Let’s turn to Numbers, chapter eleven, as we continue our study through the book. They have broken camp, they have left the area of Sinai. They are now moving towards the promised land. But the people have begun their complaints.
Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was aroused; so the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of them in the outskirts of the camp. And then the people cried out to Moses; and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched. So they called the name of the place Taberah: [Or burning the place of burning.] because the fire of the Lord hath burned among them (11:1-3).
So we find now a pattern is going to start to develop, as the people begin to complain against the Lord. I think that complaining is almost a disease. That once you get started with it, it just grows and grows. When people start you know, complaining about things. I quite often suggest that they just move on. Because once you start finding something to complain about, that’s just the beginning. You know, there’s a lot to complain about if you want to complain!
When a person begins to complain, it’s usually a sign that God is moving them on, however, God never seems to be too happy with complainers. God, you see, if I really believe that God is in sovereign control over my life, and I start complaining about my life, then I’m really complaining about God, and He’s sensitive in that area. He doesn’t like us complaining about Him. I’m complaining about, “Oh this is not good”, or “that’s bad”, or whatever, and really, the Lord is the one who has brought or allowed these things in my life for instruction, for purging out some of the dross, or whatever, and I start to complain about that work of God. How often, how often I have been guilty of complaining about something that God has brought into my life that later on, when there was the full cycle, I realize, “Oh the Lord intended that for good. Look what the Lord did through that! Isn’t the Lord wonderful! Man!” Then I feel so horrible about having complained about it earlier. Because it was just the thing the Lord knew I needed. I wonder how often that is not true, that at the moment, as I’m complaining about the situation, it is exactly that which God is working to bring forth a good purpose in my life.
So God is bringing them into a good land. But they were complaining against the Lord. God was displeased. He sent His fire. Some of the complainers on the outskirts of the camp were devoured. So they called the name of the place burning and they moved on.
Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense cravings (11:4),
Or desires or lusts. When the children of Israel left Egypt, there went with them this mixed multitude. That is, they were not full Jews. Half Jews, part Jews. Some of them not even Jews at all. Just a multitude of people that went along for the ride.
Life in Egypt wasn’t easy for anybody, unless you were among the upper echelon. And there are always those who think that they can find greener grass on the other side of the fence. So there are always those who are dissatisfied with their current situation and think that they could be better off if they were someplace else. They’re always trying to move on to find that place of happiness or contentment. Nomadism, it’s still today a very common thing. There are those people who just move from one place to another around the country, trying to find the place of perfection, of the Shangri-la.
So there were these people, not totally committed to God, not totally committed to the things of God. The mixed multitude. They were along for the ride, you know, “It looks interesting”, they’re going someplace new, “It’s gonna be different. Ah this ought to be exciting journey, you know. Understand the land up there is nice. They’ve got a lot of rivers and woods and Oh, it’s pretty up there. You know, I’d like to move up there. Let’s go along”.
Now they’ve been out a year, out in the wilderness. The beginning of the second year and so these people began to have intense cravings for some of the things of the life of Egypt. So they began to talk about that old life. “Ah, remember in Egypt, Oh man! So nice! Who’s gonna give us meat to eat out here? You know we’re in this wilderness place and man I haven’t had a good steak in such a long time! The fish that we used to have, man we had all the fish we could eat in Egypt, you know. The cucumbers, the melons, the onions, and the leeks and the garlic, oh boy. But now, you know, our whole being is just dried up. All we’ve got is this manna everyday, manna for lunch, manna for dinner, you know. We only had a little onions to cook it up with, to spice it up a bit. Now, it explains the manna again.
It’s like a coriander seed, colored like the color of bdellium. And the people went about and gathered it, and ground it into millstones, or they beat it into mortar, and they cooked it in pans, and made little cakes our of it: [sort of little pastries] and the taste was like the taste of pastry that’s made of oil. And when the dew fell in the camp in the night, the manna fell on it (11:7-9).
Now again, it’s amazing how that griping is contagious, complaining is contagious. The mixed multitude began to say, “Oh man, remember how it was in Egypt? Little cucumbers and onions, man, what I wouldn’t do for a good onion sandwich”. They began to have the Big Mac attacks out in the wilderness you know. Soon the whole camp was weeping. In the tents the people were crying, “Oh I wish we were back in Egypt. Sick of this manna. Our souls loathe this manna”.
Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man at the door of his tent: and the anger of the Lord was aroused; and Moses also was displeased. So Moses said to the Lord, Lord why have you afflicted your servants? and why did I not find favour in your sight, that you laid the burden of all of these people on me? Lord did I conceive all of these people? have I begetten them, that you should say to me, Carry them in your bosom as a guardian carries a nursing child to the land which you swore their fathers? Where am I in the world going to get meat to give to all these people (11:10-13)?
As Moses passed by, the people would be crying, “Give us some meat to eat!” He was angry and he came to the Lord and he said, “Lord what have I done wrong? What do you have against me that you laid on me the burden these people? I didn’t father them, I’m not their father! You say to me, ‘Carry them like a nursing child into the land I promised to their fathers’, I’m not their father! Where in the world Lord am I going to get meat to give to these crying people?”
