In our reading today we see the long-suffering patience of God on vivid display. The LORD is passionately committed to His people. His great purpose for Israel is for them to be a light to the other nations of the world. God’s character and God’s ways are to be demonstrated in and through the Jewish nation. Immediately after the exodus from Egypt, and just before the giving of the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai, we read these words of the LORD: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation “(Ex. 19:5,6a). This is the main reason for their existence.
We see right from the beginning, Israel’s struggle to be faithful to their side of the covenant. Even as Moses is receiving the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai and tarries their for 40 days, the Israelites become impatient down at the foot of the mountain and build a golden calf idol (Exodus 32).
In our reading today from the book of Numbers, we see the travelling band of pilgrims repeatedly turning their hearts back to Egypt. For example, in Num 11:4b,5 we read: “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” They conveniently forget that they were slaves back in Egypt. The God-ordained leadership of Moses is rebelled against twice (Numbers 12 & 16). The most significant rebellion, however, occurs in Numbers 13 & 14.
In Numbers 13, Moses sends twelve men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, to explore the land of Canaan – the Promised Land (Gen. 15:7; 17:8). The twelve spies bring back luscious clusters of fruit, a clear proof that it is as God said, a land flowing with milk and honey.
But instead of encouraging Israel to claim their inheritance, ten of the twelve spies advise them that the land is too difficult for Israel to conquer. They will die in the attempt since the inhabitants of the land are huge and their city walls are formidable. The people of Israel listened to the spies majority report. They ignore the advice of Caleb and Joshua to place their faith in the promises of God, a God who is much bigger than any Canaanite or city wall. The unbelief of the people brings devastating consequences. The whole adult generation, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, are sentenced to wander in the desert for forty years, and then die in the desert. It will be their children, who they fear would be killed by the Canaanites, who will enter the Promised Land.
In Numbers 13:33, we read these words of the faithless spies: “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes.” A question I would like to leave you with today is this: Do you have a grasshopper faith or an overcoming faith? Let us not hold God in contempt, but let us go in and fully claim our spiritual inheritance in Christ. Let us learn to live by faith in God’s promises and in obedience to His commands. “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
This the good news of Jesus Christ,