וְהָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר עָלוּ עִמּוֹ אָמְרוּ לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲלוֹת אֶל הָעָם כִּי חָזָק הוּא מִמֶּנּוּ: במדבר יג:לג
“But the men who went up with him said, ‘We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than us’.”
Rashi explains that the word מִמֶּנּוּ is referring to HaKadosh Baruch Hu—as if the people of Canaan were stronger than G-d!
The question is obvious: This generation saw the miracles in Egypt, 10 Plagues and the Splitting of the Sea; how could they believe that HaKadosh Baruch Hu could lose a war to mere mortals? Isn’t it quite obvious that Hashem always has the upper hand? Why did they feel that Hashem would not succeed?
The commentators explain Klal Yisrael undoubtedly believed that in a war between G-d and Man, G-d would succeed. This type of confrontation indeed already had a precedent: Yitzias Mitrayim and Keriyas Yam Suf. However in this new confrontation, the Jews themselves were being asked to fight against the inhabitants of the land: Mortal against mortal, locked in hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, so to speak. Klal Yisrael looked at themselves as being a weak nation and while miracles could help, upgrading this pathetic army to a world-class level would not be possible in the physical sphere, but this was the war that they were being asked to fight. Thus they thought ‘Yes, it is true that through a supernatural miracle, such as Hashem sending a plague to wipe out all our enemies, would allow us to easily overtake our adversaries. However, how through the natural way of warfare could we win?’
Klal Yisrael learned their lesson during the next 40 years in the desert that Hashem was always with them, visible or not. When they conquered Eretz Yisrael as is described in the Navi, it seemed as if it was a natural war, but they understood that HKBH was empowering them. This understanding of our successes, must be taken with us throughout all times.
It seems to me, the difficulty of living in Eretz Yisrael hasn’t changed, between then and now. We live in a time that statistically, the only way to succeed is through a miracle. We believe that our successes are not borne out through natural strategic expertise and fine training, though it may look as if we succeed on our own, we understand that it is only through the miracle of the empowerment of Hashem that we exist.