I am not able to bear all of these people alone, because the burden is just too heavy for me. And if you treat me like this, then kill me Lord, I’d rather be dead [than red.] (11:15).
I don’t want to go on any further, I’d be better off dead Lord, than to go on listening to this griping and complaining all the time. If you really like me Lord, wipe me out. Do me a favor!”
So the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, who you know are the elders of the people and officers over them; and bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there: and I will take of the spirit that is upon you, and I will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you will not bear it yourself alone. And then you shall say to the people, Sanctify yourselves tomorrow, and you shall eat meat: for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, Who will give us meat to eat? for it was well for us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. And you shall eat meat not for one day, or two, or five, or ten, or twenty; but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils, and it becomes loathsome to you: because you’ve despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why did we ever come up out of Egypt (11:16-20).
Boy the complaints of the people! How it can, how it can just eat right through to the core. The horrible thing, “Why did we ever come out of Egypt? Why did we ever listen? Why did you ever lead us out? You brought us out here to kill us! We’d been better off to die.” Started laying all these heavy things on Moses. He just couldn’t take it. So he did what we should do with those burdens that are too heavy for us, take them to the Lord. Moses went before the Lord.
Now, Moses is first of all saying, “Lord, I can’t take it anymore. It’s too much for me to bear. I didn’t conceive all these people, and I just can’t take it anymore. The responsibility and everything is just too heavy for me and I just can’t bear it”. And secondly, he took before them the desire of the people, “Lord they want meat, but where in the world can I get meat? They cry to me every time I go by their crying and asking for meat. Well, what can I do?”
So the Lord answered both issues. In the first case, the Lord said, “First of all gather seventy elders, men that you know that are leaders among the people, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and I will take the spirit that is upon you and I will put it upon them. So you’ll have help. You won’t have to bear the whole burden alone”. But secondly, “I’ll give them meat, not enough for just one day, two, five, ten, twenty, for a whole month”. Now, Moses said, “Lord do you realize there are over 600,000 men?” And of course that compounds out to about three and a half million people.
Lord, where in the world will you give them meat that they might eat for a whole month? Shall the flocks and the herds be slaughtered for them? [“Do you want us to wipe out all of these flocks and herds that we have”?] Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them? [Lord what, how are you gonna do it? How do you propose to give them so much meat?”] And the Lord said to Moses, has the Lord’s arm been shortened (11:21-23)?
We read, concerning Abraham, that the keys to his faith, first of all, he, he considered not his own age, about a hundred years old, nor yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not take into consideration the natural circumstances of impossibility. It was really a physical impossibility that he and Sarah could have a child, at this point. She’d gone through the change of life. He was a hundred years old, she was ninety. They had never been able to have children, but he didn’t consider that. He didn’t consider his own age, about a hundred, nor the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
One of the first things we are always doing when faced with a problem or a situation, or even a promise of God, is that we start considering the human possibilities for that to come to pass. I start figuring out humanly, how might be able to work that out. “If we just did this, and this, then it could happen that it would slip in there”. And I start looking for the possibilities in which this might work. Not so, with Abraham. He didn’t even take into consideration those human difficulties.
Secondly, he staggered not, at the promise of God through unbelief. Now that’s exactly what Moses is doing here. He is staggering at the promise of God. “Lord, how in the world? If I go out and tell them, God’s gonna give you enough meat for a whole month, where do you plan to do that? How do plan to do that God? Should I order them to kill all the flocks and herds or are you gonna gather all the fish in the sea and dump them? Lord, how?” The Lord said, “Is my arm shortened? You see Moses you haven’t considered one of the most dominant factors, and that is God”.
That’s one of our problems, as we are trying to figure out life’s problems, we are trying to figure them only with the human equations, and we do not equate God into the problem, or the situation. But the moment you equate God into it, the problem disappears! We say, “Oh that’s difficult”. Try to equate God into it. Nothing to it! “That’s impossible”, equate God into it. Simple! What a difference it makes when we begin to equate God into the problems of our life, into the situations of our life! It’s interesting how that so often, we forget the most important factor of the equation.
So God said, “Wait a minute Moses! You forget who you’re talking to? Is my arm shortened? Is there any lack of my ability?” We read in the prophecy of Isaiah that, “The hand of the Lord is not shortened that He cannot save, neither is His ear heavy, that He cannot hear”. No problem with God. He can do it. The problem always lies on our side. So God is saying to Moses, “Moses you forgot in this factor, or you forgot in this equation, the main factor, you didn’t consider me. Is my arm shortened? You’ll just see whether or not my word comes to pass!”
So Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and he placed them around the tabernacle (11:24).
So the two issues that are involved are, number one, the meat for the people, the second one is the seventy men who are to be filled with the Spirit, to assist Moses in this task. So he takes care of, first of all the seventy men. Gathered them, placed them around the tabernacle.
Then the Lord came down in a cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it to the seventy elders: and it happened that when the spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, and did not cease (11:25).
Is the way that Targon and Fallgate reads, they’ve translated it here, and they’ve never done so again. I don’t think that this is a proper translation. One of the weaknesses of the new King James. I think that it was really, God’s Spirit rested upon them, and they began to prophecy. They received the gift of prophecy. Sort of an indication, or a sign, that the Spirit of God was upon them.
