A Study Of Numbers Chapter 14
As you may well know, there are many wicked people described in the Old Testament.
How should we read and interpret these bad examples in the Old Testament?
What does the Bible say about that?
The Bible says:
“These examples were written for our admonition”.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, God speaks about the Children of Israel in the wilderness, after they had left the land of Egypt and were on their way to the land of Canaan. God called them a “Stiff-necked People”. We read here in 1 Corinthians 10:5-6,
1 Corinthians 10:5
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
1 Corinthians 10:6
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
Literally, with most of them God was not pleased at all. When someone is not pleasing to God, that person is still unregenerate and under the wrath of God. Yes, they died unsaved, and God says: “they were overthrown in the wilderness”.
What does that mean “overthrown”?
Literally it means that they were scattered in the wilderness: Their dead bodies were scattered, as they wandered throughout the wilderness over a period of 40 years. And God says that these things were written as examples for us, that we should not fall into sin like they did. God says it again in verses 10 and 11:
1 Corinthians 10:10
Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
1 Corinthians 10:11
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
They murmured against God many times, they were grumbling and complaining about what God has done in their lives, and that is a terrible sin. They died for their sin, some instantly and others after a while. They were not allowed to enter the promised land because their heart was not right with God. But God said: These things happened to them for examples to us, and the Greek word translated “ensamples” is the word “tupos”, from which we derive the word “type”. In other words, God says: These things in the Old Testament happened to them as types and figures of what was to come in the New Testament.
Let me give you an example of that. In Number chapter 14 we have the story that Moses sent twelve spies to spy out the land of Canaan, and the bad report that they brought. Ten of the twelve spies said: We are not able to fight those giants of this land.
Why was it that they were so fainthearted?
How was their heart?
God says about the heart of man:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
And now we can see an application of the fact that man’s heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.
There was Rebellion in Israel (Numbers 14:1-4)
And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
Not only were they murmuring against Moses and Aaron, but they were blaming God that God had brought them to this land of Canaan so that they would be killed in battle and that their wives and their children would become slaves of these Canaanites. They were blaming God for deceiving them.
What a terrible thing they were saying?
What a terrible thing was going on in their heart?
Paraphrased they said: O, we wish that we had died in the land of Egypt, and O, we wish that we had died in this wilderness. What a disaster that Jehovah has brought us to this land of Canaan, this land that He has promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. It was all a scam; it was a trap.
What makes people blame God?
What a terrible inconsistency is this, if we believe that there is a benevolent Being, God, who created this entire universe, and us, and then accuse God for deceiving us and bringing a disaster in our life, for no good reason at all. God could have prevented this.
But, did you notice that this is what people still do today?
Haven’t you heard people say: “O, why does this happen to me? I do not deserve this. Why did God do this to me?”
What they are actually saying in a hidden way is this: “This is unfair! God did this to me, but God could have prevented this. I do not deserve this kind of treatment, but God brought this disaster in my life for no good reason.”
And now they wanted to return to Egypt. Think of it now!
Is this a general trend of Congregations to go back into bondage?
Yes! Absolutely! They tend to drift into works gospels, because the Gospel of Grace alone is repugnant to most people. And how hard it is to be in a works gospel! They will have a long list of things they HAVE to do, in order to appear righteous in God’s eyes. I must say the sinner’s prayer, I must be very sincere, I must accept Jesus into my heart, I must pray to get things done, I must work for the Church, I must work to abolish abortion, and so on. And they always feel guilty for not having done enough. The list gets longer instead of shorter. It makes great workers in the Church, but they always feel burdened, and the ones who are not saved eventually give up.
Works gospels are all rebellion against God.
How do we plead with rebels? (Numbers 14:5-9)
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:
And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
How do we plead with rebels against God?
First of all, we do not pretend that we are better than they are. The two highest officials in the nation, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, humbling themselves before the Congregation, and pleading with God that He will forgive these rebels their blasphemy. Joshua and Caleb who were chiefs of the tribes of Ephraim and Judah, and who were the only two of the twelve spies who brought an honest report, they too pleaded with the Congregation to go forward and conquer the promised land, as the Lord had promised to give to them.
They described this exceeding good land. And how good was that land?
It was flowing with milk and honey.
Does this mean that they were wading through rivers of milk, and that the honey was flowing down from beehives all over the place?
No. Of course not. God defines His own terms.
