Now tell them this: 'As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say. You will all drop dead in this wilderness! Because you complained against Me, every one of you who is twenty years old or older and was included in the registration will die." Numbers 14:28
One thing that children must learn as they grow up and mature is that all of their actions have consequences, whether good or bad. This is why they are punished when they do something wrong or dangerous and why they are rewarded for good behavior. Similarly, in our relationship with God, when we spend time complaining, we will face the consequences. No one understood this better than the Israelites in the Old Testament.
In Numbers 14, God responds to the Israelite's grumbling and complaining. You see, the Israelites had been waiting to enter a land that God had promised them. Then, when the leaders of Israel went to scout out the land, 10 of the 12 leaders said that there was no way they would conquer it. In fear, the Israelites began complaining to God. Finally, God spoke to Moses and said, "How long will these people treat Me with contempt? Will they never believe Me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?" (Numbers 14:11b). He went on to say, "But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord's glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen My glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again, they have tested Me by refusing to listen to My voice" (Numbers 14:21-22). God was not going to keep putting up with their complaining anymore.
In your study of Numbers 14, notice that God emphasized the fact that the Israelites had seen God's presence and the miracles He had performed, but they still did not believe that He would get them into the Promised Land. They focused so much on the giants that needed to be defeated in the Promised Land that they missed the giant miracles that God had performed right in front of them.
Let's take a moment to recap: God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt by performing a series of plagues that caused the Pharaoh, or the king, of Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. Then, when the Pharaoh changed his mind and wanted to capture the Israelites and bring them back to slavery in Egypt, God parted the Red Sea and allowed all of Israel to walk through the sea. He, then, brought the sea back together when the Egyptians were following after them so that the entire Egyptian army died. Then, God started leading them to the Promised Land by a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. He provided food and water for them. Yet, despite personally experiencing these miracles, they did not believe that God could help them defeat the people currently occupying the promised land.
It's at this point in the Israelites' story that I want to immediately judge them for their lack of trust in God. How could they question Him after seeing Him provide miracle after miracle? Then I think about my life. God has performed miracle after miracle in my own life, yet when I face my own giants, I begin to doubt God's care and provision for me. Maybe you, too, can relate. Maybe you sometimes find yourself, at the border of the promised land, doubting God's care and provision. My friend, even amidst any fear you may be facing, take a few moments to look back at how God has taken care of you in the past. If He has proven Himself faithful in the past, you can trust Him in the wilderness.
Take a few moments and remember God's faithfulness to you. With your journal, complete this statement: "I can trust God in the wilderness because…" As you complete this statement, celebrate the ways God has taken care of you all throughout your life and trust that He will continue to take care of you in the future.
Read Numbers 14:26-45 (NLT)
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “How long must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the complaints the Israelites are making against me. Now tell them this: ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say. You will all drop dead in this wilderness! Because you complained against me, every one of you who is twenty years old or older and was included in the registration will die. You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
“‘You said your children would be carried off as plunder. Well, I will bring them safely into the land, and they will enjoy what you have despised. But as for you, you will drop dead in this wilderness. And your children will be like shepherds, wandering in the wilderness for forty years. In this way, they will pay for your faithlessness, until the last of you lies dead in the wilderness.
“‘Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years—a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.’ I, the Lord, have spoken! I will certainly do these things to every member of the community who has conspired against me. They will be destroyed here in this wilderness, and here they will die!”
The ten men Moses had sent to explore the land—the ones who incited rebellion against the Lord with their bad report— were struck dead with a plague before the Lord. Of the twelve who had explored the land, only Joshua and Caleb remained alive.
When Moses reported the Lord’s words to all the Israelites, the people were filled with grief. Then they got up early the next morning and went to the top of the range of hills. “Let’s go,” they said. “We realize that we have sinned, but now we are ready to enter the land the Lord has promised us.”
But Moses said, “Why are you now disobeying the Lord’s orders to return to the wilderness? It won’t work. Do not go up into the land now. You will only be crushed by your enemies because the Lord is not with you. When you face the Amalekites and Canaanites in battle, you will be slaughtered. The Lord will abandon you because you have abandoned the Lord.”
But the people defiantly pushed ahead toward the hill country, even though neither Moses nor the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant left the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in those hills came down and attacked them and chased them back as far as Hormah.
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