But two of the men had remained in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were among those that were listed [Somehow they didn’t show up. But they hadn’t gone to the tabernacle.] and yet they were prophesying in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, said, Moses, my Lord forbid them. Then Moses said, Are you jealous for my sake Joshua? oh that all of the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them all (11:26-29)!
So the report comes to the guys that are out in the camp prophesying, and Joshua is ready to defend Moses, you know. “Oh Moses! Stop them!”, and Moses said, “Hey, no this is great! I wish God would put His Spirit on everybody! How glorious it would be, how much easier it would be if they were all walking in the Spirit!” You know that’s really the answer, and that’s really the glorious thing about the church age, is that the promise was, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh”. The Spirit was upon them all. What a glorious thing if all of God’s people were walking in the Spirit, and all of God’s people were filled with the Spirit!
So Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel. [Now the second issue, the meat for a month.] Now the wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea, and it left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side, and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, about a days journey, [about ten, fifteen miles there were quail, flying about three feet high] two cubits above the surface of the ground (11:30-31).
Flying in. Now interesting enough, the quail migrated from Europe to Africa. During the winter months there in Africa, but they migrate in the spring and summer back into Europe again. In their migration pattern, when they’ve crossed into the Mediterranean again, it is quite a long flight. By the time they get across the Mediterranean they are quite exhausted, and it is a phenomenon that takes place to the present day in the migration process of the quail. As they come across the Mediterranean, exhausted, they are flying just about three feet off the ground. So it happened, and the guides went out with their guides and their sticks and began to knock these, three feet, about thirty high. They got ten homers, remember? Aah. Ha, ha! It says, “The least of them got ten homers”. Ha, ha.
They were flying in two cubits high [That’s about thirty six inches. So they went out and they were batting them down. Of course, the families, little kids, grabbing them and wringing their necks, and throwing them into the barrels. Defeathering them and throwing them in the barrels.] And all the day long the quail were coming in, and they were out there batting them. They took torches and all, and all night long as they flew in, the quail were flying in. [They were batting them.] All the next day, batting the quail in the air. So he who gathered the least gathered ten homers (11:31-32).
A homer is eighty six gallons. So the families that gathered the least had eight hundred and sixty gallons of quail. Enough quail to eat for thirty days, until it came out of your nostrils. I mean, God said, “You want meat? All right, we’ll give you meat”.
But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague (11:33).
It is possible that, number one, in their lust, their intense cravings for meat, that they tried to swallow it before even chewing it, before it was chewed, and that they began to choke to death on the quail. Got lodged in their throat, in their esophagus and they began to choke to death. It is also possible that having been on the bland diet of manna, for over a year, their bodies could not suddenly assimilate all this meat, and they began to bloat. They died because of the inability of the digestive system to suddenly handle all of this meat, as they just, no doubt, began to gorge themselves with this meat, because of their intense lusts, or intense cravings, began to gorge themselves and their bodies couldn’t assimilate all that meat at once. Having been on a bland diet of manna for so long. Whatever, whatever, it was a plague of God that began to smite the people there, and many of them died, and were buried in that place.
So they called the name of the place, Kibroth Hattaavah: the grave of cravings (11:34).
Or the grave of lusts, for this was the place where God gave to them the lusts, the desires of their lusts, but He also brought them leanness to their souls.
Now in chapter twelve, we find Miriam and Aaron, the brother and sister of Moses, beginning to complain and murmur against Moses. Miriam, you remember, was his older sister that watched while his little ark was placed in the Nile river. She saw the Pharaoh’s daughter take it out and volunteered Moses’ mother to nurse the child and take care of it. Aaron was Moses’ older brother.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of a marriage that he had to an Ethiopian woman. So probably they began to complain about a mixed marriage or whatever, they didn’t like his wife, he married an Ethiopian woman. The bible doesn’t tell us much about that, the circumstances about that. His other wife could’ve died, we don’t know. Nothing is said of Zipporah, his first wife, but he married this Ethiopian woman. Aaron and Miriam were not happy with it and they began to speak against Moses.
And they said, Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses (12:2)?
Now as the high priest, the Lord spoke through Aaron through the Urim and the Thummin, and Miriam was known as a prophetess. So God had spoken through both of them also. So they were complaining. They said, “Does the Lord only speak through Moses? Hasn’t He spoken through us also? Is Moses the only one to speak to the people? We have just as much right, God speaks to us!” The Lord heard their complaints.
Now, the man Moses, was very humble. More than all the men who are on the face of the earth. Moses was not one to promote himself, and it is interesting to me that those men who are called of God, to great leadership are so often times very humble men. I think one of the most outstanding characteristics of Billy Graham, when you know him on a personal basis, is the humility of this man. You think of a man that has been used of God to speak to so many people. Has positioned him in an area to speak to so many nations. You’d think that that fellow would be almost untouchable, you’d have a hard time conversing with him. You do have a hard time conversing with him because of his humility. He totally disarms you with his humility. It’s just a beautiful characteristic about him.
