Lesson Text: Numbers 14:1-12
Golden Text: “Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: fear them not.” Numbers 14:9
In last week’s lesson we saw how asking for advice from different sources can get very opposite results even when the sources are looking at the same thing. They saw the same things and had the same experiences but arrived at different conclusions. That is one of the reasons it has been determined that eyewitnesses are not very reliable.
In today’s lesson one group had a negative report based on unbelief and fear. The group with the positive report based their belief on faith in the Lord’s promise. The people of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land and had to decide which report to accept. They learned that the inhabitants of the Promised Land (Canaan) were powerful and very large in statue. They learned the people lived in fortified (protected) cities and had armies to defend themselves.
I. The Voice of Fear – Numbers 14:1-4
The people wept all night after hearing the majority of the spies’
report that they would not be able to take the land God had promised them.
They should have been celebrating because God had brought them to the Promised Land. Instead, all they saw was a frightening enemy instead of a powerful God. Those believers in God did what many of us do today. Listening to the wrong voices can only bring disaster. Jesus said my sheep hear my voice and follow me. The people of Israel were listening to the wrong voices.
God never promised that the Christian life would be free from trouble
or hardship. We know God is omniscient (all-knowing) and therefore He knew about the enemies in Canaan. The problem was the Israelites did not believe God even though He promised He would be with them and had led them out of
Egypt and into Canaan.
The Israelites continued to blame Moses and Aaron as they railed (complained) about the terrible trouble they were in. They went so far as to believe it would have been better to remain in Egypt or the wilderness. Now, their anger was turned toward God as they began to question why He had brought them to a place where their wives and children would be attacked. Caleb tried to reason with them (see Num. 13:30) but the Israelites chose to believe in the ten unbelieving spies. They decided to overthrow Moses and choose a new leader to take them back to Egypt. That choice meant they were rejecting God’s plan and would therefore be without God’s provisions and His protection. All they would face in Egypt was slavery, cruelty and an angry Pharaoh.
II. The Voice of Faith – Numbers 14:5-10
Moses and Aaron were devastated that the people chose a new leader
and wanted to return to Egypt. Both of them knew how God would respond when people rebelled against His word. Neither Moses nor Aaron begged the people to keep them as leaders because they did not appoint them in the first place. God appointed them.
Joshua and Caleb, two of the twelve spies, spoke against the people. They did not deny what the other ten spies saw. They also saw the giants and the fortified cities in Canaan. (Note: That was a good example that the majority is not always right.) They did not deny what was seen but did deny that there was no way they could take the land God promised them. Joshua and Caleb showed their displeasure at the people’s decision by tearing their clothes.
Caleb spoke alone at first but was joined by Joshua in asking the people to trust God and move forward. They had no fear and described Canaan as a good land filled with fruits and vegetables as well as opportunities. They testified that God had brought them to the land to bless them, not to kill them. They reminded the Israelites that this was the same God who had parted the Red Sea and provided food and water for them in the desert. This was the same God who would protect them now.
God was not bringing them to a dry desert but to a land described as a “land flowing with milk and honey” (verse 8).
Rejecting God’s word is the same as inviting God’s wrath. Joshua and Caleb knew the people must stop rebelling if they wanted God’s blessings. They warned the Israelites that God would continue to be with them as long as they trusted God. The people’s fear of destruction overtook their belief that God would protect them. (Note: Your faith should be much stronger than your fear of anything if you are a true believer in God.) The Israelites had God’s protection while the Canaanites were void of protection since they only had idol gods.
The people wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb to death because they were against their rebellious actions. God’s continued presence was now confirmed when the “glory of the Lord” appeared to everyone at the tent meeting. (Note: Just imagine witnessing the glory of the Lord right in the midst of all that complaining!)
III. The Voice of Judgment – Numbers 14:11-12
God spoke directly to Moses even though He appeared to all of the
people. He asked Moses two questions: (1) How long will the people despise me? (2) How long will they continue in disbelief in spite of all they have seen God do? God did not ask those questions because He was looking for answers. He was angry and He was ready to pour out His wrath on the rebellious people.
In verse 12, God’s anger was in full bloom when He stated He would destroy the people with a pestilence (epidemic, pandemic) and make a new, greater nation with Moses as the leader. Look how God works! The Israelites acted as if they were in complete control but the tide quickly turned against them. God let them know nothing we say or do is hidden from Him.
Next week’s lesson will let us know if God disowns the people He called His own and if He would indeed destroy the entire nation and begin again with one man as leader.
We cannot take God’s grace for granted. Numbers 14:18 tells us that we serve a gracious and merciful God who is slow to anger and quick to forgive. Even so, we will be held accountable for our foolishness and unbelief. God’s love is everlasting but His holiness cannot be compromised. Be slow to draw conclusions because the majority of the people say something is the truth. This lesson proves the majority is not always right. Only two of the twelve spies believed in God’s promise.
It is human nature to grumble and complain but it is far better to listen to and trust God’s word. He will provide as He promised.
Valinda Livingston, Shiloh Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky