And the Lord said to Moses, "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 14:11
The late children's television host Fred Rogers is one of my heroes. I admire the way that he loved people, especially children, and made every single person feel valued. In a world that seems to be spinning faster than we can keep up with, the way he slowed his speech and locked eyes with people as he spoke with them is to be admired. One truly remarkable thing that he taught children (and adults) is that feelings are mentionable and manageable. He taught that having feelings is normal and important. At the same time, he taught that feelings are manageable. We are always going to have feelings, and feelings are good things, but we have to decide what we will do with our feelings. For example, to have fear is very normal, but we get to decide how we will manage, or respond to, that fear. Will we allow fear to cause us to turn to God, or will we let fear lead to grumbling and complaining?
The people of Israel, except for Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, let their fear lead to grumbling and complaining against God. In our study of the book of Numbers, we have seen the reaction of the leaders of Israel when they went to scout out the land that God had promised them. Ten of the men said that the land was too dangerous to inhabit, but two men, Joshua and Caleb, believed that God would help them face their giants. Today, we are going to look at the response of the people of Israel after they heard about the Promised Land from the leaders.
Numbers 14 tells us that when the people of Israel heard the report from their leaders about the Promised Land, they started complaining. "'If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!"' they complained. 'Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?'" (Numbers 14:2b-3). They were fearful for their lives. They believed that they were going to be killed by the people who were currently occupying the Promised Land. Their fear led straight to grumbling and complaining.
Can you relate to the Israelite's complaints? Maybe you have found yourself complaining lately about the circumstances you are facing. Many times, complaining is just fear in disguise. We complain because we feel fear, and we do not know what to do with our fear, or we feel like we are not supposed to show our fear. Instead of complaining, there is a better way! When we acknowledge that God is bigger than our fear, we can move from complaining to trusting, even when it is hard. My friend, will you trust God today?
As you think about the thing that God may be asking you to do, if you are fearful, take a moment to tell God. Tell Him why you are afraid. Remember that your feelings are mentionable and manageable. Next, ask God to give you boldness and confidence to face your fear.
Read Numbers 14:6-25 (NLT)
Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”
But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle. And the Lord said to Moses, “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? I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”
But Moses objected. “What will the Egyptians think when they hear about it?” he asked the Lord. “They know full well the power you displayed in rescuing your people from Egypt. Now if you destroy them, the Egyptians will send a report to the inhabitants of this land, who have already heard that you live among your people. They know, Lord, that you have appeared to your people face to face and that your pillar of cloud hovers over them. They know that you go before them in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Now if you slaughter all these people with a single blow, the nations that have heard of your fame will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring them into the land he swore to give them, so he killed them in the wilderness.’
“Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’ In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.”
Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. 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. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it. But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land. Now turn around, and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.”
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