I remember the first time we were to meet him, and I was all excited you know. I had always admired him, and now the opportunity to meet him. We were invited to his sixty fifth birthday party. It was going to be our first chance to meet him. We had communicated before, but I’d never met him, and I was really excited about meeting him. We went to the party, and he and Ruth were there at the door, greeting people as they were coming in, and I introduced myself, and I said, “Hi Billy, I’m Chuck Smith”, and he stopped, and he said, “Chuck, I’ve been so anxious to meet you”, he said, “Of all of the people in the world that I wanted to meet, it was you”. Well I was so totally disarmed that I forgot totally what I was going to say. I thought, “Well, da, da, uh, whew!” I was wiped out! I must have looked like a fool because I was just totally disarmed by the humility of this fellow! In subsequent meetings and times together, it’s just one of the beautiful characteristics of this man’s life.
Sort of like Moses, though he has a tremendous authority and power and God speaks through him. Yet the humility of the man is something beautiful to see. Now with Moses, though he was the leader, chosen leader of God’s people so much that he could’ve been pumped up over, yet the humility. He was a humble man. In fact, one of the most humble men on the face of the earth. That is, anybody could run over him. Moses, I mean if Miriam and Aaron want to do it, hey, he’ll step back. He’s not gonna fight for his position, he’s not gonna insist on his rights. No, he’ll step aside if such be the case. “Whatever”.
So the Lord heard them, and suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, Okay come out you three to the tabernacle of meeting. So the Lord invited them out to the entrance of the tabernacle of meeting. And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and he stood in the door of the tabernacle, and he called Aaron and Miriam: and they both stepped forward. And he said, Now hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and I speak to him in a dream (12:4-6).
There was the general method of God to speak to prophets through visions and through dreams. A vision is similar to a dream, only you’re awake when it takes place. But it’s pictures before you like a dream is. It’s entering into an episode, as you do often in a dream, but you’re awake, and you see these things, you envision these things. It’s like you’re experiencing these things. Usually God spoke to the prophets through these visions, or through dreams. They would actually have dreams with spiritual significance. Sometimes the dreams had to be interpreted to be understood. So there was often times rather a vagueness about it.
But God said, Not so with my servant Moses, he is faithful [or the most faithful] in my house. And I speak to him face to face. [Clearly, directly.] Even plainly and not in mysterious sayings. [In other words, you don’t have to interpret it. With God speaking to Nebuchadnezzar in dreams, Daniel had to interpret the dream, so that Nebuchadnezzar could understand what God was saying, and that often was the case. It was dark sayings, it was in a riddle, and you had to find the key the answer, the understanding. God said, “Not so with Moses. I speak directly to this fellow, I speak plainly to him not in dark sayings.] And he sees the form of the Lord. Why were you not then afraid to speak then to my servant Moses (12:8)?
“Here’s a man I’m obviously using. Here’s a man with the anointing of my Spirit on his life, how was it that you weren’t afraid to speak against him?” One thing David had was a tremendous respect for the anointing of God. His refusal to touch Saul, because God’s anointing had been upon his life. God said, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophet no harm.” We need to be careful how we speak against God’s anointed servants. So God is saying to them, “How is it that you weren’t afraid to speak against him, when I so obviously have anointed him, and used him, and spoken to him directly?”
So the anger of the Lord arose against them; and he departed. That is the cloud was lifted up. And when the cloud departed from the tabernacle; suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow: then Aaron turned toward Miriam and there she was a leper (12:9-10).
Of course, he being the priest was the one who was taught to diagnose leprosy. If someone had a scab or a sore, they would come to Aaron to see if it was leprosy or not. He turned and he saw her, white as snow, covered with leprosy.
And so Aaron said to Moses, [The one that had been saying, “You know, who’s Moses, we have this much right…”, he turned to Moses and he said], Moses! Oh my Lord, do not lay this sin on us in which we have done foolishly, in which we have sinned! Please do not let her be as one who is dead whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of his mother’s womb. [So, Aaron implores Moses for the sister Miriam.] So Moses cried out to the Lord, and said, Please heal her, O God, I pray. Then the Lord said to Moses, [Look!] If her father spit in her face, she’d have to be unclean for seven days, so at least she should be put out of the camp for seven days. then she can be received again. So Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days: and the people did not journey until Miriam was brought again. And afterward the people moved from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran (11-16).
So, Aaron and Miriam and their complaining against Moses, and God dealing with it.
Now the Lord said to Moses, Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel: [Now someone asked me the other day, “Do you think that Moses made a mistake in sending the spies in”, no definitely not, because God told him to”. God said, “Send in the spies”.] And from each tribe, [One of the leaders of the tribe was to go in. So it lists the tribes, and those men who went in to represent their tribes, and from the tribe of Judah (verse six) Caleb [We’re only going to mention two.] From the tribe of Ephriam, [verse eight] was Oshea. [And then as we get to verse sixteen.] These are the names of the men who Moses sent in to spy out the land. And Moses called in Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua (13:1-16).
The word Oshea or Jehoshua means, Jehovah is our salvation. Jehovah is our salvation. The Jeh, or the Joe, Yah, actually in Hebrew, the J has a Y pronunciation, Yeshua. The name Jesus is the Greek form for the Hebrew name, Jehoshua. So the name Jesus is the Greek for the Hebrew. Jehoshua, which is Jehovah is our salvation. When God told Joseph to call his name Jesus, he said, “For He shall save His people from their sins”. So Moses changed his name from Jehoshua, to Joshua, or Yeshua, or Yahata.
And Moses sent them in to spy out the land of Canaan, and he said, See what the land is like, whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether there are few people or many people; Tell us about the land, whether it is good or bad. Are there cities like camps, or are they like strongholds? [Do they have walls, fortified cities, or are they just sort of camps.] And whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are forests or not. Be of good courage, bring us some of the fruit of the land. For this was the time of the first ripe grape (13:17-20).
So it was probably August there in the land. So these twelve spies were to go into the land, and look over the land and bring the people a report of the land that God had promised to them. And probably the idea was the encouragement of the people. They had come now to the border of the land, to go in, and to possess it.
So they went up, and they spied out the land from the wilderness of In unto Rehab, to the entrance of Ahiman, and they went up through the south, they came to Hebron; to Ahiman, to Sheshai, to Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. [Giants were there. What is it? The Waututsi tribe that are so tall? So it’s sort of a people like the Waututsi, tall guys.] Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. [Hebron of course, is where Abraham had lived for so long.] So they came to the valley of Eshcol, and they cut down there a branch of grapes, one cluster, that they carried between the two of them on a pull; and they also brought some of the pomegranates, and figs. And the place [of the, called the valley] it was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster [And Eshcol means cluster. The cluster] of grapes which the men of Israel cut down there. And they returned from spying out the land after forty days. So they departed and came to Moses, and Aaron, and all the congregation of the children of Israel, in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh (13:21-26);
Actually, they’d come to the wilderness at Paran, Kadesh is really sort of the border now, from, as they would, from Kadesh enter the land. They’ve come to the borders of the promised land.
And then they told him, and said, We went to the land where you sent us, it truly flows with milk and honey; and this is it’s fruit. [“It was, you know, look at this cluster of grapes! It does flow with milk and honey!”] Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong, the cities are fortified, and they’re very large: and we did see a few giants around there. The Amalekites dwell there in the south: and the Hittites, and Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: [That would be the mountains of Israel, the place around Jerusalem. It was the mountains that drew them, actually. And the area of Jerusalem, and in that mountainous area. The Hittites, Jebusites, and the Amorites from Hebron on up into the area of Ephriam, which would be oh, Bethel, on up into Nablus, and Shechem, and in that area, same area.] And the Canaanites dwell along the coast, and then they dwell around the Jordan (13:27-29).
So they live in the plains, in the coasts of Jordan.
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and he said, Let us go up at once, and take possession; for we are well able to overcome it. [“The cities are strong, they’re fortified, they’re pretty big, pretty tall guys there! But let’s go! We’re well able to take it.”] But the other spies who had gone up with him, they said, We’re not able to go up against the people; they are stronger then we (13:30-31).
Again you see, they’re not putting God into the factor. They’re forgetting God completely! They’re looking at it from purely natural eyes. Caleb was looking at it from a spiritual standpoint, “Hey God’s with us, let’s go up, we’re able to overcome them. Let’s go up right now! Man it’s great! Let’s go for it!” See Joshua was the “Go for it” kind of fellow. Forty years later, when he is some now, eighty years old, they’ve come into the land and they’ve conquered part of the land, and now that Caleb has been there, eighty years old, helped conquer part of the land; he said, “Look I was promised that area that I spied out. I want permission now to take my sons, and we want to go down and claim that area that, you know, was promised to us.” So Joshua said, “Okay, so go ahead”. Old Caleb went in and wiped them out that area that he was promised in around the Hebron and in that area through there, when he was eighty years old. He was a go for it kind of a guy, and I like that. I would like for Caleb to be next to me in a fight. These other fellows though, they discouraged the people. They gave them a bad report of the land.
They said, the land through which we have gone as spies, is a land that devours it’s inhabitants; [That is the land can’t produce enough to feed all the people.] all the people who we saw [all the people whom we saw] in it were men of great stature (13:32).
Isn’t that the way we generalize sometimes you know, that wasn’t true, they weren’t all giants. But you know when you report it, it becomes, “Everybody was huge!” You know. Several years ago when I was a very young pastor, back in the olden days, we were in Tucson, Arizona, and we had a youth group, and we were having a meeting of the leaders of the youth group. Just before we were to start the meeting, two of the young girls decided to go up to the drug store and buy some chewing gum. Couple blocks from our church. Well, I was upset, here we’re all there waiting, and these two girls had slipped out, without telling us they were going. I said, “Where are they?”, and they said, “Well, they went up to buy some gum”. So, being young and foolish, I decided that I would teach them that they ought to be there at the time that it started. That they shouldn’t go roaming off to buy gum or whatever at that time. So, I went up towards the drug store, and there was a culvert there for the road, for the flash flood kinds of things, and the corrugated pipe coming into the street there.
So I went up, and I and another fellow from the youth group, and we went up there and as the girls were coming from the drugstore, we were down in the culvert and I had this big rock and I rolled it down the corrugated pipe to make a rumbling noise. And I said, “Let’s grab them, you know”, and those girls took off screaming and running. There was a lady out there watering her lawn. They went running over to her house. Of course this other fellow and I went out the culvert, and back over to the church and we sat there waiting for them to come in.
