Summary: Joshua and Caleb's intervention. Moses' intercession.


Numbers 14:1-25.

Israel had come through so much. The LORD had heard their cry on account of their taskmasters in Egypt (Exodus 3:7), and brought them out with a mighty hand and a stretched out arm (Deuteronomy 26:8), and had parted the Red Sea before them (Exodus 14:21-22). About 70 people had gone down into Egypt with Jacob (Genesis 46:26-27), and now 603,550 men of war (Numbers 1:46) stood on the verge of the promised land. With God on their side, what could possibly go wrong?

The church has come through so much. When we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), Christ died for us (John 12:32), the godly for the ungodly (Romans 5:6), that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The church began with a small number: just eleven loyal disciples heard the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20a). Ten days later, they numbered about 3,120 souls (cf. Acts 1:15 + Acts 2:41). With a promise that we will one day be a great multitude that no man can number (Revelation 7:9), and with God on our side (Matthew 28:20b), how can we fail?

Twelve spies were sent into the promised land, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Numbers 13:2). They fulfilled their commission, and brought one cluster of grapes that was so huge that it took two to carry it between them upon a staff (Numbers 13:23). It was a fruitful land, a land flowing with milk and honey; but ten of the twelve brought ‘an evil report’ (Numbers 13:32), speaking of giants and great walled cities, and of being as grasshoppers before their foes.

Numbers 14:1-4. Fear is the enemy of faith, and in today’s reading the fickle congregation lifted up their voice and wept. First, they murmured against Moses and Aaron, then against the LORD, and even had the audacity to suggest that they should appoint a captain and return into Egypt. How easy it is to forget past mercies!

Numbers 14:5-10. Moses and Aaron prostrated themselves in front of the assembly, awaiting a word from the LORD. The protests of Caleb and Joshua fell upon deaf ears, and the mob even spoke of stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared before the whole congregation.

Numbers 14:11-12. Persistent unbelief flies in the face of all that the LORD has done for us, and is the very height of provocation. This is also true in the New Testament era (John 3:18; John 3:36). Not for the first time, the LORD suggested that He should destroy His chosen people, and make a new nation out of Moses (cf. Exodus 32:10).

Numbers 14:13-19. Not for the first time, Moses argued that to do so would be to bring the LORD’s own name into disrepute (cf. Exodus 32:11-13). Our prayers should always be that God’s name would be glorified. Our prayer for a manifestation of God’s power should be based in God’s word: “according as you have spoken.” Our plea for forgiveness, whether for ourselves or others, should be based in God’s own character (He is long-suffering and merciful, and has forgiven hitherto), and in His covenant promises (cf. Exodus 34:6-7).

Numbers 14:20-23. The intercessor’s prayers do prevail with the LORD (cf. James 5:16), but He is no pushover. The whole earth SHALL be filled with the glory of the LORD: so those who said, “would God we had died in the wilderness” (Numbers 14:2), are now told that they will not be allowed to see the land. Caleb and Joshua were the only ones of the original 603,550 men of war who would enter the land (Numbers 26:65). We must be careful what we say, lest we speak up bad things for ourselves!

Numbers 14:24. Caleb is singled out as having “fully” followed the LORD. The name Caleb means ‘dog’. We know that Gentiles were sometimes referred to as dogs, a fact which Jesus allowed in His conversation with a certain woman of Canaan (Matthew 15:24-28). The name also admits of the possibility of being translated ‘wholehearted’, which fits perfectly here.

Whilst ‘of the tribe of Judah’ (Numbers 13:6), Caleb’s father is identified as a Kenezite (Numbers 32:12). When the LORD promised the land to Abraham, the Kenezites were numbered among the peoples living there (Genesis 15:19-21). They are not mentioned as living there in later lists (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:1), so life was coming full circle for Caleb and his descendants!

Numbers 14:25. As for the rest, the order of the day was, “get you into the wilderness.” Meantime, ironically, “the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.”

Something went wrong with Israel, and a whole generation failed to enter into the promised land (Numbers 14:28-32). These things happened to them for examples, and are written for OUR admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come. We must take heed, lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:11-12), and fail to enter into God’s rest (Hebrews 4:11).

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