Lord, keep me from unwise prayer requests.
Read NUMBERS 14:26–45
26 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.”
36 So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it— 37 these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. 38 Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.
39 When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. 40 Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!”
41 But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! 42 Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, 43 for the Amalekites and the Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.”
44 Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give men what they choose, in all its implications: nothing more and, equally, nothing less” (J. I. Packer).
The doctrine of the wrath of God is one that troubles many people. Even Christians find it difficult to comprehend that the God whose very essence is love would inflict judgment against men and women, whether in time, as in this passage, or in eternity, as elsewhere in Scripture. How do these verses help us?
Though God has withdrawn his threat to wipe out the entire company (12,20), all those who are twenty years old and over will die before reaching Canaan (29). Only Caleb and Joshua are exempt (30). The forty days spent spying out the land will be matched by forty years of wandering in the desert outside of it (34). The ten spies who led the Israelites into doubting the promises of God will die sooner by plague before the Lord (37). There are to be no more second chances. The failure of the disjointed attempt to take Canaan by human strength (39–45) shows that God’s purpose will not be defeated. When we take the story as a whole, though, we see that God is giving the people what they want. His judgment is only his “Amen” to their request to die in the wilderness (2). Their concern for their children (3) is answered with God’s promise that they, the children, will see the land and inherit it (31).
When we think of God’s final judgment of the sinner—eternal separation from him—we see the same principle at work. God gives men and women not only what they deserve but also what they have desired.
We too are sinners who have tried God’s patience and deserve his wrath. Praise him today that in Christ God has given us not what we merit but what Christ’s perfect obedience has purchased. By his grace we will enter a rest and receive a reward.
What have you rashly requested of God that ended up in near disaster?
Thank You, Lord, that Christ endured Your wrath on Calvary that I might escape it and instead enjoy forgiveness and life.