Summary: When will Israel learn to trust God? Raising a faithful generation will take more time and more pain. God shows us, Egypt and Canaan are poor places to learn faith.
This week we finished Leviticus and read the first 18 chapters of the book of Numbers.
So, where did you see Jesus in Numbers?
The word “Egypt” occurs in Numbers several times doesn’t it. Four times it occurs reminding Israel that God has brought them out of Egypt. Eight times it occurs when Israel complains to Moses saying, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt?!”
I don’t know about you, but as I read through the book of Numbers I got the strong impression that Israel never actually wanted OUT of Egypt, it appears that they only wanted out of slavery but to stay in Egypt.
What they seem to have wanted is to have Egypt and freedom too.
Did they want a land flowing with milk and honey? Sure! Who wouldn’t! But where do they think this land is? Listen to some of their words to Moses.
Look at 16:1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took action,
2 and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly, men of renown.
3 And they assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You have gone too far, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" These guys want a democracy.
First, notice who is rebelling here and why. These are chosen men from Levi and Reuben, leaders, men of renown among the people of Israel. They are tired of Moses’ leadership and God’s guidance. They are not happy at all! Now listen to what they say about where the land of milk and honey is after Moses summons them.
12 Then Moses sent a summons to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; but they said, "We will not come up.
13 "Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, would you also lord it over us?
14 "Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!"
What do these men think of Moses leadership? What do they think of Egypt? Where is the milk and honey in their minds?
Israel rebels and complains over and over in the wilderness. In our scripture reading today, (Numbers 13:16-14:12) at Kedesh, on the boarders of Canaan they have sent out the 12 spies and have waited 40 days for their return and report. The spies come back and say, this is truly a land flowing with milk and honey… then 10 of them say, “But we can’t go in. We are not strong enough to take on those guys. We look like grass hoppers before them!” Then these 10 spies spread a bad report among the people telling them "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."
This report crushes the confidence of Israel. The people weep all night. They conveniently forget the power of God when they encounter the power of the enemy. They forget how God has delivered them from Egypt. They forget how God has led them and given them food and water for over two years in the wilderness. They forget that God is with them. They look not to God but to themselves for strength and guidance. God has brought them to the edge of victory and they will not take the steps forward to receive it. Why? A bad report spoken to unbelieving hearts! God brought them to the promised land and is prepared to bring them in, but who do they trust? Moses and Aaron are still the leaders and are prepared to lead the people of Israel into a new homeland, but the people do not listen to them. Who do they hear? The unbelieving spies! The majority who bring them a bad report. Instead of listening to God, or even seeking him, they immediately decide to impeach Moses and Aaron and install another leader who will lead them back to Egypt! Two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua desperately try to persuade the people to trust God and take the land. But what do the people do? They decide to stone Caleb and Joshua.