Many years later God defined this expression when Ezekiel wrote in Ezekiel 20, verses 6 and 15, that it was “the land flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands”.
Which land can claim the title that it is “the glory of all lands”?
Which land is more glorious than any other land on this earth?
Of course, it is the Kingdom of God. In the Old Testament God speaks in types and figures. The land of Canaan was a type of the Kingdom of God, and therefore the milk and honey are a type of the Gospel of the Kingdom. The milk and honey are flowing like the Word of God is flowing. That same Hebrew word for “flowing” is used for the waters that gushed out of the Rock when Moses struck the Rock in the wilderness. In the New Testament God says: “that Rock was Christ”. Furthermore, in Psalm 19:10 God says that the Word of God is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
Therefore, when Joshua and Caleb were pleading with the Congregation to enter into the promised land, it was a picture of one of us pleading with someone unsaved to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Can we plead with those who rebel against God?
Yes, we are commanded by God to do so. But they are spiritually dead. Only by the Grace of God will they hear. Look at the evidence!
They were ready to stone Joshua and Caleb.
God’s patience was running out (Numbers 14:10-12)
But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
In other words: No one wants to go to the promised land that God offered as a free gift. Every one prefers to go to the land of Egypt, the land of bondage, as their promised land.
Is that not strange?
No! It is not strange at all. God is painting a picture here. The picture is that the natural man, the unsaved man, does not want the Kingdom of God. The true Gospel is an offense to the natural man. They do not want God’s plan of salvation. They prefer their own plan of salvation, and they prefer to choose their own leader. The natural man does not like the God of the Bible. He wants his own god.
Here in Numbers 14:10 they preferred to kill their faithful leaders and choose their own leader to go back into Egypt. Never mind all the signs God has performed to bring them out of Egypt. Never mind the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night they witnessed every day. Never mind the miraculous manna that rained from Heaven every morning and the water that gushed out of the Rock at two different occasions. Never mind that they heard God speaking at Mount Sinai, and that they trembled at God’s voice. Never mind that the mountain burned with fire, and that Moses’ face was brightly shining when he came down from the mountain.
And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere 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 thee a greater nation and mightier than they.
God’s patience was running out. There are those who believe that God has infinite patience with the Congregation of Israel, or that God has infinite patience with the New Testament Church. It is true that patience, or longsuffering, is an attribute of God. It is also true that God has infinite patience with those who have become saved, who have become the building blocks of the Eternal Church, which is the Body of Christ. But not every one in the corporate Church is a saved individual, and God does not have infinite patience with the corporate Church. Last week we looked at the Church at Ephesus from the vantage point of Revelation 2:1-7.
Did God warn them that His patience was running out?
Yes! He did.
Has God been patient with the children of Israel?
Yes, He has been. But the majority of them rebelled again and again. They murmured against God many times.
What does that indicate?
It indicates that they were never saved. They were a stiff-necked people!
And God Rejected that Congregation (Numbers 14:26-30, Hebrews 4:2)
They did not want to enter into the promised land. Paraphrased God says: Have it your way!
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.
Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:
Your 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 ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter into the promised land, but no one else of 20 years and older. It was as if God had rejected that entire Congregation except Joshua and Caleb.
In all fairness, we have to recognize a few individuals who were definitely saved people, besides Joshua and Caleb. There was Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam, and undoubtedly some of the faithful Levites who were on the side of Moses, and remember there was Bezaleel, and Aholiab who built the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle, and there may have been a few more. None of those were allowed to enter into the promised land.
Had God rejected those people also?
NO! Of course not.
But God was drawing a picture, or types and figures of what the New Testament Church would be like. God rejected the Corporate Body for rejecting Him. They heard the Gospel through Moses, but they were not saved. Yes, that is a surprise to many that they too heard the Gospel. God says in Hebrews 4:2,
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
Could God have given faith to most of the children of Israel?
Yes, God could have done it. God could have prevented all of the catastrophes in history, but God chose not to do so, because God was carrying out His plan that gave Him all the glory.
God showed us in this story that He is capable of rejecting an entire Congregation, without actually harming the eternal security of some who were chosen by God unto salvation. And God did this again when He rejected the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but God preserved a Remnant chosen by grace. And God did this again when He rejected the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but God preserved a Remnant chosen by grace.
Every time, why did God reject them?
