What an absolute tragedy this is! The nation of Israel made it to the brink of the Promised Land, but this generation wouldn’t make it in, due to their foolish lack of faith. Their words were self-fulfilling, self-condemning:
Numbers 14:2–3 (NKJV) “And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’”
The people began a movement to have Moses impeached, the plan was then to return to Egypt. Imagine that!
Moses and Aaron fell on their faces to pray (a great place for servant-leaders).
Joshua and Caleb tore their clothing, pleading with the people to believe – that just as the LORD had brought them out of the bad-land, He could easily bring them into the good-land; God would protect them, there was no need to fear.
But the congregation was poisoned by doubt, filled and flooded with fear, they only spoke of stoning the believers.
At that point, God makes His presence visible and speaks to Moses along the lines of wiping out Israel, of starting a new nation through him. I wonder how many men would have bought into the glory of such a thought – we could call them the “Mosaics.”
But Moses was not interested in himself, he was only interested in the glory of God. And here Moses teaches us how to pray, to plead, to intercede, reasoning with God for the glory of God. What would the nations think of the LORD if He wiped them all out and started over? They might mistakenly think that God may have been bigger than the gods of Egypt, but not the gods of Canaan.
Moses prayed and pleaded for the glory of God – he also prayed for the grace of God. He remembered how the Lord had revealed Himself as a God who was willing to pardon the people – Moses prayed for that pardon. (Exodus 34:5-7)
We read God’s response in:
Numbers 14:20 (NKJV) “Then the LORD said: ‘I have pardoned, according to your word.’”
God would forgive them, but there would be consequences:
Numbers 14:29 (NKJV) “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.”
At one time these soldiers must have been proud to have been numbered, but now it was their death sentence. The children that they were worried about would make it in, along with Joshua and Caleb, but not those who were Numbered, they were sentenced a year in the wilderness for every day they had spied out the land – it would be a total of forty years of wandering!
What an absolute tragedy this is!
May we lean from their mistakes…
Paul the Apostle warned us “New Testament people” about this. Allow me to quote a long but applicable passage, that we should read carefully:
1 Corinthians 10:1–5 (NKJV) “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.”
Paul simply says, that if it happened to most of them in that congregation, it can happen to us; we need to take heed (1 Corinthians 10:12).
The writer to the Hebrews says something similar in his letter. He highlights the fact that the Jews did not enter-in due to unbelief – may it not happen to anyone reading these words. There’s much to say on this, but let me generalize by encouraging whoever you are to believe – no matter what. No matter how big those trials are, those giants are, those mountains are! Don’t crumble, cower, or complain about how big your mountains are – you go to those mountains and tell them how big your God is! Our faith will be tested – we must never lose heart.
After Moses communicated God’s sentence, the people changed their minds – they tried to go in on their own strength, but it was too late, they were doomed to defeat. Again, we learn from the writer to the Hebrews:
Hebrews 3:15 (NKJV) “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
To get the complete context you can also visit Psalm 95:7-11. We must believe and receive today – tomorrow may be too late.
The next chapter, Numbers 15, begins with a word of encouragement for the nation of Israel – “When you have come into the land..” Not “if,” but “when.” It WOULD happen, just not now.
Warren Wiersbe, “God gave the people a word of assurance when He said, “When you have come into the land.” In spite of the nation’s sins, the new generation would make it to Canaan and possess the land. (See 2 Timothy 2:11–13.) When they did, they were expected to take time to thank God and worship Him.”
In this section we have two narratives side-by-side, Peter’s denial, and Jesus’ trial.
I don’t want to read too much into it, but we’ve heard it said many times (and I do believe it is significant) that “Peter followed at a distance.” Would it have been different if he followed closely? And then we read that Peter “…sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.” Whose servants did he sit with? Would it have been different if he gathered with those who served Jesus? (Psalm 1:1).
The “camera” shifts to Christ. We discover that the chief priests and the council (Sanhedrin) are looking for testimony to put Jesus to death. They’re not interested in the truth, or justice, they just want Jesus dead. But Jesus was blameless, and innocent, He was also silent, until the High Priest poses a direct question about whether or not He was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed. Jesus simply reveals the truth:
Mark 14:62 (NKJV) “Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
The High Priest broke the law in tearing his clothes (Leviticus 21:10) and proceeded to lead the way to the condemnation of their Christ. They spit on Him, blindfolded Him, beat Him, and struck Him…the abuse was just beginning. How was Jesus able to carry on? Warren Wiersbe said, “Jesus could submit to the abuse of men because He had already submitted to the will of God.”
The camera pans back to Peter, who no doubt gets word of what’s happening to Jesus and they begin to interrogate him, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth…” “This is one of them…” “Surely, you are one of them…” – Peter three times denies, no, no, no, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And then the rooster crows – giving us an indication of the time it was (they had been up all night).
Life and death situations can only be determined in real time, never in theory. Peter’s instinct for life gets stronger when the devil himself is added to the moment, who was working hard to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31). He failed, he fell, but it wasn’t over. Jesus wasn’t done with Peter, He still had plans for him, big plans. Jesus knew this would happen from the very beginning, but He loved Peter, and that love would restore Him to be a leader in the church. Pastor Chuck said something so true, “Jesus sees us as we really are and loves us anyway. We see ourselves as we wish we were and we constantly disappoint ourselves.”
The context or backdrop to this Psalm is the ultimate defeat of those who persecute God’s people, and the rescue of God’s redeemed; but we learn other truths along the way.
This Psalm is almost identical to Psalm 14, some might ask why? I always like to say, “It’s repeated so we won’t be defeated,” God repeats things for emphasis.
Only a fool would say there is no God.
Most people would never articulate that with their lips (claiming to be an atheist) but many articulate that with their lives because that’s what they say in their hearts, “There is no God.” There is no God I’m accountable to, there is no God who sees me or hears me, there is no God who’s with me. The majority of the world is not necessarily positional atheists, they’re more of what we would call “practical atheists.”
Apart from God, there is none (not one) who does good. Paul the Apostle refers to this truth in Romans 3:10, 12 while teaching us that we’re all guilty before God. When we admit that guilt, when we plead guilty before Jesus, and turn to Him by faith, we’re covered with His righteousness and made perfectly innocent – forever.
Proverbs 11:4 (NKJV) “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
It’s interesting how this brief but blunt Proverb in the Old Testament packs such an eternal and theological punch. While all the world is in the pursuit of money and happiness – we should have as our priority righteousness and holiness.
The “day of wrath” is the day of doom for those who don’t know the Lord, those who refuse to place their faith in Jesus. All the wealth in the world won’t help anyone in any way. (Mark 8:36)
On that day, when we stand before God, the only issue of importance will be whether or not we stand in the righteousness of Christ – something we receive when we repent and place our faith in Jesus, who died for us on that cross, in payment for our sins, but then rose again, opening those doors to life in heaven – forever.
Have you placed your faith in Jesus? If not, I pray you would open your heart to His love, even now.
Romans 3:21–22 (NKJV) “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference.”
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.