About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 14

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The People Rebel. (ch. 14:1 - 45)   


In verses 1 through 5 we see Israel complaining yet another time.   Every time a new difficult situation arises they complain and want to return to Egypt.  They soon forget that they were slaves in Egypt.   That is the tendency with human nature.  When things look difficult, we ten to look backwards and want to return to some previous place in our lives which might not be any better than our present.  The present trouble always is overblown and makes the past trouble look attractive.  If we could actually return to the past, we would still be complaining.


When Israel complains here, and elsewhere, they are telling God that they are not happy with Him and how He is treating them.  As we saw in chapter 11, God interprets this complaining as rejection of Him.  They know longer want to trust their lives with their God.  I don't believe that God has changed.  When Christians complain today, it is a demonstration that we are not happy with the place in which God has put us in.  Our complaining is actually a matter of not trusting God and where He has placed us.  In one real sense of the word, complaining is rejecting God Himself.          


In verse 4 Israel goes as far to think about finding a new leader that can lead them back to Egypt.  Again, this still takes place in Christian circles today.  Many Christians can't take what Jesus requires of them and want to return to their old life or a different new life, so they investigate other religions and other ways of thinking.


We see in verse 5 through 10 Aaron and Moses' response.  They both fall on their faces before the people.  I see this as a gesture of sorrow and pleading to the people to not turn back.   Both Caleb and Joshua rip their clothes, which is always seen as a gesture of disgust in Jewish culture.  We thus have four men pleading with Israel to move on in the will of God.  God has clearly shown them His will.  He wants them to move into the land.  Yes, there are obstacles to overcome, but as Joshua states, the Lord will be with them.  If the Lord states His will, and if we walk in His will, then He will be with us.  It's as simple as that.  The difficulty is that His is not always easy.  We want the easy way out so we stop doing God's will. God's will in this case seemed hard.  Israel thought that they could not defeat the people in the land of Canaan , even though God told them that He would fight with them and for them.  Again, this is a pure lack of trust on the part of Israel in their God.  Such a lack of trust is actually rejecting God.


In verses 10 through 12 we see God's response to Israel.  He is very unhappy and says that He will strike them down.  It is clear that Israel had two choices.  Either to fight and enter the land, which they though would be so dangerous that they'd be struck down in the process by their enemies.  The other choice is to not enter the land and be struck down by God.  In their eyes, both choices ended up in the same place, even though if they entered the land and did as they were supposed to do, they would not be struck down. The simple fact is that by not doing God's will they ended up being struck down anyway.


Notice the pronoun "them" and "you" in verse  12.  God would strike "them" down.  "Them" refers to Israel .  But, He would make "you", meaning Moses, into a great nation.  We've seen this before. God would judge and strike down Israel .  He would temporarily destroy them, but he would still find a way to make them into a great nation.  He does this because He promised this to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant.


The same happens in the church today.  When the church, or a part of the church, fails to do God's will, he will strike them down, and they will shrivel to nothing.  That being said, in the end, God will still have a church, and a church that pleases Him.  This is a church that is willing to go through the trials, go through the apparent hard times with the help of the Lord.          


In verses 13 through 16 Moses intercedes again on the behalf of Israel.  He has mentioned this to the Lord before, but he does again.  He reminds God that He brought Israel out of Egypt in miraculous fashion, and all the surrounding nations saw it.  Now, if he kills Israel , these nations will think that the Lord was able to deliver them from Egypt but He is not able to take them into the land He promises them.  He would look very bad in the eyes of the surrounding nations.  He would appear to be not a strong as He says He is, and He is a God that does not keep His promises.  We see here that Moses is concerned about how God is perceived among the nations of the world.  I know he is concerned about Israel , but his concern goes beyond Israel.  We too should be concerned about how God is perceived to the world today.  If we were so concerned, I'm sure we would act and conduct ourselves differently.  As Christians, the way we act will reflect on God Himself.  The way we act tells the world something about our God, whether good or bad. 