Because they have not hearkened to My voice (Numbers 14:22-23, Hebrews 3:17-19)
Because 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, and have not hearkened to my voice;
Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:
God rejected this Congregation because, God says, they have seen my glory and yet they have not listened to my voice.
How did they see God’s glory?
Did they see it in bright colors and sparkles?
NO! They saw that God was victorious over evil.
Have we seen God’s glory?
I hope all of you have seen God’s glory. The Bible says: “And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Those words are speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have we seen Jesus Christ?
Not with our physical eyes, but with our spiritual eyes. With our spiritual eyes and ears we have believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was victorious over sin and evil, by nailing our sins to the Cross and binding the power of Satan. That is how we beheld His glory, because we have listened to His voice.
How did we come to believe all that?
The Bible says that God gave us this faith. We were saved entirely by God’s grace.
But the children of Israel have seen God’s glory, and yet they have not listened to His voice.
Their hearts were still in unbelief because they did not listen to His voice. God says, Hebrews 3:17-19,
But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
The great warning that flows from these words is this: When you hear the voice of God, LISTEN. God is very displeased with those who hear the Gospel and remain unsaved. It would have been better for them if they never heard the Gospel.
Whose voice are you listening to?
Are you listening to your Church, or are you listening to the Bible?
Did you know: Most people do not like to listen to the Bible. The majority of people in the United States of America have Bibles in their homes. Many homes have more than one.
But will they read it?
Most of those Bibles are collecting dust. Most people prefer to talk rather than listen. Most people prefer to generate their own opinion of God, rather than listen to the Bible. The consequences:
Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness (Numbers 14:32-35, Matthew 25:41,46)
But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.
And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.
After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.
I 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 die.
God called them an “Evil Congregation”, or in Exodus 34 God called them a “Stiff-necked People”.
God says: “I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me”. They would wander in the wilderness for 40 years and they would die in the wilderness.
What is so bad about that?
You know that the wilderness wanderings were a picture of our wanderings through this world, until we finally cross the Jordan River, which was a picture of entering the Kingdom of God.
What was the penalty of this Evil Congregation?
Just die in this world?
NO! The penalty was that they would die in this world unsaved, and never enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
What are the consequences if someone dies unsaved?
The Lord Jesus described that in a parable of the great Judgment at the End of the world when He will separate the sheep from the goats, which means: when He will separate the saved from the unsaved people. The Lord Jesus as the Judge will say to the unsaved in Matthew 25:41,
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand (the goats), Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Then He continues to describe Hell in verse 46,
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
You see: Hell is everlasting punishment for sins, because the sins are against the infinite God, who created us not for sin, but to glorify Him. And if we fall short of this assignment, then there is Hell to pay. It is a place of everlasting torment.
What we have seen so far in Numbers 14 is bad, bad, bad. It is an Evil Congregation, it is a Stiff-necked people, God is not pleased with them and most of them will die unsaved. But look at the whole human race: Most of them will die unsaved. That is how people are born, and that is how most people die: Under the wrath of God. That is what the Bible says. And if God would not interfere in our life, all of us would end up in Hell, because all of us are sinners and voluntary slaves of Satan.
But God has: A Covenant with Some (Numbers 14:24, Numbers 14:30-31)
Here and there, sprinkled throughout this gloomy story in Numbers 14 are a few sparkles of God’s Amazing Grace. God has a Covenant with some, and that Covenant is a Covenant of Grace, which means: it is not earned or deserved, but it is totally a Free Gift. Look at Numbers 14:24,
But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
Who does God have in mind with the words: “another Spirit”?
It was not Caleb’s spirit, but another Spirit. Whose Spirit was it?
At the evidence of the presence of that Spirit: “he hath followed Me fully”, which means it was the Spirit of God who was in Caleb.
The Lord Jesus said at two different occasions: “Many are called, but few are chosen”. These words state the principle of salvation, which has been in effect almost from the beginning of the world. These words also were fulfilled in the history of that entire generation that was called out of Egypt, to come to a land flowing with milk and honey. Many were called out of Egypt, but only Joshua and Caleb were chosen to enter into the promised land, because with most of them God was not pleased.
Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
Joshua and Caleb did not earn this special favor with God. It was a Free Gift.
But there was another group of people who were chosen to enter the promised land. God said:
But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.
Here too we can see that these children did nothing to deserve such a favor with God.
Had not God promised that He would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him?