After while, the police brought them in, and they told this wild story. They were still wide eyed and frightened, and they told us about how ten guys, you know, grabbed them, and they were able to get free, and ran over to this lady. They told this wild story and of course, we had to restrain ourselves.
But it’s amazing how things can grow in your mind and how things look worse than they really are, when you start telling the story. How you can embellish and add to it. “Everyone was a giant! We saw the giants and we were like grasshoppers, in our own sight, and so we were in their sight. I mean they couldn’t just stepped on us and crushed us man! You know, they’re huge!” Then all of the congregation, remember they’ve gotten in a complaining mode. They’ve already started complaining and so it doesn’t take much to trigger that anymore. They found fault already, so it’s easy now to find fault again, and again, and again.
And so all of the congregation lifted up their voices, and they cried, and the people wept all night. And the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, If only we had died in the land of Egypt! or if only we had died in the wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should become victims? it would be better for us to return to Egypt. And so they said to one another, Let’s select a leader, and let’s return to Egypt. And Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the assembly of the congregation. And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb [These two spies, Joshua and Caleb, ] who were among those who had spied out the land, they tore their clothes: And they spoke to all the congregation of all the children of Israel, saying, The land that we passed through to spy out, is an exceeding good land. And if the Lord delights in us, [See, they’re putting the Lord in the factor.] Then he will bring us into the land, and give it to us; a land that’s flowing with milk and honey (14:1-8).
Putting the Lord in the factor makes a big difference in the whole thing.
Do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land; for they are our bread. [The guys said, “Man we were like grasshoppers”, they said, “Hey man, they’re bread we’ll eat em up!”.] Their protection has departed from them [“Oh they have fortified cities, high walls, and giants.” And he said their protection had departed from them.] For the Lord is with us (14:9):
That’s the difference! Looking at your situation, through the eyes of the Lord’s presence with you, and without the Lord. One, you’ll panic, and the other, you’ll have confidence. If you put the Lord in the factor, Hey there’s nothing to it man! “They’re bread to us, we’ll can eat em up!” If you don’t have the Lord in the factor, “Oh there’s no way we can do it. You know we were like…, They’ll crush us like grasshoppers. What a difference the Lord makes. How important it is that we put Him in every factor of life, that we not forget the Lord. That we factor Him in.
And all the congregation [Here’s Joshua and Caleb, they’re encouraging, “Hey let’s go, we can do it! The Lord is with us!” What does the congregation do? They said, “Let’s stone them. Kill them! You know, we want to complain. We want to gripe. We don’t want to think about victory”. Someone talks about, “Well the Lord is with us, the Lord will help us”, “Kill him! Don’t want to hear that you know. Taking away all of my crying and all of my complaining”.] So the Lord said to Moses, The glory of the Lord appeared there at the tabernacle, and the Lord said to Moses, How long will these people reject me? how long will they not believe me, with all of the signs that I have performed among them? I will strike them with a pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier then they. And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for by your might you brought the people up out from among them;) And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: that they have heard that you are the Lord among these people,, and that you our Lord and are seen face to face, and your cloud stands above them, and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Now if you kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of your fame will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he swore to give them, therefore he killed them in the wilderness. Now I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as you have spoken, saying, The Lord is longsuffering, abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations (14:10-18).
Now herein is a difficult thing, and an interesting thing. As we read this, it would appear that God is angry, wanting to wipe the people out. And that Moses is giving some good logical arguments to God, why He shouldn’t wipe them out. “Lord, you see the Egyptians have told the story, already these people know, how that you delivered them out of Egypt. They know how your presence is with them. They know how that you speak to us face to face. They know the power and how you lead them with the fiery pillar and the cloud. If you wipe them out here now, then bad rumors are going to go out about you. They’re going to say, ‘Well the Lord was able to bring them out of Egypt, but because He couldn’t bring him in the land, He wiped them out there. He destroyed them’, and so people are going to get a false concept of you God. Now remember that when you spoke to us, you told us that you were longsuffering, and you were merciful.” And it would appear that Moses is giving some good arguments to the Lord, for reasons why the Lord shouldn’t wipe them out there.
It would appear that God is being, His mind is being changed by Moses, is what it appears as you read it. By this clever argument of Moses, as he’s changing the mind of God. But we must remember, that God was the inspiration behind the prayer of Moses. Who was it that inspired Moses to pray for the people? It was God. Where does true prayer begin? True prayer always begins with God. The purposes of God, the heart of God. It comes down and is expressed by us, and up to God again. But true prayer, it begins with God, and the purposes, and the plan of God. Inspiration for prayer comes from God, so prayer, Moses’ prayer was actually inspired by God. Really God was looking for the excuse not to wipe them out. Now justice declared that they should be wiped out at this point. God’s looking for an excuse not to wipe them out, so He inspires Moses to this prayer of intercession. So because of the prayer of intercession, God says, “Okay, I’ll pardon their sin”. I mean, no big deal, He was wanting to do that, but He needed that excuse to do it.