Notice verse 15.  Moses says if you kill these people "all at one time…"   He is almost suggesting that if you are going to kill them, do it little by little so it does not look so obvious, and in that way the nations of the world will not think you are killing them and they won't think evil of you.  This is a very humanistic way of thinking, but we still think like this today.


Moses closes his intercession by reminding the Lord of His own words, that He is loving, compassionate, slow to anger, but not letting the guilty go unpunished.  He then pleads that God will forgive, that is, cancel or delete their sin from His books. 


I've said this many times before, but as we see how Moses intercedes on behalf of God's people, I pray the spirit of intercession would come on church leaders today, because, the church at large is not much different than Israel of old.


The Lord responds in verse 20 with great quickness.  He did not delay for a second.  He said that He had forgiven them.  He had cancelled the sin from His books, and merely on the request of Israel.  In one sense of the word, Moses repented on behalf of Israel.


God did forgive Israel , but as we see in verses 21 to 23, none of those whom He forgave would ever see the promised land of Canaan.  This is what is meant when God has told Moses that sin will not go unpunished.  God forgave, but He still punished, and this punishment was restricting the forgiven people from inheriting God's promise. 


So this tells us something about God, forgiveness, and punishment.  I don't believe that God has changed today.  The writer of the book of Hebrews says that God rebukes and punishes His sons. (Hebrews 12:5)   In New Testament terms this might well mean that there are many, if not the majority of Christians, who live as forgiven people, but will not enter into God's promised Kingdom right now in its fullest because of sin.  The forgiveness of sins may get us into heaven, but  if we continue to sin, we will be prohibited from entering God's present kingdom.


Notice the terms "as surely as I live" in verse 21.  God is not saying that at some point He will die.  We know God lives forever, therefore this decree will never be revoked. 


Notice the people who will not enter the promised land.  They are those who have experienced first hand the powerful and miraculous wonders of God in their deliverance from Egypt.  This reminds me of a couple of hard to understand verses in Hebrews 6:4 through 7.  The writer says that those who have experienced the power of God, as these Israelis did; if they fall away, it is impossible for them to find repentance again.  I'm not sure, but I wonder if you can make a connection between these Hebrew verses and this chapter in Numbers.  In both cases, it may be possible that the people were forgiven, but since they experienced God's power and fell away, they will never come back.


In verse 24 we note that God thinks well of Caleb.  God says that "he has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly."  Caleb knew God's promise for the land.  He believed God with all of His heart, and for that reason, he would enter the promised land.  It is through trusting everything with God that causes us to receive what God has promised.  This is true trust.  It's not hyper faith.  It's not positive thinking.  It's not working emotions up and confusing that with faith.  This is actually handing your life and every situation over to God, and if He has promised something, He will come through.  If He has not promised something, it does not matter how much so-called faith you have.  Faith is built on the real and knowing promises of God, and we cannot presume upon Him.  We cannot imagine He has promised something when He hasn't.


In verse 25 we note that God is now changing the direction in which Israel should head towards the land of Canaan.  In trusting one's life to God, we then must follow exactly as He requests, and, He may changed directions for us to take.  If we don't follow His directions and any changes, we don't really trust Him.


In verse 26 through 31 God declares that anyone over the age of twenty and who has complained will die in the desert.  They will not enter the land of Canaan.  The interesting point to be made here is the reason for them not entering the land.  It was because they complained, and as I've stated earlier, God views complaining as rejection of Him. 


You might take note of the age of twenty years of age.  Complainers under this age were not held accountable.  Age may be a factor in how God judges people.


Part of Israel's complaining was that they might as well have stayed in Egypt than die in the wilderness.  This bad confession God used against them in judging them.  He said that He will do to them what they said would happen, and that was, they would die in the desert.  So, God had them die in the desert.  God will use our own words against us in judgment. We should be careful how we complain.  Of course we shouldn't complain in the first place


Notice in verse 30 that God reminds Israel that He swore with upraised hands that Israel would be given the promised land, and that would not change.  That being said, it would not be given to this particular generation of Israelis.   It think the church can learn a lesson here.  I think that in many generations past, the church has lost it's place in the Kingdom of God because of complaining and other reasons.  We often wonder why God doesn't use the church as He did in the first century.  I think the reason is simple,. We are too much like Israel , and God treats us the same way as He treated Israel.  We won't enter the spirit land of Canaan as a result.