Therefore, these children did not deserve anything. But God chose to give the promised land to them as a Free Gift.
The nature of God’s Covenant is that it is a Free Gift, not based on anything that we have done.
NONE of us deserve any gifts from God, because: “There is NONE righteous, NO NOT ONE.” But God, in His great mercy, decided to bring certain people into the promised land, which stands for the Kingdom of God.
How did God save Joshua and Caleb?
They too had sins attached to them.
Did God invite them with their sins into God’s Holy Heaven?
Did God wave His hand and forgave them all their sins?
NO! God is not an unrighteous Judge that He will forgive sins without demanding that the penalty for those sins be fully paid. Those sins of Joshua and Caleb also had to be fully paid by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. That is why God could say:
I have pardoned (Numbers 14:17-21)
In Numbers 14:5 Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the Congregation. And Moses pleaded with the Lord that He would not destroy the Congregation. And Moses reminded God of His own words that He is a merciful God. And Moses said in Numbers 14:17,
And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,
The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
Moses pleaded for his people like Christ has pleaded for us.
What was God’s answer?
And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:
But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
There were two things that God said here. Allow me to paraphrase the verses we have just read:
I have pardoned already, past tense. According to your words, Moses, I have already forgiven, but at the same time I will by no means clear the guilty. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. I have pardoned those individuals that are mine. I have already chosen them. They are the ones for whom Christ has died, who is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And with all the others, though I know that they are wicked and that they will die in their sins, I will be longsuffering and I will endure them for 40 years, but no longer.
As I promised to Abraham: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”. Another way of saying this is: “All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD”. This is going to find its fulfillment when Christ shall have fulfilled His mission of atoning for the sins of all those whom I have given Him, and when the Holy Spirit will have proclaimed that Good News to all those for whom Christ has come to save. To begin with, here are Joshua and Caleb. They receive the Good News that they will inherit the land of Canaan, the Kingdom of God. After them there will be many more who hear that same Good News, until this Good News has spread throughout the whole earth.
But the glory of the Lord, the glory of victory over Sin and Satan, and the glory that forgiveness of sins has been obtained through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, that is the glory which will be spread to the farthest ends of the earth. And the Redeemed of the Lord shall inherit the earth:
For an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:7-8, Isaiah 32:18)
NO! Not this sin cursed earth, but a New Heaven and New Earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. That is the new universe, which God shall give us for an everlasting possession. Not this earth, because this earth will pass away. God did not promise this earth to Abraham.
God said to Abraham in Genesis 17:7-8,
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
God made a Covenant with Abraham and with his Seed. Now, the Seed of Abraham is first of all Christ. Therefore all those in Christ also become the seed of Abraham. God said in Galatians 3:29,
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
What are we heirs of?
Heirs according to the promise made to Abraham. In Genesis 17:7-8 God says that He made an everlasting Covenant with us to give us “all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession”. But the actual land of Canaan will disappear when the big meltdown comes on the Last Day. Therefore, the actual land of Canaan is not what God had in view when He made that promise to Abraham, but it was the New Heaven and New Earth. The land of Canaan was a picture of the Kingdom of God, the New Heaven and New Earth.
Now, what are the consequences?
When God denied the Congregation of Israel (as a whole) to enter into the land of Canaan, what was that a picture of?
The Old Testament Congregation was prefiguring the New Testament Church. Unfortunately, we are not wiser, or smarter, or more holy than they were. What happened to the Old Testament Congregation is going to happen to the New Testament Church. When God denied the Congregation of Israel (as a whole) to enter into the land of Canaan, God gave us a picture of the End of time, when the Corporate Church goes apostate. It is the picture that He will deny the Corporate Church entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, except for Joshua and Caleb, which typify the two witnesses of Revelation 11.
Where does that leave you and me?
If we bring a faithful report of the Kingdom of God, faithfully according to the Bible, then we are faithful witnesses like Joshua and Caleb, and like the two witnesses of Revelation 11. Pray to God that we may remain faithful, because it is only by His Grace that we can remain faithful. Listen to God’s Word coming out of the mouths of Joshua and Caleb in Numbers 14:8.
If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
If the Lord delight in us, then He will give it to us. What a wonderful ending for such a sad story.
And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;
Did the Congregation repent?
It seems so. But there was no repentance, because the next day they again rebelled against the Lord.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.
And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.
By Alfred J. Chompff