Forty days had passed since the men left to spy out the land of Canaan. Moses, Aaron and the whole camp of Israel eagerly awaited their return. Many wondered, âWhat sort of report would the scouts bring about the Promised Land? Was it really a good and large land, a land flowing with milk and honey as God had said?â
They would soon learn.
Looking into the distance, a man spotted the scouts returning from their journey. Excited, he yelled to others nearby: âThe scouts have returned. Comeâletâs go out to meet them!â
The news soon spread, and a throng gathered to welcome them home. Tired and weary from their travels, the Israelites peppered the scouts with questions.
After first reporting their findings to Moses, they spoke to a crowd assembled near the Tabernacle. Joshua took the lead. Full of eagerness and excitement, he boldly stated, âIt is indeed as God has said. We found a land full of all kinds of produce from which we may be well fed, and large green fertile fields greatly suited to raise our crops and graze our cattle and sheep.
âJust look at the evidence we have brought back,â he said, pointing to the sizable cluster of juicy grapes from Canaan.
âWe should all be encouraged by the blessings that God has provided, and follow His instruction to take possession of the land.â
The assembled Israelites nodded and voiced words of agreement.
Just then, another scout stepped forward. Looking intently at the people, he said, âFor the most part, it is as Joshua has said. But, he has not told you everything. While it is a rich and fertile land, many giants dwell there. Furthermore, the cities have tall, thick walls and are well defended with armed guards. If we try to take possession of Canaan, it will surely mean the death of us and our wives and children.â
With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, the other scouts sided with the one who gave the bad report.
And so the tide began to turn.
Cries of âWhy has God brought us to this land to die?â began to be heard. âIf only we had died in Egypt, or in the wilderness! Why is God going to make victims of our wives and little ones? It would be better to return to Egypt! Letâs choose a leader who will take us back.â
The complaints against Moses and Aaron were almost endless. The angry mob called for the stoning of Joshua and Caleb.
Suddenly, Godâs glory appeared in the Tabernacle before Israel. He was not pleased with this latest development (Num. 13:25-33; 14:1-10).
For Our Learning
Most are familiar with the story of Israel refusing to enter the Promised Land. Many generations have heard or read how God dealt with those He brought out of Egypt. Movies have been made and bedtime stories told about these ancient events.
But for those God has called today into the Church, ancient Israelâs history is much more important than just material for movies and interesting stories.
Writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul desired that they not be ignorant of Israelâs history (I Cor. 10:1). After referencing several significant events, he concluded, âNow all these things happened unto them for ensamples [a type or model]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fallâ (vs. 11-12).
Godâs Word is refined seven times (Psa. 12:6). It says exactly what He intends. Everything that God inspired to be recorded in the Bible was done for a reason, not because He needed to fill a certain number of pages. The Bible is for our instruction and learning (II Tim. 3:15-17).
Paul was telling the Corinthians that they should be able to learn from Israelâs example. They were to look back through the nationâs history with observant eyes so they would not make the same mistakes. He attached the reason in the form of a grave warning: Those who think they could not repeat the same mistakes should take heedâthey could easily fall into the same bad attitudes and conduct, and suffer the results.
How much more should weâwho are living at the end of the ageâtake Paulâs admonition to heart?
Constant Murmuring and Complaining
Through a series of miraculous plagues sent on the Egyptians, God had delivered Israel out of Egypt.
But now, the situation looked hopeless. Israel was trapped by the Red Sea in front, mountains to the left and right, and Pharaohâs army behind.
Upon seeing their dire circumstances, the Israelites complained. âBecause there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?â they asked Moses. âWherefore have you dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell you in Egypt, saying, let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wildernessâ (Ex. 14:11-12).
They began a pattern of groaning and complaining.
Even after God parted the Red Sea, blocked Pharaohâs army from overtaking them while they crossed over on dry ground, and then allowed the Egyptians to follow for the purpose of drowning them in full view of the Israelites, in the weeks and months ahead God had to endure their faithless complaining.
These amazing feats of divine intervention should have been enough for them to trust their lives into His hands. But as the Bible records, it was not.
Just a few short weeks later, having come to the wilderness of Sin, âthe whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and AaronâŠ[and] said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for you have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hungerâ (Ex. 16:2-3).
They were soon to be informed their murmuring was actually directed at God.
âAnd Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then you shall know that the Lord has brought you out from the land of Egypt. And in the morning, then you shall see the glory of the Lord; for that He hears your murmurings against the Lord: and what are we that you murmur against us? And Moses said This shall be, when the Lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him: and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lordâ (vs. 6-8).
How easy it can be to complain, gripe and groan about difficult circumstances that can arise from trying to follow the path to which God has called us. Difficulties with our employer over the Sabbath and Holy Days, troubles with family because we will not participate with them in worldly holidays, and perhaps having to make sacrifices to obey Godâs tithing law, can at times seem unbearable. If not careful, we can begin to think life was better before God called us. We can begin to look back to our former life, forgetting the miserable condition from which we were called.
Perhaps you have even expressed similar thoughts. This is the tendency of the flesh.