We read many times, in the history of Israel, Ezekiel talks about it, “And God was looking for a man who would stand in the gap, who would fill in the hedge, who would intercede for the people, that He would not destroy them”. God was looking for an excuse not to do it. He was looking for a man to stand in the gap to do the interceding, but He could not find one, “Therefore”, He said, “my judgement had to fall”.
I wonder how many times God’s judgement falls, rather than the mercy and the grace of God, because there is not a man there interceding. God can’t find a man to stand in the gap and intercede in that situation. God was looking for the excuse not to destroy them, and so He brings the prayer of intercession, puts it upon Moses’ heart to make the prayer of intercession, in order that He might fall back from justice, into this merciful, longsuffering, patient, kind character, that God is. When justice demands one thing, God desires mercy, not justice. But He has to have the basis for the mercy, and thus in this case, the basis was Moses interceding, and God responding. The man standing in the gap and filling in the hedge, and standing between God and the people, interceding in their behalf, that they might receive. The people weren’t confessing their guilt and sin, Moses was, and interceding in their behalf. So God said, and so he prayed…
Pardon, the iniquity of these people. I pray according to the greatness of your mercy: Just as you have forgiven people from Egypt even until now. So the Lord said, I have pardoned according to your word: [I mean, just looking for the excuse, “Thank you Moses, I pardon.”] But as truly as I live, [God said] the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord (14:19-20).
Hey there’s a day coming when the whole earth is going to be filled with the glory of the Lord. And God is now making a, I mean when God says, “As truly as I live”, He’s swearing by the fact of it’s existence. “As truly as I live, this earth is going to be filled with the glory of the Lord.” We are told that the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord, even as the waters do cover the sea. Oh how I wait, and how I long, and how I desire that day, when the earth is filled with the glory of the Lord! I’m certain that it is coming. “As truly as I live”, God said, “this earth shall be filled”.
Because all these men that have seen my glory, and the signs which I did in Egypt in the wilderness, and have put me to the test these ten times, they haven’t heeded my voice. They surely shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected me see it. Only my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him, and has followed me fully, and I will bring him into the land where he went; and his descendants shall inherit it. So the Lord spoke to Moses and said, how long shall I bear with this evil congregation, who murmur against me? I’ve heard the murmurings of the children of Israel. Say to them, As I live, says the Lord, just as you have spoken in my hearing, so will I do to you (14:22-28):
Now what did they say, they said, “God has brought us here, and our wives and our children are gonna be slain by these people. God has brought us here and our children are in jeopardy. They’re gonna get wiped out.”
He said, The carcases of you that have murmured against me, shall fall in the wilderness; all of you who were numbered, according to the entire number, from twenty years old and above (14:29-30),
Remember they had numbered off about six hundred and fifty thousand, from twenty years and above. The men. He said, “Every one of you are gonna die here in the wilderness”.
But your little ones, whom you said would be the victims, I will bring them in and they shall know the land that you have despised. But as for you, your carcases, are gonna fall in the wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcases are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of days which you spied out the land. Forty days you were spying out the land, forty years, a year for a day, you’ll be here in the wilderness, and you will know my rejection (14:31-34).
“You’ve rejected me, you’re gonna know my rejection.” What a horrible thing when a person experiences God’s rejection!
I the Lord have spoken this, I will do it, surely do it to all of this evil congregation, that have gathered together against me: in this wilderness they will be consumed, and there they shall die. And the men, who Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned, and made the congregation to murmur against me, by bringing a bad report of the land, Those very men who brought the evil report [all ten of them] died by the plague before the Lord. Only Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb remained alive of all of the men who went in to spy out the land (14:35-38).
Now the people then said, “Oh, we’ve sinned against the Lord, we’ll go in, you know, we’ll attack, and we’ll…”, and Moses said, “No! Don’t do that, God’s already pronounced His judgement. You won’t prevail. They’ll prevail against you. Don’t do it.” But he couldn’t talk them out of it, they had to go ahead and try to attack, and they were defeated. Moses wouldn’t go out of the camp, he wouldn’t take the ark out of the camp. He said, “Don’t do it!”. But he couldn’t talk them out of it.
And they presumed [verse forty four] to go up to the mountain top: nevertheless near the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed from the camp. Then the Amalekites that came down, the Canaanites who dwell in that mountain came down, attacked them, and drove them back, as far as Hormah (14:44-45).
Now, this then was the beginning of the longest funeral march in the world. A funeral march that was to last for forty years, until those six hundred and fifty thousand men, above the age of twenty, who were numbered, in that numbering, died. God said, “You’re not going to go in”. And for forty years, they are now to wander in the wilderness, a year for a day.
So, we’ve talked much about the typical history. Their slavery in Egypt was a type of our slavery in a life of sin. The bondage to sin. The old life. The life of corruption and sin. They’re life in Egypt, the misery, the slavery in sin. The Red sea typifies their baptism, their water baptism. Of course the blood on the door posts to save their sons, typifies the blood of Christ, bringing us redemption. Their passing through the Red sea, was their baptism. “All baptized”, Paul tells us, “in the Red sea”. So it is a type of the end of a relationship to the old life. We’re leaving Egypt, this is our separation. Baptism is a separation from the old life of the flesh, entering now into a new relationship with God. A life walking with God, as God now comes and meets them, and His presence is with them. So they’re living now a life of the consciousness of God’s presence.
