Numbers 14 (CEV)
The Israelites Rebel against Moses
Those who do not trust God, continually vex themselves.
1After the Israelites heard the report from the twelve men who had explored Canaan, the people cried all night
They cried because they were afraid, because it was not going to be as easy as they had wanted, because they were walking by sight and not by faith. (How often do I do the same?)
2and complained to Moses and Aaron, ” We wish we had died in Egypt or somewhere out here in the desert!
Tragically for this generation, God would give them what their rebellious, unbelieving hearts wanted.
3Is the LORD leading us into Canaan, just to have us killed and our women and children captured? We’d be better off in Egypt.” 4Then they said to one another, ” Let’s choose our own leader and go back.”
5Moses and Aaron bowed down to pray in front of the crowd. 6Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in sorrow 7and said:
We saw the land ourselves, and it’s very good. 8If we obey the LORD, he will surely give us that land rich with milk and honey. 9So don’t rebel. We have no reason to be afraid of the people who live there. The LORD is on our side, and they won’t stand a chance against us!
10The crowd threatened to stone Moses and Aaron to death.
by Dennis T. Olson:
In the end, the issue is not competing estimates about the human strength of the Israelite army versus the Canaanites. The question is not who is taller or who has the larger fortifications or who has more weapons. Ultimately, all such reliance on human power and estimates is irrelevant. The issue is trusting in the power of Israel’s God. God is with the Israelites in the midst of their camp; God can be trusted to make good on God’s promise to bring the Israelites into the land. God’s promise and presence alone are more than adequate basis for their confidence.
But just then, the LORD appeared in a cloud at the sacred tent.
Moses Prays for the People
11The LORD said to Moses, ” I have done great things for these people, and they still reject me by refusing to believe in my power.
Psalm 78:11-22 (NIV)
They forgot what he had done,
the wonders he had shown them.
He did miracles in the sight of their fathers
in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
He divided the sea and led them through;
he made the water stand firm like a wall.
He guided them with the cloud by day
and with light from the fire all night.
He split the rocks in the desert
and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
he brought streams out of a rocky crag
and made water flow down like rivers.
But they continued to sin against him,
rebelling in the desert against the Most High.
They willfully put God to the test
by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the desert?
When he struck the rock, water gushed out,
and streams flowed abundantly.
But can he also give us food?
Can he supply meat for his people?”
When the LORD heard them, he was very angry;
his fire broke out against Jacob,
and his wrath rose against Israel,
for they did not believe in God
or trust in his deliverance.
12So they will no longer be my people. I will destroy them, but I will make you the ancestor of a nation even stronger than theirs.”
With your mighty power you rescued your people from Egypt, so please don’t destroy us here in the desert. If you do, the Egyptians will hear about it and tell the people of Canaan. Those Canaanites already know that we are your people, and that we see you face to face. And they have heard how you lead us with a thick cloud during the day and flaming fire at night. But if you kill us, they will claim it was because you weren’t powerful enough to lead us into Canaan as you promised.
Moses brought God’s promise before Him. He begged God not to give the nations any opportunity to think God had not been true to His word.
17Show us your great power, LORD. You promised 18that you love to show mercy and kindness. And you said that you are very patient, but that you will punish everyone guilty of doing wrong–not only them but their children and grandchildren as well.
19You are merciful, and you treat people better than they deserve. So please forgive these people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.
Psalm 78:38 (NIV)
Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
20Then the LORD said to Moses:
In answer to your prayer, I do forgive them.
This means that Moses’ prayer mattered. Some may wonder if prayer is some elaborate game, where God threatens to do something He will never do anyway, and we pray, pretending to believe God will do what He has threatened, and when God hears us pray, He forgets His idle threat and does what He was going to do anyway. Prayer definitely does not work that way.
We don’t understand the relationship between the eternal, sovereign plan of God and our prayers; but we know it is no game. God never wanted Moses to think of it as a game, and wanted Moses to at least think that his prayers had directly affected the outcome: I have pardoned, according to your word! We should pray as if life and death, heaven and hell, would be decided by our prayers!