In verses 31 through 33 God says that the children will inherit the land, the ones Israel said would die along with them.  God always looks to the next generation if the present generation fails to trust and obey Him.  He did it back then and He still does it today, both with national Israel and the church.


Note in verse 33 that the children of the complaining parents will suffer along with  the parents.  Yet, in the end they will be blessed.  Once all the complaining parents die in the desert, they will go into the land and be blessed.  This too works in New Testament times.  The next generation of Christians can suffer from the last generation's sins.  The carry-over of the church from one generation to the next last a long time, but will sooner or later fade away and the next generation will be given the chance to do God's will as they should.


In verse 34 God pronounces a forty year wandering in the desert for Israel.  Many Christians seem to think that Israel just wandered around the desert aimlessly, but that is not exactly true.  God kept them in the desert for a specific period of time and for a specific reason.  God says here that Israel would stay in the desert for forty years because their scouts scouted the land of Canaan for forty days and then decided not to obey God and not to enter the land.  A year for every day the scouts were in the land was God's punishment.


Verse 34 speaks to the issue that God's people can suffer for their sins and know what it is like to have their own God against them.  This is very serious stuff.  We're talking about God's people here, the ones He loves.  Of course, God's judgment is based on His love.  He gets angry with His people because they reject Him, the one who loves them.   God can be against His own people.  We should realize this and act accordingly.  This is a serious matter, a matter that most Christians take lightly, if they've ever thought about this in the first place.


In verse 35 God closes His condemnation and sentencing of Israel.  He said that He will do what He says He will do.  God can do nothing else. Whether it is a blessing or a curse, God will do exactly as He states, and nothing less.  May this be a warning to us all.


We see in verses 36 through 38 that ten out of the twelve men who scouted out the land of Canaan died of a plague, and the text says, they died "before the Lord."   All things happen before the Lord.  He sees all things, but in this sense the text seems to imply that the plague came from the Lord.  God can send plagues and disease.  That being said, not all plagues and disease comes from God.  Some comes from our own bad choices. Some are just due to the fallen nature of creation.  Others might actually come from the devil.


In verse 39 and 40 we see that Israel is full of sorrow because of the pronouncement God has made against them.  Are they repenting or are they just sorrowful?  We've seen this all before.  God tells Israel to do something.  They don't do it.  They rebel.  God judges them and punishes them.  They get sorrowful and seem to be sorry.  They get forgiven, and then they go off and rebel again.


In verse 40 they decide to go and try to take the land of Canaan.   It's too late at this point.  God has already pronounced judgment.  They would not go into Canaan when they were told to.  God now says that they will not go into the land, and so now they want to try.  It just does not work that way.  Again, we can see how this could apply today.  Certain parts of the church have rejected the Jesus of the Bible.  God  can and does bring revival to individuals in these churches, but once pronouncing judgment on these churches they will not be used by Him.  Some people who have experienced revival try to revive a church that God has already judged.  That does not work.  I've seen that in action. The only thing a revived one can do at that point, is leave that church.  In New Testament terms, such a church isn't really a church.


In verse 41 Moses responds to their thinking about entering Canaan by saying that is in direct disobedience to God's command.  Israel was told to enter Canaan.  They didn't.  God then said, "don't enter," and after being told not to enter, they wanted to enter.  How strange, but how human.  In both cases Israel is disobeying God.  They disobey by not entering the land, and the disobey by wanting to enter the land.  It's all a matter of obeying God in the time frame He has set forth, not our own time frame.


In verses 42 and 43 Moses tells Israel not to go up and try to enter CanaanIf they do, they will fall by the sword and be defeated because the Lord is not with them.  How true for us today.  Unless the Lord is with us in our attempts to do His will, there is no use attempting what we want to do.  It's as simple as that.


In verse 44 and 45 some men went up to Canaan anyway and lost the battle.  There's a real lesson for the church to learn here.  We should live and move in the will of God. Nothing else is acceptable.

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