HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, August 8, 2021
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, August 8, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Rejecting God’s Plan”
Text – Numbers 13-14
After 16 months of trekking through the wilderness since escaping Egypt, God tells Moses, “It’s time!” The people are now ready to begin moving into the promised land. There is just one thing left to do—to take a survey of the land. And what a land they find! Just as God promised, it is a land ‘flowing with milk and honey!’ Unfortunately, it is also at this point that we find the Israelites rejecting God’s plan and God’s pronouncement, “No one 20 years of age or older, aside from Joshua and Caleb, will ever set foot in the promised land ever again, but will instead die in the wilderness.” Today, we’re going to find out what went wrong.
From the day that Moses showed up back in Egypt to this point in the story, God had been doing the impossible for the Hebrews. How had the people seen God work on their behalf?
· God had devastated the Egyptians with the plagues and freed the people from their slavery.
· He had then parted the Red Sea to provide an escape for the fleeing people and had used these same waters to destroy the entire Egyptian army.
· God had led them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
· He had provided water for their entire journey, including causing water to pour from a rock and sweetening the waters of Mara.
· He daily provided them with manna—the “What is it?” food from heaven.
· Their clothes and shoes never wore out.
· He had given His laws and instructions for building the Tabernacle so that they would have God living in their midst and would know His expectations.
· And now He was making good on His promise to give them the promised land…
Numbers 13:1-3, 23-27 – “The Lord now said to Moses, 2 ‘Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.’ 3 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He sent out twelve men, all tribal leaders of Israel, from their camp in the wilderness of Paran…
23 When they came to the valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole between them! They also brought back samples of the pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the valley of Eshcol (which means ‘cluster’), because of the cluster of grapes the Israelite men cut there.
25 After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned 26 to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. 27 This was their report to Moses: ‘We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces.’
Moses has chosen twelve men, one to represent each of the tribes, to go and spy out the land for forty days. The twelve came back thoroughly impressed with the land. Can you imagine how large this grape cluster is? Heavy enough to require two men to carry it. That’s huge! But while two of the spies are ready to lead everyone in straightaway, the other ten have come away certain that it can’t be done. Yes, the land is amazing. But there’s a big problem standing in their way…giants!
So, how do the people respond?
Numbers 14:1-10 - “Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. ‘If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!’ they complained. 3 ‘Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?’ 4 Then they plotted among themselves, ‘Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!’
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. 6 Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. 7 They said to all the people of Israel, ‘The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! 8 And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!’
10 But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle.”
When the community heard the disheartening report of the ten, they panicked. Their fear made them distrust everyone they should have trusted—Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. But what is most telling is their utter distrust of God. They had experienced God’s miraculous intervention on their behalf so many times in their recent history—providing rescue, water, food and His direct guidance over and over. But they appeared incapable of transferring their previous experience of God to their current situation. Instead of remembering, they doubted God’s ability and willingness to fulfill His promises.
They decide that the only solution is to choose a new leader and return to Egypt. Moses and Aaron beg them to reconsider. Caleb and Joshua plead with them not to rebel against God; if they will only obey God, nothing will stand in their way. But they have no interest in listening to an opposing opinion. They have made up their mind. Rather than being swayed by Joshua and Caleb’s report, they begin talking of stoning them. No alternative opinions allowed here!
It’s at this point that God intervenes. He has seen enough and He has made a decision…
GOD CHANGES HIS PLAN
Numbers 14:11-25 - “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? 12 I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!’
13 But Moses objected. ‘What will the Egyptians think when they hear about it?’ he asked the Lord. ‘They know full well the power you displayed in rescuing your people from Egypt. 14 Now if you destroy them, the Egyptians will send a report to the inhabitants of this land, who have already heard that you live among your people. They know, Lord, that you have appeared to your people face to face and that your pillar of cloud hovers over them. They know that you go before them in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if you slaughter all these people with a single blow, the nations that have heard of your fame will say, 16 “The Lord was not able to bring them into the land he swore to give them, so he killed them in the wilderness.”’
17 ‘Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, 18 “The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.” 19 In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people, just as you have forgiven them ever since they left Egypt.’
20 Then the Lord said, ‘I will pardon them as you have requested. 21 But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, 22 not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. 23 They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land. 25 Now turn around, and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea.’”
What was the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camels back?’ “They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice.” They had seen God, but refused to obey or trust Him. God is extraordinarily patient, but He knows irrational, determined disobedience; the people would forever refuse to allow their hearts to become soft toward Him. No matter how much He worked on their behalf, they had proven that they would never be faithful. And so it was time to change course.
He first tells Moses that He will destroy the group with a plague—wiping the slate clean—and that He would make Moses into a great nation. But Moses protests. “What will the nations say? God’s reputation would be maligned!”
So, God settles on a new plan. He is determined to start fresh and so decrees that everyone twenty years of age and older will die in the wilderness. They will wander in the wilderness for forty years until all that remains is the younger generation—aside from Joshua and Caleb, the oldest Israelites entering into the promised land will be 59 years of age.
The chapter ends with God killing the ten spies with a plague and the people’s immediate refusal to head back out to the wilderness. They don’t learn! Determined to change God’s mind, a group attack the Amalekites and Canaanites living in the hill country, but because God doesn’t help them, they are beaten back. And so begins their extended sojourn in the desert…a full forty years.
One final thought…
As a member of the human race, it can be terribly frustrating to watch people make unnecessary mistakes—imagine the complete helplessness of Caleb, Joshua, Moses and Aaron as they tried to talk sense to the frightened people. No amount of encouragement—that God would help them take the land—was able to convince the others. The panicked people refused to listen to the truth and even threatened to silence the voices of encouragement, by stoning Caleb and Joshua and choosing a new leader to take them back to Egypt. They did not want to hear any opinion that dissented from their own; they refused to consider that they in fact might actually be the ones in the wrong. As a result, they all suffered the consequences—God refused to allow them to enter the promised land; they would all die in the wilderness.
When faced with God’s seemingly harsh judgement for human disobedience, we sometimes ask why God doesn’t just make people do what they ought to do. God has given us many reasons to want a relationship with Him, but He will not, in fact cannot, force us to love or trust Him. His very attempt to do so would require Him to remove His gift of freewill. Like any good parent, He has imposed limitations on His ability to control and manipulate those created in His image. If He forced members of the human race to love Him, it would no longer be love. If He forced us to obey, there would be no freewill. If He forced us to trust Him, He would remove all possibility of genuine relationship.
At other times, we wrongly wish that God would simply turn a blind eye…after all wasn’t it a little harsh of God to have refused all but Caleb and Joshua entry into the promised land? While God is more than willing to forgive sin, He will never enable it. God has promised to defend the widows, the orphans and the mistreated, but if He never provided consequences to those who oppress others, He would be rightly accused a liar. If God would just wipe our slates clean, without our need for repentance and obedience, He would in essence void the necessity of Jesus’ redemptive work on our behalf. By God accepting a standard that is anything less than perfectly just, He would in fact do injury to His very nature—He does not only act with justice, but He embodies justice, so for Him to act in an unjust way would be like God accepting sin as good…which He can never do!
Just like the Israelites, God will lead us in life, will provide for us, will give us every reason to love Him, to trust Him and to want a relationship with Him; but it is still up to us to choose to reciprocate the love He gives and to live in obedience and trust to Him. And we must always remember that our choices impact ourselves, others and our relationship with God!
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!