Meditations in Exodus: 83. Repercussions
Num 14:6-9 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
The people respond with fear and fear is the enemy of faith. “Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.” (v.5) Moses and Aaron don’t try to argue but just fall on their faces in prayer before the whole crowd. It is left to Joshua and Caleb to speak in faith about the land as above. Note their approach. First they tear their clothes, a sign of deep distress, and then they address the people. See what they say.
First, they speak of the land: “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.” (v.7) That is the same truth that the Lord has spoken every time He has mentioned the land.
Second, they speak faith: “If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.” (v.8) God WILL lead us into this good land.
Third, they appeal to the people: “Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them,” (v.9) and in this appeal there is reassurance, we’ve got God on our side, it will be all right!
But their words fall on deaf ears: “But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.” (v.10a) There appears no reasoning with this panicky people. “Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites.” (v.10b) Then the Lord turns up and He speaks to Moses: “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (v.11,12) Now be careful, we’ve had this lesson before; this is the Lord testing Moses, it’s not what He really wants.
Moses responds well. He intercedes with logic and wisdom: “Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, `The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.’” (v.13-16) What a gem Moses is, what brilliant arguing.
Basically he says, “If you do this everyone in the surrounding nations will hear about it and you will be shown to be a failure and that is not true. Then he continues on the basis of the revelation he had received from the Lord: “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: `The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” (v.17-19) i.e. you have said you are loving and forgiving, even though you do punish sin, so please have mercy and forgive this foolish people.
The Lord responds to this argument: “The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times– not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (v.20-23) Judgment tempered with mercy. He will not kill off this people straight away, but He will stop them from entering the Land so every one from the age of accountability (over 20 – see v.29) will die in the desert. The Lord spells it out more fully in the following verses 26-35. It is a depressing scenario. The younger generation are going to have to wait for forty years before they can enter the Land after the entire older generation have died off.
If you read on you see that Israel try to back-pedal and enter the land but they are driven off by the inhabitants. Without the Lord fighting for them, it is a lost cause. Jesus said to his disciples, “apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) Apart from Jesus we are lost and hopeless. Without him we can do nothing, with him we can do all things he puts before us. The Israelites went round in circles for forty years because of their unbelief. I worry sometimes about the unbelief that exists in Christian circles. We are happy to be part of a big church and receive weekly teaching but if it stops there we are living in unbelief.
We are in fact the body of Christ and individually members of it (1 Cor 12:27), so that the supernatural power and revelation of heaven can flow through us to impact the world around us and bring transformation. Anything less than that speaks of unbelief. Are we in fact going round in circles. We speak of non-Christians as being ‘lost’ but the sign of a lost person is that they don’t know where they are or where they are going. Don’t just say, ‘heaven’ if I ask the question, ‘do we know where we are going?’ Do we have a sense of purpose and direction for our lives or are we just filling in time? Are we just pew fodder to bolster the ego of preachers or are we living and active members of the body of Christ, gifted and sent, bringing in the kingdom of God? Let’s not be casual with these questions.