Thoughts About What We’re Reading…


As we read through Numbers, God is preparing His people for the conquest promised in Genesis.  The nation of Israel, descendants of Abraham, are finally ready to enter the Promised Land. But when we get to Chapters 13 and 14, things take a turn for the worse.

Moses sends 12 spies to scout out the land and report back to the elders. The spies’ explore the land for 40 days, covering an estimated 350 to 400 miles.

When the spies return, their report begins on the positive side with the demonstration of the fruitfulness of the Promised Land.

The tenor of the report quickly changes to a negative assessment of the possibility of conquering the heavily fortified cities and the numerous inhabitants, which they claimed included giants.

Demonstrating the trustworthiness of God’s Word that the land was indeed bountiful, the cluster of grapes (13:23) should have encouraged the Israelites to claim God’s promise and enter the Promised Land.

Tragically, however, the people desired to reverse the exodus and go back to Egypt instead (14:1–4). This faithlessness, denying the purpose of the exodus at the very cusp of its fulfillment, brings on the most severe crisis since the golden calf idolatry, as God once more suggests annihilating the whole lot and starting over with Moses (14:12; Ex. 32:10), as he once did with Noah and the world (Genesis 6–9).

Yet, according to the Lord’s steadfast love, Moses’ mediation preserves the promise of the land for the next generation of Israelites (Num. 14:13–20).

The problem was that the people focused on their own strength rather than the power of God. The point of the later victories over the Midianites, Amorites, and Canaanites was to demonstrate God’s strength.

The power of Israel was never in her armies. Victory came at the hands of the Lord of Hosts.

As a result of the rebellion, prompted by the spies’ negative report, God punished the people by making them wait 40 years to enter the land.

This illustrates the fact that sin may be forgiven but its consequences may endure and preclude God’s otherwise intended blessings. It also serves as a reminder to many of us that children often bear the results of their parents’ sins. The innocent suffer because of the actions of their parents.

Returning to our story, there is hope.  Joshua and Caleb both live through the 40 years and go on into the Promised Land.  Unlike the other spies Joshua and Caleb believed God would do what He promised.  Though threatened with death by the people, Joshua and Caleb courageously spoke up and were rewarded.

Their cry of, “don’t be afraid… the Lord is with us”,  (Numbers 14:5-9) reminds me of Romans 8:31, “if God is for us, who is against us?”. Amen.

Until next time, keep reading…

Excerpts and references: ESV Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Bible

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