“And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, 37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still. 39 And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly. 40 And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned. 41 And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. 42 Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. 43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you. 44 But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah” (Numbers 14: 36-45).
In our article last week, we considered the responses of the Israelites after they had heard the evil report of the ten spies. Choosing to believe the faithless spies, the people distrusted God’s promises and power. Discouragement and discontent spread throughout the camp, and the people murmured against their leaders, Moses and Aaron.
“Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD” (Num 14: 37)
The ten spies, who had provoked God and caused the people to sin by their faithlessness, died immediately before the Lord. Because of their unbelief, they came short of the Promised Land, and fell in the wilderness. Indeed, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” (Heb 10: 31). Let us heed the warning from the writer of Hebrews: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the Living God” (Heb 3: 12).
“We … will go up” (Num 14: 40b)
Early the next day, the people decided to “go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised” them (Num 14: 40). Why did they make this rash decision now to enter the Promised Land? Since God had earlier wanted the people to enter the Promised Land, they felt that they should now obey. Foolish and presumptuous, they perhaps hoped that by entering the Promised Land, they might render vain, God’s severe sentence upon them. They even confessed their sin: “… we have sinned” (Num 14: 40c), “probably supposing that the temporary sorrow they felt for their late rebellion would be accepted as a sufficient atonement for their crimes” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary). Sadly, these words of supposed repentance came a little too late.
God had, through His servant, Moses, graciously warned the people against going up because He would not be with them: “Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you” (Num 14: 41-43). By choosing to go up without God’s presence, they reflected a presumptuous spirit that trusted in their own strength, and not in the Almighty power of God.
“How strangely perverse the conduct of the Israelites, who, shortly before, were afraid that, though their Almighty King was with them, they could not get possession of the land; and yet now they act still more foolishly in supposing that, though God were not with them, they could expel the inhabitants by their unaided efforts” (J F Brown Commentary).
“Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah” (Num 14: 45)
God’s warnings through His servant were loud and clear. However, they fell on deaf ears as the Israelites wilfully entered the Promised Land without the Lord: “But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp” (Num 14: 44). Their disobedience brought disaster and disgrace as the enemies soundly defeated them.
How vain is the counsel of man against the wisdom of God! We will surely fail if we lean upon our own strength by choosing to go our own way. May we learn to submit to God’s will and depend wholly upon Him.
The Israelites’ path to ruin began when they started to doubt God. This led to a spirit of discontent and murmuring against God and His servants. The ten spies who gave the evil report died before the Lord. Taking no heed, the people continued to sin by defying God and disobeying His Word. Their wilful and rash act of going up “unto the place which the LORD hath promised” (Num 14: 40b) ended in defeat and disgrace. Their faithlessness had cost them that precious opportunity to enter the Promised Land.
Brethren, let us not doubt the Lord. Submit humbly to His will. Check our hearts for a spirit of presumptuousness and pride lest we despise the power and presence of God. May the Lord help us to trust Him to lead us in our daily lives.