Themes in Numbers (03): Strike Ten
In the Wilderness: Themes from Numbers (03) - Strike Ten
Numbers 13:30–33 - Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” 32 So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. 33 “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight. . . . 14:22 “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, 23 shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.”
The book of Numbers is the journey of Israel from Sinai to edge of the Promised Land (Canaan). It shows the failings of a generation of people (1Cor. 10). Despite God’s power-working presence, they would not fully trust and obey the Lord. Chapter 13-14 is the episode of their failure to enter the Land due to their fear and disbelief. This defiance resulted in the lost generation. They had tested the Lord ten times (e.g.): 1) Grumbling at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:11-12), 2) grumbling at Marah for water (Ex. 15:23-26), 3) grumbling for flesh and bread (Ex. 16:1-18), 4) not listening by leaving the manna until morning (Ex. 16:19-22), 5) gathering manna on Sabbath (Ex. 16:27-30), 6) grumbling for water at Rephidim (Ex. 17:1-7), 7) making the golden calf and returning to idolatry (Ex. 32), 8) grumbling at Taberah (Num. 11:1-3), 9) grumbling for meat instead of manna (Num. 11:4-34), 10) by believing the evil report of the spies and failing to trust the Lord to possess the Land (Num. 13:26-14:10).
Lessons in Lent
Complaining forms character. At least six of the major disobediences involve grumbling and complaining. These actions created malformed character of cowards by unbelief.
Sin has a “legal-limit.” Sinfulness is quantitative just as it is qualitative (Num. 14:22).
Judgments flow from unbelief. Judgment was according to their unbelief (e.g., The would die, but their children would live; the term limit of the wilderness was related to the time the spies were in the land).
Fear and presumption manifest unbelief. They feared the giants out of unbelief and they presumed (after repentance 14:39-40) to take them on in presumption but acting in disobedience. Avoiding fear and presumption require faithful obedience to the Word of the Lord.
Forgiveness does not always prevent the consequences of sin. God forgave them such that they were not completely destroyed then (14:20), but still they died in the wilderness over the generation.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more