Numbers 14 Commentary: The people reject the Promised Land – want to return to Egypt.
We have a very low point here. You thought the golden calf experience was bad enough, but here we are again! Some things never change. The people reject the Promised Land on account of fear and instead plan to elect another leader, in place of Moses, for a return trip back to Egypt. We are yet to hear from the LORD.
In the meantime there is real ‘mutiny’ in the camp. Confusion follows confusion. Moses is fast losing grip on the proceedings. The people are thinking of stoning their leaders!
By now we know very well what to expect from the LORD under these circumstances. Moses is ordered to step aside so that the entire community is cleared. A fresh start with Moses was always an option. But Moses intercedes. Moses appeals to the revealed name of the LORD. The nation is saved but only in part.
You would understand why Moses is described as being very humble. Israel had been very rude to both the LORD and His servant Moses. A thought to destroy them and restart with Moses wouldn’t be such a bad idea to many of us – a very much needed break. But this is Moses. Through him the LORD displays His generosity while at the same time maintaining justice. Remember the LORD’S name: both compassionate and gracious yet punishing sin.
Then we have the famous statement: “So tell them; “As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say:” Numbers 14 verse 28. Whenever quoted, this statement rings with positivity and encouragement. It isn’t so in the original context. The LORD had heard the people wish they had died in Egypt or even in the wilderness, instead of dying at the hands of the Canaanites in battle. Such was their doubt and fear. This statement is a history changer in that the LORD granted their wish to die in the wilderness. Consequently, Israel would spend 40 years on a trip that would have lasted under 14 days. The military charge into Canaan is called off and the people must wonder about in the wilderness until everyone counted in the first census dies.
We have more drama before the chapter ends. Israel quickly realizes her sin and attempts to correct the situation, not by repentance, but by going ahead with the mission – yet another sin. What a chapter!
The book reaches its climax here. What we have next are chapters through the rest of the 40 years of less grace, less faith and less generosity as the LORD clears out the dead and bad wood. But there is a generation that is taking over. So the LORD will repeat laws, generosity and care for the sake of the new crop. It is a mixed menu but very instructive. The saint does well to remember that the LORD does carry a big whip with Him each time He visits. As these very pages will tell us later, the LORD doesn’t change!
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