The Fearful and the Faithless (Numbers 14-15)

The Fearful and the Faithless (Numbers 14-15)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 14-15

The children of Israel were discouraged, and afraid after hearing the “evil report” of the ten spies. They had reported the land of Canaan was all God promised it would be, but was also “a land that eateth up the inhabitants…33And there we saw the giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:32-33).

What happens when believers turn back from the challenge of stepping out in faith, and trusting God?

The tragic answer to that question is found in Numbers 14. The congregation of Israel, after rejecting Caleb’s desperate call for faith (13:30), returned to their tents and “lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night” (14:1).

Fear turned to rebellion, and “the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (14:2). Their murmuring against the LORD and His leader, soon turned to an accusation that God had meant them evil, and brought Israel out of Egypt only to allow them to “fall by the sword,” and that their wives and children “should be a prey” (14:3).

Fear and murmuring suddenly turned to a plan of insurrection, and the people determined to choose a leader, and “return into Egypt” (14:4). Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in an act of humiliation (14:5), and Joshua and Caleb, the spies who had faith to trust God, “rent their clothes” (14:6). Joshua and Caleb pleaded saying, “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for …the Lord is with us: fear them not” (14:7-9).

The people had intended to stone Joshua and Caleb, but the “glory of the LORD appeared in the Tabernacle” (14:10). He would have afflicted the people in His wrath, and disinherit them as His people (14:11-12). Moses reasoned, and pleaded with the LORD to not give Israel’s enemies cause to say He had had slain them because He was not able to bring them into the Promised Land (14:13-16).

Moses appealed to the LORD, and reviewing His attributes, said, “18The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (14:18). On the basis of His divine character, Moses prayed to the LORD, “19Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (14:19).

The LORD heard, and heeded Moses’ prayer, but God is also just, and would not allow Israel’s rebellion and faithlessness to go unpunished (14:20-23). The faithless spies were slain for the “evil report” they had brought against the LORD (14:22-23, 36-37). God determined the whole congregation would be turned away from Canaan, and the people would “be wasted in the wilderness” (14:23, 25, 32-34). All of Israel, twenty years and older (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua), would die in the wilderness because they had murmured against the LORD (14:24-32, 38).

Moses then announced God’s judgment, “and the people mourned greatly” (14:39). With remorse, the people rose early the next day and were determined to go up, and to cross over into the Promised Land (14:40). Moses warned they would “not prosper…for the LORD is not among you” (14:41-42).

Without the LORD presence, power, and protection, Israel’s presumption was doomed, and many of Israel were slain (14:44-45).

Numbers 15 – The Difference in God’s Judgment for Sins Committed Out of Ignorance, and Deliberate Sins

Numbers 15 marks the beginning of Israel’s tragic forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 15-21). The sacrifices were instituted as not only Israel’s obligation, but also that of the “strangers” that journeyed with Israel.  The “strangers,” people not of the lineage of Abraham, were to do as Israel, for there was “one law and one manner” (15:15-16).

There were sacrifices for sins “committed by [out of] ignorance” (15:24-29), meaning unknowingly. There was the question of willful, or presumptuous sins. The punishment for those sins was “that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (15:30-31).

Soon after that law was instituted, a man willfully broke the law, and gathered sticks on the Sabbath (15:32-33) for his own purposes and as an act of public rebellion. Given the seriousness of his actions, the man was taken “in ward” (custody), and Moses and Aaron sought the mind of the LORD. The LORD directed that all the congregation would put the sinner out of the camp, and stone him (15:34-36).

To serve as a lasting reminder, the LORD decreed the children of Israel were to wear about the fringes of their garments a blue ribbon, bearing tassels. The tassels were to serve as a visual reminder to “remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and…40That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. 41I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God” (15:39-41).

Believer, choose to be faithful, trusting, and obedient to the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith