For the past several weeks we have been speeding through the first few books of the Old Testament. In our journey we have highlighted specific areas of interest to help us gain a better understanding of the Bible, God, and what He was up to in creating the world and in the creating of the nation of Israel as His holy chosen people.
Last week I spent our time together talking about the nation of Israel and their trek to Mt. Sinai. This journey to the mountain concluded with receiving the law (which included the Ten Commandments), the instructions to build the transportable Tabernacle, and the tragedy as the Israelites willingly walked into rebellion to God through the act of idolatry.
Today, we are going to fast-forward to the wilderness voyage and stop at the border of the Promised Land. Our text for today is Numbers 13:25 – 14:25. I would invite you to go to this passage and while you are finding it, I will give some background to get us caught up.
I am sure you noticed that I skipped completely over the Leviticus. This bypass in no way suggests that it is an unimportant book, in fact it is, as Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are all linked concerning the preparation of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and forming the Israelites into the holy people of God. We also see in these books the consistency of God’s character and responses to Israel’s behavior throughout. So, we may all be on the same page, here is a summary of each book as they link together to tell the bigger picture of what God is doing in His people…
This is where we will pick up this morning as we look at Israel’s continual trust issues and their rebellion through their lack of trust in God and His ordained leadership.
Up to this point God has faithfully guided, provided for, and protected Israel in their wilderness journey. The wilderness represents a place of preparation and testing. We see this with Israel as they were being prepared and tested in the wilderness. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness as he was being prepared to be voice of the One who was greater than he. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days.
Once the Israelites arrive at the border of the Promised Land the LORD commands Moses to send spies into the land of Canaan. He was ordered to send one leader per tribe (of the twelve tribes of Israel) to go with Joshua to spy out the land. Moses tells them to…
Numbers 13:25 – 14:25
This passage is divided into three parts, and we will look at each one individually.
I.The Good News, The Bad News, The Good News, The Bad News (25 – 33)
II.Israel’s Rebellion (14:1 – 12)
III.Moses’ Intervention (14:13 – 25)
The Good News, The Bad News, The Good News, and the Bad News
The Good News
Vs 25 – 27: The spies were exploring the land for forty days and upon their arrival back to Moses and Aaron, they gave a full report of their findings. They reported that the land is plentiful, and the soil is healthy. It is flowing with milk and honey, (this is obviously a reference to the promise God made to Moses) in Exodus 3:8, “ So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.” While in the land of Canaan the spies took some samples of fruit, and the grapes were so large that one cluster needed to be carried on poles. This was good news!
The Bad News
Vs 28 – 29: According to the spies the land was filled with powerful people inhabiting large and fortified cities. This becomes the new narrative. The men start to focus on the obstacles that they will face. The first obstacle was the land is filled with the descendants of Anak who was a clan or family of noted giants. They could not see past the size of some of the inhabitants and even though these giants were big, the God they served was much bigger. The second obstacle was their enemies, the Amalekites lives in the land. The Amalekites were descendants of Esau and even though their patriarch’s Esau and his brother Jacob had patched up their differences, apparently their ancestors had not. It was the Amalekites who attacked Israel in the desert on their journey to Mt. Sinai and Israel won the battle because of Moses’ hands being raised. This was bad news.
The Good News
Vs 30: But one of the spies, a young man full of faith and trust in God, spoke up and quieted all the grumbling and negativity and said, “We can do this! This land is ours for the taking!” His faith and trust were grounded in the belief that God could win this battle for them. This good news!
The Bad News
Vs 31 – 33: Unfortunately, the dissenter’s voices rose louder than Caleb’s voice. Their lack of faith and trust in God was infectious as they spread the word that the inhabitants of the Promised Land were stronger than Israel. They exaggerate their report by saying the land will devour anyone who lives there, thus referring to the supposed hostile living situations and inhabitants. The embellishment continues as they tell the Israelites that all the men they observed are of great size. Let’s not forget to mention, there are giants in the land, and they make us look like insects in comparison to them. There is no way we can defeat them! This is bad news.
Vs: 14:1 – 4: Word spread, and the Israelites cried out in protest to Moses and Aaron. Once again, they start blaming them for their current circumstances. Eventually their complaining turns to God. They say, “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Really?! Their faith in God is so small that they would rather go back to Egypt than to stay and fight for the land He has PROMISED them. If this isn’t bad enough, they decide they want to vote Moses and Aaron out of leadership and appoint a new leader to return them Egypt!
Vs 5 – 9: Upon hearing this Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the congregation of Israel. Theologian Gordon Wenham writes, “No wonder Moses and Aaron fell on their faces not to plead for their lives, but to express their awe at the sacrilegious blasphemy of the people.” This vulgar display of disbelief and heresy the Israelites show is VERY concerning to Moses and Aaron. Wenham continues, “(Falling on your face) in Numbers usually anticipates some great act of judgment. Moses and Aaron, sensing the presence of God, fall to the ground in fear at what he is about to do.”
Caleb and Joshua respond in a more traditional way by tearing their clothes to show how deeply distressed they are with the congregation. They try to reason with the people by telling them if God is with them, then they will be successful. In fact, they note, God is on their side and their enemies do not, so victory is inevitable.
Vs 10 – 12: One would think that after a faith filled speech encouraging the Israelites to trust God, and reminding them of his trustworthiness, that the natural response would be to rally up the troops and advance. This is not what happens. The people start talking about stoning Joshua and Caleb. This does not refer to an uncontrolled mob killing. Remember, they recently had the law given to them, so the nation had the judicial authority to have them stoned for major religious crimes. However, no crimes were committed. Ironically, the congregation wants to have them stoned for following God’s lead. Regardless, Israel rejected Caleb and Joshua’s accusation of Israel’s rebellion to God and incorrectly claim they are false witnesses worthy of stoning.
Naturally, God is not happy with the Israelites, and he vows to destroy the Israelites and start all over again. He tells Moses He will make a new nation, a stronger nation, and a greater nation.
Vs 13: Moses’ response is not what some would think. Had I been in Moses’ shoes I probably would have responded, “Ok, if that’s what you think is the right thing to do, then so be it.” But his response is just the opposite he says, “Don’t do that! What will people think if you destroy the people you delivered from captivity? Remember who you are and what you represent!”
Vs 17 – 19: Moses pleads for God to be patient with Israel and to pardon their sins. He reminds God (not that He needed reminding) of his character… He is patient, unfailing in love, forgiving of sins, and just.
Vs 20 – 25: God shows mercy and does not destroy the Israelites. He does act justly because he forbids every single person alive at that time to enter the Promised Land, except for Joshua and Caleb. He then instructs them to not advance to the Promised Land, but instead head back towards the Red Sea.
This is a sad ending to the story since the unbelief, lack of trust and rebellion against God led to more wandering in the desert. If only the Israelites would have responded properly to Caleb’s plea, then the Israelites could have entered the Promised Land that very next day… But they didn’t.
So how can this passage be applied in our everyday lives? Here are four suggestions…
 Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 136). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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