REBELS WITHOUT REASON
Mighty God, wise beyond my comprehension, holy beyond my understanding, I bless and praise you today.
Read NUMBERS 14:1–25
The People Rebel
14 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”
13 Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 16 ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’
17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”
20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.[a]”
- Numbers 14:25 Or the Sea of Reeds
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectDo you like a good grumble? Do you enjoy a whine and a moan? When you’re part of a group that starts being negative, are you a spreader or a stopper?
The rabble made a proper racket, lifting up their voices, crying, weeping (v 1). The faithless spies had set the whole community on fire with their faithless words; see how many times the words ‘all’, ‘whole’, ‘entire’ appear in verses 1–10.
Against all reason the people rejected God and questioned his power, his promise, and his plan – with some passion! They threatened faithful Caleb and Joshua with the punishment they themselves deserved (v 10); it was only Moses’ prayers that saved them (vs 13–19).
What do you make of verses 20–23? How can God both forgive (v 20) and punish his people (vs 21–23)? First, the people totally rejected God (v 4), so deserved total punishment (v 12). God showed mercy by caring for them all in the wilderness (see Nehemiah 9:16–21), and giving their children the Promised Land. Second, forgiveness is never free. Under the Law, forgiveness came through costly sacrifice; the forgiveness was and is real, but the price had to be paid. Thank God Jesus has paid that price for us!
Moses interceded on behalf of the people, and God forgave them – read verse 19 again. Intercession is hard work, and often a long journey. For whom is God calling you to intercede? How can you keep going and not give up?
Gracious God, I want to give thanks to those who have prayed for me throughout the years; I tremble to think where I would be without their intercession.
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