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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 that 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).

Numbers 14 gives a practical insight into the question:

What happens when believers turn back from 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 turned into a plan of insurrection.

Finally, 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). Joshua and Caleb, the spies who had faith to trust God, “rent their clothes” (14:6) and pleaded with the people 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).

Then, the people rose to stone Joshua and Caleb, but the “glory of the LORD appeared in the Tabernacle” (14:10). He then threatened to afflict the people in His wrath and disinherit them (14:11-12). Moses, however, pleaded with the LORD not to give Israel’s enemies cause to say He had slain them because He could not bring them into the Promised Land (14:13-16). He appealed to the LORD and recalled His attributes, and said, “The 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). Based on His divine character, Moses prayed, “Pardon, 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.

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

Moses announced God’s judgment, “and the people mourned greatly” (14:39). With remorse, they rose early the next day and determined to go up and cross over into the Promised Land (14:40). Moses, however, warned they would “not prosper…for the LORD is not among you” (14:41-42). Israel’s presumption was doomed without the LORD’s presence, power, and protection; thus, many of Israel were slain (14:44-45).

Numbers 15

God’s Judgments for Sins Committed Out of Ignorance, and Deliberate Sins

Numbers 15 marked the beginning of Israel’s tragic forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 15-21). The sacrifices instituted were 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 also 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) 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 then directed that all the congregation would put the sinner out of the camp and stone him (15:34-36).

Closing thoughts:

Serving as a lasting reminder, the LORD decreed that the children of Israel were to wear a blue ribbon about the fringes of their garments, bearing tassels. The tassels were 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, be faithful, trusting, and obedient to the LORD!

Questions to consider:

1) What did the people accuse the LORD of doing? (Numbers 14:3)

2) What was Moses and Aaron’s response to the murmuring of the people? (Numbers 14:5)

3) What were the names of the two faithful spies? (Numbers 14:6)

4) What attributes did Moses ascribe to the LORD when He prayed for Him to pardon Israel? (Numbers 14:18-19)

5) What judgment did Israel suffer because the people did not trust the LORD? (Numbers 14:29-30)

6) What was the purpose of the blue ribbon and tassels on the people’s garments? (Numbers 15:38-40)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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