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.”
Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.
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.
Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites.
The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?
I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”
I’ve read this scripture numerous times. Not just this specific one, but many like it in the old testament. The Israelites were saved and delivered by God’s miraculous and mighty hand. And throughout their journey in the desert, they grumbled. They complained. They were difficult, and in words my 4 year old would use, “naughty and not listening.”
As a young girl reading these passages, I could not fathom WHY the Israelites were so untrusting of the Lord. Hadn’t he, in their lifetime, delivered them from slavery? Parted the sea to send them to safety? Sent food down from heaven? Led them, VISIBLY?
But as an adult, I understand. The reality of the world and resulting hardness has affected me. My childlike awe and wonder is not childlike anymore.
My ‘AHA” moment from this passage is coming...
So, the Israelites lament and cry out that they would rather have died in Egypt or the wilderness. You see, God has already promised them this land , flowing with milk and honey (abundancy). But in their humanity and unbelief, they asked to send spies to assess the land. Moses agreed…and he probably shouldn’t have, but he did. And out of the 12 spies ( who represented each tribe) only TWO came back with faith in God’s promise. Only TWO remained faithful that God was with them and that victory was theirs. The rest said something like, “even if God helped us, we would be defeated. They are too mighty…too many.”
Sound familiar? I certainly can see myself as an Israelite in the wilderness. And, thats funny. Because as a child, I really related to Joshua and Caleb’s cry to the people, “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. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”
As a child, my heart was screaming, “ Trust in God people!”
But as an adult, I’m saying, “Trust in God ( YES )," but with also great understanding of the humanity of the Israelites and their imperfection, fears, and excuses.
Still..this is just leading up to my AHA moment. While Caleb and Joshua pled with the people, Moses and Aaron fell prostrate before God. Most likely in prayer, because as their leaders, they knew too well the seriousness of this situation. Only falling before God, praying for his mercy would help.
So why.....why would God be angry? Or why would Joshua, Caleb, and God consider the Israelites words to be rebellious, contemptuous and faithless?
Here’s the thing.
Being afraid, fearful, and questioning on its own is NOT rebellion against God. Its pretty normal for us- actually, for me. I confess.
For example, Moses questioned his leadership skills before God. He wasn’t confident in his speaking abilities. And even Jesus, JESUS, was fearful of the upcoming Via Dolorosa. He knew all too well what was expected and what was to come. He said, “"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
But AHA! Jesus (and Moses) , although fearful and afraid showed us that even though we possess fear, we can still be strengthened, by the grace of God, into obedience. And, that, is the difference.
The Israelites were not only fearful, afraid and questioning. They were fearful, afraid, questioning, AND disobedient. THIS constitutes unbelief. THIS constitutes rebellion against God. And, THIS rebellion was not accidental or unintentional; rather it was CHOICE.
I want to go back to Joshua and Caleb, for a moment, who tore their clothes in grief. Our pastor explained the symbolism of tearing clothes a few weeks ago at church. It was serious…it was done in mourning, because of death or imminent death. Joshua and Caleb may have been young, but the repercussions of the people’s rebellion were not lost on them.....
And moving on, in a true rebellious spirit, Israelites conspired to stone Joshua and Caleb. “Who were these two young men? Who do they think they are, questioning us and our “faith.” We take offense! How dare they offend us; they know nothing!”
Now, this is me just guessing about feelings that led to this conspiring. As fellow humans, I think we can pretty much guess the intensity of the conversation they were having.
Yet ,at this moment God appeared. And, he wasn’t too happy. And, the rest of the passage (not quoted here) is pretty long, and I won’t go too much in-depth over it. But, what happened is nothing short of spectacular.
Moses interceded for the people in an authentic plea for their mercy. If you read the rest of the scripture, you can see how much Moses KNEW God. How much he yearned for His glory to be revealed…and how much he loved his people, despite their rebellion.
Moses was a leader who took the plea for his people seriously. But even more so, he took God seriously. He took God’s revelation of character seriously. And most importantly, because he truly KNEW God, he knew God’s character. He know God to be loving, patient, and long-suffering. With this knowledge, he asked God to display his power, not by a strong arm, but by mercy.
WOW!! This is a great example of intercession. Moses appealed to God’s power, His glory, and His promise, with a heart that was completely others-centered. NO self-centeredness. NO agenda. NO insecurities. NO public dramatic self promotion. You get the picture.
So, here, Moses not only displayed that he knew Gods heart, but he also displayed that he shared God’s heart. This is why Moses’ intercession was so spectacular....think about it for a few minutes.
I really encourage anyone reading this to finish the scripture on their own.
Lastly, when I write or blog, most of the time, it is inspired by my own convicted heart. And I confess, that here, I am convicted.
I do not want to be fearful, afraid AND disobedient. I don’t want to live in rebellion of God….not even for a moment. That is not what I want to lay before God at the judgement seat.
Give me grace to choose you.
To be obedient,
despite my fears.
To be others-centered,
to be humble.
I want to KNOW you.
I want to knowYour heart.
I want to LOVE others...