Numbers: rebellions, judgements, mercies, and lessons for us!

Image Source: JesusWalkBibleStudySeries

Last Sunday we saw that Israel left Mt. Sinai and were marching to the promised land (Numbers 10). They camped at Sinai for two years and had become comfortable, so the march was difficult. They got to Kadesh-Barnea after three days and sent 12 spies to the land. Two spies, Caleb and Joshua, said they could take the land, the other 10 said it was impossible to do so, the people of the land were giants.

Click on the map on this message and you will see the route taken by the spies, and you will see also that Kadesh-Barnea was the southern tip of the promise land (colored green on the map). This green area was very fertile, the areas to the east after the dead sea, and the River Jordan was not as fertile. This was because there was a long line of mountains that separated the western part (green) from the eastern part. The River Jordan flowed in the valley between the mountains and formed a natural boundary between the western and eastern areas.

So we get to Numbers 14, the people wept all night, and decided to return to Egypt. God judged them in Numbers 14:20-23 (NIV): ‘The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them… Nevertheless, as surely as I live… not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times… will ever see the land I promised… No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.’

Moving on from Numbers Chapters 14 to 20, we read about a series of rebellions. These rebellions follow a similar pattern – the people complain about their living conditions, they say they want to return back the Egypt, the challenge the leadership of Moses and Aaron, they are judged, Moses begs for mercy, God shows mercy. Eventually, Moses led the people to take over the land of the Amorites, right up to Bashan, on the eastern side of River Jordan (see the map and read up Numbers Chapters 20 and 21). So the generation that left Egypt did not enter the promised land, but God in his mercy, did not abandon them, they were able to capture the land of the Amorites.

In preparation for the coming of Jesus, the Lord purposed that Israel will occupy a land where they will thrive, prosper, and be secured. The natural barriers of the sea to the left and mountains to the right made the promised land a secure location. The promised land was also the international road between the great empires of Egypt in the south and Mesopotamia in the north (with its big rival cities of Nineveh and Babylon). International trade with these empires made Israel rich. God chose well, the people could not see it, so they rebelled over and over again.

Like Israel I also complain, then I remember that God chose well for Israel, but the generation that left Egypt could not see it. Their immediate discomfort with life in the camp, blinded them to the great blessings awaiting them in their final destination just ahead. They rebelled and treated God with contempt (scorn, disrespect, disregard). Will I, will you, allow discomforts today, rob you of blessings prepared for you?

Lord, open my eyes to see your good plans for me, Amen!

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