But God hears such moaning, which is in fact directed at Him. You are, in effect, saying that God did not know what He was doing when He called youâthat the way is too difficult and He is unable to protect, care for you or provide all your needs as you travel the path of true Christianity.
Be on guard for this faithless form of thinking. Rather, we should focus our minds on this promise: âGod is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation [trial, hardship, difficulty] also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear itâ (I Cor. 10:13).
Rebellion against Godâs Government
Korah had steadily grown displeased with how Moses, Godâs servant, led Israel. Not content with keeping divisive and criticizing feelings to himself, he whispered his discontent to others.
Soon Korah had others thinking as he. Moses had too much authority, and did not make decisions the way he would. Why shouldnât he have a say in the way things were being done? After all, didnât he know better than Moses how to lead the people and make important decisions?
With a group of 250 co-conspirators, Korah confronted Moses.
âYou take too much upon you,â he charged, âseeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift you up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?â
It was not that Korah had concern for others; he and those with him simply had a rebellious attitude against Godâs government and the servants God had vested with His authority. This spirit of rebellion emanates straight from the mind of the universeâs original rebelâSatan! He hates all authority, especially Godâs.
The devil continually broadcasts his rebellious antigovernment attitudes into all unsuspecting and willing minds. His ultimate purpose is to turn converted minds against Godâs government and those who administer it.
Satan seeks those who let down in prayer, fasting and Bible studyâspiritually weak, they make for easy prey.
There is a grave danger of ever allowing rebellious thoughts to enter your mind! Your very salvation is at stake. Resist fiery doubts from the devil at all cost!
Notice what happened to Korah and those aligned with him: âAnd the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that pertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that pertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregationâ (Num. 16:32-33).
God does not take these matters lightly!
No matter how many miracles, signs and wonders God performed, Israelâs lack of belief persisted (Num. 14:22). Refusing to enter Canaan was only one of many examples. Israel refused to obey God. Rather than believing Joshua and Caleb, who brought back news that the Promised Land was just as God said it would be, the Israelites chose to believe those who bore false witness. Believing the evil report was to call God a liar.
By this point in His dealings with Israel, God had had enough. His reaction was understandable. âAnd the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke Me? And how long will it be ere [before] they believe Me, for all the signs which I have showed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a greater nation and mightier than theyâ (Num. 14:11-12).
It was only through Mosesâ sincere and humble intercession that the whole nation was not rejected by God.
Yet such a display of unbelief could not go unpunished. Lessons needed to be learned.
âBecause all those men which have seen My glory, and My miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted Me now these ten times [yes, God counted the number of times], and have not hearkened to My voiceâŠas I live, says the Lord, as you have spoken in My ears, so will I do to you:
âYour carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against Me, Doubtless you shall not come into the land, concerning which I swore to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
âBut your little ones, which you said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.
âBut as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wildernessâŠI the Lord have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against Me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall dieâ (Num. 14:22, 28-32, 35).
Heed The Warning
The Promised Land was a type of Godâs kingdom. God chose and called Israel, a physical people, out of Egypt, a physical land of sin. He gave them His laws, statutes and Commandments. He performed many mighty works for them, protected and delivered them from Pharaoh (a type of Satan) and his army. God quenched their thirst with water from a rock, sent quail to satisfy their hunger and miraculously provided manna. He made promises that a land of untold physical blessings awaited them. Yet they grumbled, complained, murmured, rebelled and displayed incredible episodes of outright unbelief. They never fully believed, trusted or had unwavering faith in God.
As Godâs purpose with ancient Israel was to bring them into the Promised Land, so it is His purpose to bring usâspiritual Israel (I Pet. 2:9)âinto the ultimate land of great and exceeding promiseâthe everlasting kingdom of God.
He has chosen and called us out of spiritual Egypt, this present evil world. We have been delivered from the god of the worldâto whom we were formerly enslaved! What a wonderful work God has done for us! He has given us His laws and Commandments, opened our minds to receive and understand His truth and comprehend His great Plan of Salvation for mankind. He has promised to protect, feed and clothe us (Luke 12:22-31).
Having been begotten by Godâs Spirit, which enables us to keep His laws, we have been offered the opportunity to be among the firstborn into His divine Family. Neither the Holy Spirit nor salvation was offered to Israel, except for a tiny few. Think how so much more we have been given. How much more is at stake for us.
We have the vantage point of history. We can look back at Israelâs mistakes, shortcomings and pitfalls. They are recorded for our benefitâto learn from and to avoid following their same pattern.
âWherefore (as the Holy Spirit says, Today if you will hear His voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, they do always err in their heart; and they have not known My ways. So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God (Heb. 3:7-12).
The Bible records that none of that generation entered the Promised Land. They never received rest from their labor or wandering.
The exhortation to us is clear: âLet us labor therefore to enter into that rest [of the kingdom of God], lest any [one of us] fall after the same example of unbeliefâ (Heb. 4:11).
Learn from ancient Israelâs example. Be vigilant and determine not to allow any of their glaring faults into your life.