That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to each other, ‘We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’
Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, ‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.”
Numbers 14:1-4, 6-8 (NIV)
In our last post we looked at Numbers 13 and the report brought back by the spies who had been sent out by Moses to spy out the promised land. Ten of the spies saw the difficulties, while only two saw the opportunity. However, the ten spies spread a bad report about the promised land among the people of Israel.
We now come to Numbers 14 and the effect this bad report had on the Israelites. The report given by the ten spies had catestrophic effects on the Israelites. We are told that things were so bad that they ‘wept aloud’, ‘grumbled against Moses and Aaron’, wished themselves dead and wanted to return to Egypt.
In Numbers 14:3 we are told that the Israelites asked two questions:
‘Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?’
Well the answer to the first question is that God hadn’t brought them out of Egypt to die by the sword, he brought them out to bless them. The answer to the second question is that they wouldn’t be better off in Egypt.
Can we really blame the Israelites for listening to the report brought back by the ten spies? It wasn’t listening to the bad report that was the issue, it was the fact that the Israelites then allowed their fears to grow to such an extent that it overwhelmed them. If you look at the account of the crossing of the Red Sea recorded in Exodus 14:13-14 you will notice something spectacular:
Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’
The Israelites very quickly forgot what God had done for them. In fact their negative response to the spies’ bad report showed that they thought that their strength was the issue, when in fact they should have remembered that with God on their side they had no reason to fear.
How do you respond to the difficulties you or others perceive there are in sharing the good news of the gospel? With fear, allowing your concerns to overwhelm you? Or with confidence, knowing that it is God’s battle?
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