Lesson: Rebellion of the People

By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – October 30, 2021
Taught From – Numbers 14:1-12

Introduction

In our lesson last week, we saw that the children of Israel had arrived at the point in their journey from Egypt where they could scout out the Promised Land from the Lord.  Twelve spies were sent to spy in the land of Canaan and they returned back with a report of the land that should have been a good report but ten of the spies had a very bad report.  We are going to see what the bad report did to the people in our lesson this week as we move into the last unit of lessons for this fall quarter.  This unit of lessons is titled – Taking God Seriously.  Our lesson this week is being taught from Numbers 14:1-12.

Fear and Dread

So, our lesson this week opens with a response from the children of Israel after hearing the report of the land from the twelve spies.  Now, let’s remember that from our lesson last week, the spies confirmed that the land did flow with milk and honey prior to going into their fearful report of the people, the cities, and the land.  Caleb spoke against the report of ten of the spies as we will see Joshua join Caleb in speaking against them here in our lesson this week.

Questioning God’s motivations

The people, after hearing the report, lifted up their voices and cried, and they wept that night (v. 1).  So, clearly the bad report made the people distraught and they were upset.  Let us remember, they had been journeying to this point for two years and were likely very upbeat and hopeful to be going to their new home.   Yet, the dreams of that new home were completely dashed in their hearts from the bad report of the ten spies.

Now, take a look at how this bad report turned the people’s hearts against the Lord instantly.  We are told that they complained against Moses and Aaron – therefore the Lord – saying that they should have died in Egypt or in the wilderness (v. 2).  We see them then question why God had brought them out of the bondage of Egypt only to die in the Promised Land.  They even say that it would be better for them to return to Egypt (v. 3)!

The bad report of the Promised Land has soured the hearts of the people so much that they seem to be desiring to go back to Egypt, the place where they were in bondage under the rule of Pharaoh!  It is amazing the thoughts that come to our mind when things do not go as we thought they would.  The children of Israel have come so far, seen the Lord do so much for them in His faithfulness, only to be discouraged by this report.  They are so discouraged that they are now questioning the Lord’s motivations after He has already done so much for them!

The devil’s work

Last Sunday, I preached a sermon about how the devil works and I truly believe that Satan was at work here.  I say this because the Promised Land was a blessing from the Lord and all the children of Israel would need to do is step into that promise.  Yet, they are allowing the words of men to discourage them from going to the blessing of God.  We even see them say that they should select new leadership (v. 4).  This same kind of thought would become a huge problem in the future generations of the children of Israel.

Satan will certainly do his very best to discourage us from approaching the blessing that God has for us.  He does this daily with trying to discourage people away from the Promised Land of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom – beware of those around you that would try to discourage and persuade you away from God.  Satan wants to discourage you and he wants you to be fearful of moving forward.  You better believe that he was getting a kick out of God’s chosen people being discouraged and afraid of going into the Promised Land.

The rebuke of fear and discouragement

When the faith of God is in us, fear will always be replaced with having courage.  We see this faith in both Joshua and Caleb.  Again, we saw Caleb speak against ten of the spies in last week’s lesson when he rebuked them in how they were speaking about the land.  Today, we see Joshua, Moses’ right hand man, who also went to spy in the land of Canaan (v. 6), join Caleb in speaking against the bad report, the actions of the people, and to give them an encouraging word.

They said to the congregation of the people, “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land (v. 7).”  This is, again, to rebuke the bad report of the ten spies.  I truly believe that it was both Joshua and Caleb that reported and confirmed to Moses and the people in last week’s lesson that the land did flow with milk and honey (Num. 13:27).  They reiterate this point again here in this chapter to combat the fear and dread of the people.  The people were wanting to turn back and go back to a land of bondage where the Promised Land was a good land that they could freely dwell in and be prosperous.

We will see the two continue through their own faith in God to encourage the people to move forward.  You see, when you have faith in God, that faith is always going to push you to move forward regardless of the circumstances that you may be facing.  They say to the people, “If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey (v. 8).’”

The general idea here being something that Paul spoke of when he asked the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?”  Paul spoke of how we are more than conquerors with God on our side (Rom. 8:37). So, we find that Joshua and Caleb were both encouraging the children of Israel to have this mindset – they would be more than conquerors with the Lord on their side in the land of Canaan (v. 9).  

Again, faith would certainly be required, but let us remember that the Lord promised Abraham that He was going to give the land to his descendants.   So, all that the children of Israel would need to do is trust in the Lord’s promise.  This is the same thing for us – God has promised eternal life if we believe in His only begotten Son.  So, we must trust in this promise and not let anything deter us in trusting in this promise.

Open rebellion chosen

Though Caleb and Joshua shared an encouraging word with the congregation, we will see that fear and dread had truly taken their heart.  We see them say to one another to stone Caleb and Joshua (v. 10)!  Truly this was a disheartening moment for the children of Israel.  I honestly believe this moment was as disheartening as when the children of Israel danced around and worshiped the calf of gold.  I say this because Caleb and Joshua both shared an encouraging word to have faith in God, but the congregation was choosing fear over faith.

So, how do you suppose the Lord would feel about the choice of the congregation?  Not good.  The Lord was stirred up because the people were refusing His blessing of the Promised Land.  We are told that the glory of God appeared in the tabernacle before the congregation as they were preparing to stone Joshua and Caleb.

The Lord’s anger against rebellion

The Lord proceeds to ask Moses, “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them (v. 11)?”  The Lord was upset and I believe we could understand why.  After all, the Lord had brought the children of Israel out of bondage, gave them manna, brought them to Sinai where they received the law, defeated the Amalekites, and we have recently learned about when He gave them a ton of quail.

God had done so much for the children of Israel and yet, they were of no faith in Him; they would rather fear than have faith in Him.  So, the children of Israel were rebelling in their hearts – this is a blasphemy.  Again, blasphemy – totally rejecting the Lord – is the unpardonable sin that will be judged by the Lord and met with His wrath.

So, we see that the Lord tells Moses that He is going to pour out His wrath on the people and destroy them.  God says “I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they (v. 12).”  The Lord was so upset with the children of Israel that it appears He was ready to give them up and start a new nation through Moses!  Now, we know that did not happen but it certainly shows the seriousness of rebelling against the Lord.

Mankind is precious to the Lord.  I can tell you this because God gave His only begotten Son to save all of mankind from sin.  Yet, even though we are precious to the Lord, there is going to be a day where the Lord is going to judge those that have lived their lives in open rebellion (opposition) against Him.  God is going to judge them at the Great White Throne judgment and from there they will be cast away from Him for all of eternity.