The people had just received the word from the twelve men who had gone to spy out the land God had promised. They decided to listen to the bad report.
This group is around three MILLION people strong. That is counting the women and children. Their “fighting men” number 603,550 men. This number doesn’t even take into account the Levites. This was the number of people God was willing to work through to bring them into His promised land. FOUR men were ready for that act of the Father. The remaining men told God NO!
They didn’t go to Him and say they were afraid and ask Him to help with their fear. They didn’t say, “Let’s wait a while and see what happens.” They didn’t sit down and try and come up with some sort of strategy. Instead they dug their heels in and readied to run away. They were going to select a new leader and have that leader take them back to Egypt to whatever future might await them.
I want to ask them a question regarding their plan. How did they expect to eat on this journey? Where did they expect to find water? Where would they camp? How would they protect themselves against enemies coming at them? And what did they expect would happen when they showed up on Egypt’s doorstep? GOD had fed them. God had given them water where there was none. God had made their camp prosperous and safe. God had given them victory over their enemies. And God had seen to it that their bridges were burned on the way out of Egypt. Did they think GOD would continue to provide for their needs if they returned??? How much FEAR did they have to have to not recognize the CERTAIN DEATH they were willing to choose instead?!?
Aaron was lumped in with Moses in the people’s eyes now. When they wanted to rebel they didn’t come to Aaron this time. This was probably because he was now the high priest of the God they were running away from. Whatever their reasons we see that Aaron also wasn’t approachable on this matter. He threw his hat in with Moses and God. He and Moses bowed before the whole group and pleaded with them to come to their senses.
Joshua and Caleb stood in the face of the people. “What do you think you are doing?! Don’t you get it? GOD can do this with us and for us if we will only trust Him and obey! We saw with our own eyes everything HE promised to GIVE TO US. All we have to do is trust Him and act on His promises! Stop this right now before it is too late!”
For their faith in God the people were ready to execute them. But GOD stepped in. God had shown up several times during this journey in the wilderness. Every time He did it got the people’s attention. It scared them to their very core every time. This one was on exception.
I can see all the people falling on their faces as the very air around them began to vibrate and radiate with His presence. I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually knocked them to the ground. Then God spoke. He had said these words to Moses before in private but now the congregation heard them first hand. “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of ALL the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they” (verse 14). God essentially said, “I’ve had it with these people. They never learn no matter how hard I try. I’m done with them. I’ll wipe them out and begin again with the one man I know I can trust.”
We will look at Moses’ response to the Lord the next time but I am curious about the people’s response. We don’t get to hear that story. In all the “grumbling” accounts something has been missing from our narrative; the people’s apology to the Lord. We have seen the results of the miracles God has given them time and time again but I don’t recall even once the people falling on their faces in repentance for their actions.
I know they agreed to God’s covenant as a group. They even brought sacrifices required by the law but their hearts never really softened. It feels like they only relented when their complaints were answered and waited for the next thing to gripe about. Was this how God saw it too? Did they ever sit down and simply worship Him because of Who He is? Did they even want a personal relationship with Him? They told Moses that they were content to let him speak to them instead of God. How the children of these men would become the nation who was willing to follow Him wherever He led is a mystery to me; but that’s a story for another time.
So what is my “take away” for today? It is to cherish my relationship with my Father, His Son and His Holy Spirit above ALL else. He is NOT a “vending machine” that I can plunk my money into and have whatever I want. Ours is a living, breathing relationship that grows with each time I put my faith in Him. I have to look back at each moment of our walk together and learn from it, INCLUDING learning to honestly repent for my mistakes. He has SO MUCH MORE for me out there that is just waiting for me to put my trust in Him so we can do it together. To me, saying “No” is not an option I want to try out. Not because I’m afraid He will strike me down for doing so but because I want EVERYTHING He has for me. And I KNOW I can trust Him with my life.
Father God, forgive me for pulling back in fear at times as You urge me on. I pray I NEVER fall into Israel’s pit of rebellion. I want to follow You wherever You lead me. But I also want to make sure it is YOU doing the leading and not me running off on my own. I have been known to do that a time or two or more. I want to build on the trust and faith You have already instilled in me through our past so I will be ready when You say “Let’s go”.
I don’t know where You will take me next in life but please help me never forget where we have already been. I draw strength from our journey because no matter how bad I got or how tough the circumstances, YOU were always with me.
FAITH CASTS OUT FEAR.