His Promises Never Fail (Numbers 11-13)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 11-13

Three days into their journey from Mt. Sinai, an old pattern of sin returns and the people began to complain (Numbers 11:1). 

We read, the LORD’s “anger was kindled” (11:1) and His wrath was poured out as fire from heaven that began on the outskirts of the encampment. Why the “uttermost parts of the camp” (11:1), meaning the outlying areas, and not the center of the encampment?  I suppose that is where one will find the grumblers—on the fringe and far from the LORD.

The source of the spirit of discontentment is identified as “the mixt multitude” (11:4).

Who were they? They were non-Hebrew, most likely poor Egyptians.  No doubt hoping greater opportunities might be found by casting their lot in with the children of Israel, they had accompanied the people out of Egypt. The sinful, carnal spirit of the “mixt multitude” infected the children of Israel who wept asking, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4)

Complainers and grumblers are a cancer among God’s people.

Soon the Hebrews began to “remember the fish…cucumbers, and the melons” they did eat in Egypt (11:5).  They became dissatisfied with God’s provisions (11:4-5) and their lusts romanticized memories of Egypt (11:5).

Moses lamented the complaints of the people (11:10) and was overwhelmed.  Rather than seeing the grumbling of the people as an offense to God, Moses accused the LORD of afflicting him saying, “Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant” (11:11a).

In his despair, Moses’ questioned the LORD:

Why me? What have I done? Am I the mother of Israel? Do you expect me to carry Israel to the Promise Land like a nurse carries an infant? How am I supposed to make these people happy?”

Moses’ final insult is summed up in this statement: “And if thou dealt thus with me, kill me.” (11:15c)

Stirred to anger, God gave the people the meat they demanded (11:31-32) and they gorged themselves, and became sick (11:33).

What was the root of the people’s complaints?  The core spiritual issue was the people had a rebellious heart toward God and “despised the LORD” (11:20).

A grievous, personal accusation was brought against Moses in Numbers 12.

Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, challenged his leadership and authority as the LORD’s spokesman (12:2). The initial charge was personal and against the wife of Moses (12:1); however, the narrative reveals that criticism was not the real issue. Their dispute with Moses arose from envy and jealousy.

I invite you to consider two observations on this matter of criticisms.

The first, when people are unable to find fault or attack your position, they often criticize a deeply personal area of your life.  For Moses it was the race or nationality of his wife.

The second, personal attacks are often a smoke screen concealing deeper issues in your critic’s life. While we should examine ourselves to see if criticisms are valid; we should also remember that initial criticisms are seldom the real issue (Numbers 12:1).

Numbers 13 brings us to the threshold of Canaan, the Promise Land.

The fate of a nation rests in the hands of twelve leaders, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Chosen by Moses, they were charged with the responsibility of spying out the land (13:4-15) the LORD promised Abraham would be an inheritance for Israel (Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14-17).

Moses and the nation waited forty days to receive a report of the land. Upon returning, the twelve confirmed the land was all the LORD had promised saying, “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:23-27). The spies’ report, however, did not conclude on a good note when ten of the twelve reported:

“Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (13:28) along with the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites” (13:29).

Caleb, one of the twelve spies, attempting to quiet the hearts of the people said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).  Ten of the spies, however, urged, “we be not able to go up” (13:31).

What made the difference in the reports?

The report given by Caleb and Joshua was different in two aspects: Focus and Faith.

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Their focus was not on the size of the obstacles and their faith rested in the promises of the LORD (13:27, 30).

Lesson – The LORD never fails to keep His promises.

Jeremiah 17:7 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith