah waited patiently but enthusiastically for Caleb to return. She tried to imagine where he was and what the Promise Land looked like. After a week or two many of the others worried that the men had been captured or that wild animals had overtaken them. Hannah imagined that the men were struck by the beauty of the land and couldn’t tear themselves from it to return to the squalor of this camp in Paran.
Days turned into endless weeks of monotony gathering manna every morning and quail in the evening. Sleeping and eating, going nowhere slowly frustrated even the children as they waited for the spying party to return, not knowing if they ever would come back.
Late one particularly hot and dry afternoon on the fortieth day, when most people had given up and just wanted to start a search party the band of men was spotted on the horizon. Children ran up to greet them. Wives wondered what their menfolk ate while they were gone so long.
Moses stood like a flag waving in the breeze waiting for their arrival. When they approached him Moses said, “Come to the tent of meeting to give me your reports.” The men followed Moses to the tent. Aaron in all his privilege joined them to be among the first to hear.
Hannah was at the outskirts of a gaggle of women who also followed the men and stopped at the entrance to listen in.
“The land is indeed rich and beautiful,” reported Azariah from Dan “but well fortified and the people are too strong for us.”
Caleb contradicted Azariah saying, “But brothers, if the Lord is with us I am certain we could prevail; let’s go back and look again.”
At that suggestion a chorus of NOs and grunts ensued.
Moses was furious at their report and in frustration ended the meeting abruptly. “Leave me!” he shouted in distress.
The men filed out of the tent in ones and twos to be greeted by the crowd outside. Some men stopped to talk, others plowed through the crowd to go to their own tents to find their wives and to rest.
Once the bad report was widely known the Israelites were generally upset. They wailed and cried, after all that walking and waiting, to receive such bad news was devastating. It was as if spring was followed by a return to the death of winter instead of summer harvest.
Murmuring and complaints, and some weeping salted Israel with bitter disappointment. The most emotional women wailed out loud.
“We have had enough of this!” shouted Barak over the din of disappointment. “Who will lead us back to Egypt.” Barak looked around for such a leader while those men who agreed with the idea contemplated how to cross the Red Sea again. Returning to Egypt would not be so easy.
Caleb, hearing this knee-jerk reaction to the overly cynical report of foolish and faithless men responded loudly to be heard over the din of doubters, “Surely people! If the Lord who opened the Red Sea for us, who gives us manna every day, who brings up water from rocks, surely our God can give us victory over the Canaanites. Why oh why do you doubt Him? Why are you so weak?!”
The crowd quieted down to hear Caleb. Then Joshua (Hosea) added, “Indeed this Promise Land is exceedingly good land! I beg of you not to rebel against the Lord, and not to fear the people of the land, for they will be no more than bread for us when their protection is removed from them.”
Hearing that, the congregation threatened to stone Caleb and Joshua who turned in disgust and together boldly walked to Caleb’s tent where Hannah had prepared manna the way Caleb liked it best. “Hello Hosea, I mean Joshua! Come in! She said cheerfully when the men entered her tent. “I am so proud of you Caleb. Now tell me all about what you saw! How thrilling!”
“Sister, it was truly amazing. I saw cattle grazing in fields of lush green grass where hundreds of lambs were frolicking. Real houses! What we saw was infinitely better than what we left behind in Egypt.”
Joshua nodded and smiled as the memories erupted from the deep recesses of his mind as if what he saw was originally born in the imagination of Father Abraham and carried through the generations to pop up like spring crocuses in Joshua.
Meanwhile, Moses remained alone in the tent of meeting waiting for the Lord to reappear, which He did in all His Godly glory.
The Lord cried to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make you, Moses, a nation greater than they.”
Moses rebutted, “Then the Egyptians will hear that the people are all destroyed and they will tell the inhabitants of the land that the Lord of Israel was not able to bring these people into the land that He swore to give them. Remember Lord when you said that You are slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children to the third, fourth, and fifth generation?”
Perambula, listening to this exchange between God and Moses, was once again astounded at how Moses could keep God from acting on His anger with Israel. “Do these people have any idea of how Moses saved them from the wrath of God over and over again?!” exclaimed the angel.
“Absolutely not!” replied Gracefeld. “Their dullness of mind and spirit are precisely why they frustrate the Lord so much.”
“But why does Moses care?” asked Perambula.
“I can’t tell you for sure, but I suspect that Moses is simply a compassionate man; do you remember how he started on this road by killing the Egyptian in defense of a Jew?” said Gracefeld.
“Maybe he simply wants to defend God’s reputation among the people. That’s how he keeps convincing God to relent.” answered Perambula. “Shhh here He comes”
Gracefeld grinned. “Perambula, you know as well as I do that God heard everything we said.
However, God was too immersed in His exchange with Moses about the fate of the Israelites and their reaction to the great and awesome gift of the long awaited Promise Land to care what His angels were babbling about. Nor did God care at that moment whether this generation of Jacob entered the Promise Land or not. After all, He had waited for centuries and He could wait even longer. As the Master of Time, God could wait.
But Moses’s argument was convincing. It was important for God to be slow to anger, and to be respected which required that He be consistent. “Fine!” the Lord replied to Moses, “but none of those people, except Caleb, for his faith, will enter the Promise Land to possess it! None, do you hear?! I will have them walk for another forty years, enough time for this faithless generation, for whom I did so much, who I saved on Passover night, to die out. I will allow only their children to inherit the Promise Land. And that is my final decision Moses! Now off you go. Tell them.”
Moses, feeling relief and sorrow in equal measure, sent young boys out to announce a meeting in the great tent. God had found a way for His reputation to be saved while still punishing the faithless.
Hearing the bad news, the people mourned and changed their minds and said that they would go into the Promise Land and occupy it.
“You fools!” said Moses. “Do you still not understand the power of our Lord? He said that you may NOT enter now. His protection will not be with you. If you go now the Amelikites and the Canaanites will destroy you!”
The hard hearted people decided to go anyway, because they felt remorse and because they wanted more to see the Promise Land than they wanted to respect God.
Perambula and Gracefeld were in shock over the stubbornness of these people. They had followed them all this time, and had witnessed much doubt and grumbling. But this decision to face the strong people they had feared, without the protection of God, was clearly the most insane decision yet. “Perhaps the sun has penetrated their minds and warped them.” said Perambula in jest.
Days later, Perambula and Gracefeld hovered over to watch the bloody scene of weak Israel being pummeled by the Canaanites and the Amelikites.
“Well,” said Gracefeld when it was all over. “At at least that’s some faithless people done away with who will never inherit the blessing of Abraham.”
Perambula smiled and nodded in agreement and then said, “If you don’t have faith that God’s promise is reliable, then you may as well dig a deep hole in this precious earth, climb in and go to sleep forever. Because you are less than a mustard seed. You are less than nourishing manure. You are only matter. Useless matter, rubbish waiting for the burn so you don’t take up room on the earth.”
Gracefeld replied, “Perambula, you sound so human all of a sudden! What has come over you?”
Perambula suddenly feeling particularly human added, “But, if you only want the Promise to be true, then you must act on it. You must demonstrate to the ounce of your doubting self that you believe. Don’t look at any the obstacles the enemy of man and God will set before you to dissuade you, to turn you into rubbish.
Not all of your wishes are promises to be sure. But when you receive a Promise, you will know the difference. A Promise comes from outside yourself. It is a ray of light, impossible to catch but luminous and revealing. Let the Promise enter your heart and hold it fast. Be happy and be patient. Sometimes it will be manifest in a bold miraculous way, and sometimes the appearance of the Promise will happen so gradually that you didn’t even noticed until years later that it came true. When you realize it, all you can do is smile and feel the warmth of joy generated by your heart.”
“Who are you talking to?” asked Gracefeld looking around.
“I am talking to the reader silly! Now let’s go for a ride. I’ll race you to that cumulus cloud!”
Before Gracefeld could ask which one, Perambula was off like a rocket. Gracefeld followed Perambula just for the fun of it.