As we come out of the bondage of sin, we come out into this new relationship with God. Through water baptism, we end the relationship to the life of the flesh, and we enter now into this new life of the Spirit, and into this life of a consciousness of God’s presence, and all. As we’re walking now with God, and we’re seeing the works of God. But, there is a legitimate wilderness experience. You have to get from the borders of Egypt, into that full, rich, abundant life, that God had promised! There is this wilderness to pass through. So there is a legitimate wilderness experience for the child of God, in our growth and development, as we are passing from the old life of bondage to sin, until we come into the full, rich life of blessing, walking completely in the Spirit.
But there was also for them an illegitimate wilderness experience. And I fear, lest there are many Christians today, who are in an illegitimate wilderness experience. You’ve been in the wilderness too long! You’re not going anywhere in your Christian walk or life. You’re sort of just circling in the wilderness. Sometimes you’re close to the promised land, God is moving, you feel the presence of God, you’re going, “Oh this is glorious!”.
But then, you’re roaming back towards Egypt, looking back towards it saying, “Oh boy, remember the garlic, and the onions, and the leeks, and all. That was pretty nice wasn’t it?” You have selective memory! Yeah, you remember the spicy things, but you’ve forgotten the bitterness. You forgot the slavery, you forgot the misery, you forgot the tears that you used to shed in that old life. But you’re not going anywhere! You’re not coming into that rich, full life that God has promised to the Child of God. You haven’t entered into the rest! You’re still struggling, you’re still striving, you’re still going through the wilderness.
Now, God wants to bring you to Jordan, which is the reckoning of our old man to be dead. It’s a step beyond baptism. There it is done figuratively. Now I come to the reality this old man, I’ve carried him around too long! I’ve been in this funeral procession too long! I’ve been carrying this old, dead body too long. Time to bury it! The old life of the flesh, I reckon now, to be dead and I enter in fully to the life of the Spirit, and the walk in the Spirit. And I’m going to live after the Spirit. And that is the life of richness. That is the life of blessing, that is the life of really experiencing of God’s blessing and power, fall upon your life when you cross over the Jordan, and you come into the land. You begin to inherit the land, and you begin to conquer really, over the flesh, and the things of the flesh. As God said to Joshua, “Every place you put your foot, I have given that to you for your possession”.
We’ve learned to live with our weakness, we’ve learned to live with our failures. We’ve learned to excuse them, and accept them, rather than to receive God’s victory over them. “I don’t have to live after the flesh. I don’t have to be bound to those things of the flesh. And I can lay claim to Christ’s victory in my life, and I can take my step, and I can say, ‘Lord, this territory is mine. I don’t have to live after my flesh anymore! I don’t have to be ruled by my temper, or by my temperament. I can live and walk, and I will live and walk in your Spirit.’ And you enter in, and you begin to take the territory, and you begin to possess that land that God has promised. The rich land, the abundant land, the life of blessing in the Spirit.
My encouragement to you today, if you’ve been wandering in your Christian experience, in the wilderness, God bring you out of the wilderness! Let’s begin to take the land! Let’s begin to go in and put our foot down, and say God, “I claim this in Jesus’ name! I won’t be willed by this anymore! I’m gonna have your victory, as I walk in the Spirit, I reckon the old man, the old nature to be dead! He doesn’t have to rule over me anymore! I don’t have to be his servant any longer, I reckon that to be dead, that I might be alive in you.” And as the Spirit then begins to conform us into the image of Christ, and from glory to glory, even into that same image by His Spirit, as He now works in us, and brings us into the full life of fellowship and abundance and richness, that God want’s each of you to know! A life of victory!
Now, they did have fights in the wilderness. They did have battles. But the problem was, they never conquered anything, even when they won the battle. When you come into the real walk of the Spirit, you still have to fight some battles, but thank God, when you win, you conquer that territory! That’s yours now! You’ve possessed it! You’re beginning to possess your possessions. Too many Christians have failed to possess their possessions. That’s what the book of Ephesians is all about. Coming in to the full possession that is ours as a child of God, the full inheritance that God has for us as His children.
Oh let’s enter into it! Let’s not roam in the wilderness anymore! Let’s come out of the wilderness! Let’s start moving, where it really is counting and making a difference, where I’m really beginning now, to progress in my walk, and in my life in Christ.
We’re not gonna try fifteen, until next week, so, you know, nobody here but us, so who cares! We just let the Lord lead us as we go through. We’re not under the law, we’re under grace, and so, may God be with you and may God bring you real victories in your walk this week. Victories over those areas of the flesh, that have dominated and defeated you.
May you begin to know the life in the walk of the Spirit, as you yield and submit yourself unto the Spirit of God, to live after the Spirit, to walk after the Spirit. May you begin to really develop and grow in your relationship with Him, as God draws you to Himself, and into that inheritance that is yours, in Christ Jesus. In His name.
Edited & Highlighted from “The Word For Today” Transcription, Pastor Chuck Smith, Tape #7046