21But as surely as I live and my power has no limit, 22-23I swear that not one of these Israelites will enter the land I promised to give their ancestors. These people have seen my power in Egypt and in the desert, but they will never see Canaan. They have disobeyed and tested me too many times.
24But my servant Caleb isn’t like the others. So because he has faith in me, I will allow him to cross into Canaan, and his descendants will settle there.
Caleb’s stand of faith seemed futile when Israel rejected him; but it was richly rewarded by God.
25Now listen, Moses! The Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys of Canaan. And tomorrow morning, you’ll need to turn around and head back into the desert toward the Red Sea.
The Israelites Are Punished for Complaining
26The LORD told Moses and Aaron 27-28to give this message to the people of Israel:
You sinful people have complained against me too many times! Now I swear by my own life that I will give you exactly what you wanted. 29You will die right here in the desert, and your dead bodies will cover the ground.
You have insulted me, and none of you men who are over twenty years old 30will enter the land that I solemnly promised to give you as your own–only Caleb and Joshua will go in.
31You were worried that your own children would be captured. But I, the LORD, will let them enter the land you have rejected. 32You will die here in the desert! 33Your children will wander around in this desert forty years, suffering because of your sins, until all of you are dead.
34I will cruelly punish you every day for the next forty years–one year for each day that the land was explored. 35You sinful people who ganged up against me will die here in the desert.
36Ten of the men sent to explore the land had brought back bad news and had made the people complain against the LORD. 37So he sent a deadly disease that killed those men, 38but he let Joshua and Caleb live.
from Experiencing God Day-By-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunnen remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.
— Numbers 14:38
The decisions and disobedience of others will not cancel God’s will for you. Other people’s actions will affect you, but no one can prevent what God wants to do in and through you. Joshua and Caleb trusted God and yet were forced to wander in a wilderness for forty years because of the fear and disbelief of others.
Have you ever felt that someone was thwarting God’s will for you? Perhaps someone kept you from getting a job or earning a promotion. Perhaps the government would not approve your application or a committee disagreed with your recommendation. Do you believe that mere man can stop God from accomplishing His purposes in your life?
God did everything He intended to do in the lives of Joshua and Caleb. His primary assignment for them had not been to enter the Promised Land but rather to serve as godly leaders for the people. Joshua and Caleb could not lead the people if they were in the Promised land by themselves while the people were still wandering in the wilderness! God kept these leaders in a position where they could exert a godly influence upon their nation, and, as a result, they became models of spiritual leadership for generations to come. Even so, God ultimately brought Caleb and Joshua into the Promised Land just as He had said. They had been delayed but not thwarted. Be assured of this: No one can hinder God from carrying out His plan for your life. Once God sets something in motion, no one can stop it (In Isaiah 46:11, God says — “What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.”).
The Israelites Fail To Enter Canaan
39The people of Israel were very sad after Moses gave them the LORD’s message. 40So they got up early the next morning and got ready to head toward the hill country of Canaan. They said, ” We were wrong to complain about the LORD. Let’s go into the land that he promised us.”
41But Moses replied, ” You’re disobeying the LORD! Your plan won’t work, 42-43so don’t even try it. The LORD refuses to help you, because you turned your backs on him. The Amalekites and the Canaanites are your enemies, and they will attack and defeat you.”
44But the Israelites ignored Moses and marched toward the hill country, even though the sacred chest and Moses did not go with them. 45The Amalekites and the Canaanites came down from the hill country, defeated the Israelites, and chased them as far as the town of Hormah.
They just don’t get it!
God had just said, “None of you will enter the land!”
Moses had just said, “Your plan won’t work!”
“The bravery of presumption is just as fatal as the cowardice of unbelief.” — N. E. Constance
HERE is the theme song for the old generation: “I Did It My Way.” And who else but Frank Sinatra?