Crying for yourself means you don’t trust God. Ten times, God promised that He would give the Jews the Promised Land (Gen. 12:6-7; 13:14-15; 15:7; 17:8; 26:4; 28:13-15; 50:24; Ex. 12:25; 23:20-31; 33:1-3). He made these promises to each of the patriarchs and again to Moses. Yet, upon hearing the bad report from the 10 spies about the “giants” in Canaan, “all” the congregation cried and wept the entire night (Nu. 14:1). The Jews showed that they did not trust in God’s promises. Have you at times felt out of control by bad news and cried as a result? Or, do you trust God, even when things seem hopeless?
Find joy in your trials. Instead of crying, God wants us to treat every trial with joy (Jam. 1:2). When you persevere under trial, He promises to both bless you and give you the crown of life in the eternal Promised Land: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (Jam. 1:12). Are you looking for your joy in the world to come?
Only cry for others. “Jesus wept.” (Jo. 11:35). But He did so after being moved by Mary’s grief for the loss of her brother Lazarus (Jo. 11:32-34). Believers are to be imitators of Christ (1 Thess. 1:6; 1 Cor. 11:1). Christ never cried for Himself. Nor should we. On the other hand, if you never shed tears for others, how much compassion is in your heart?
An evil tongue comes from an evil heart. After crying, the people complained about their leaders, Moses and Aaron (Nu. 14:2(a)). The Bible says that believers are not to speak ill of one another (Ps. 15:3; 50:19-20; Prov. 6:16-19; Jam. 4:11). It is one of the signs of a “depraved mind.” (Ro. 1:28-30). Few, if any, can claim to be above this sin. Indeed, this sin is so common that Aaron, the High Priest, had just done it against Moses (Nu. 12:1). At its root, complaining about others happens when you feel out of control or pride when you believe that you could do something better. Under either circumstance, it stems from a lack faith and trust in God to do what is best. When you encounter difficulties, have you turned on those who have made your life more difficult? Have you gossiped or murmured about them to others? If so, have you repented of this sin and apologized to your brother or sister?
Think before you speak in anger. Although you may not realize it, your tongue is a potential weapon that can inflict great pain: “Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.” (Prov. 5:18, same, 25:18). “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (Jam. 3:5-6). “A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.” (Prov. 16:27). “A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov. 6:19). When you lie, what kind of witness are you to the light that lies within you?
Fear stems from a lack of faith. After crying and murmuring, fear spread across the nation. “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into land to fall by the sword?” (Nu. 14:2(b)-3(a)). God is the only thing in life that you are to fear (Prov. 1:7). The fear of the Lord is further defined as hating evil (Prov. 8:12). By contrast, God warns that “[t]he fear of man brings a snare. But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). The last time you felt fear, did you take your eyes off the Lord? Are you trusting in His love to cast out your fears?
God’s promise of peace is conditional. If the Jews followed God’s Law, He promised to give them peace (Lev. 26:6; Ex. 18:23; Ps. 29:11). Yet, if the Jews broke His Law, He would cause them to feel fear in the forms of (1) a sudden terror, (2) a consumption of thoughts, (3) a fever, (4) a wasting of the eyes, (5) a pining of the soul, and (6) a useless sowing of their seeds (Lev. 26:14-16). If you trust God and follow His commandments, Jesus promises you the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). If you have broken the Law, repent. Once you repent, you will have no further condemnation (Ro. 8:1).
Perfect love casts out all fear. Christ warns that we will experience tribulation in the world (John 16:33). The reason for this is that the world is cursed (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:20-22). As stated above, Jesus says we can overcome this tribulation with the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). But this peace only exists when we are in fellowship with God. For it is “impossible” to please God when we lack faith (Heb. 11:6). If the Jews knew God’s love for them, they would not have feared. For “perfect love casts out fear. . . ” (1 John 4:18). The next time you fear, meditate on God’s love for you and pray for God to cast out your fear.
Don’t let the devil deceive you with your old life of bondage. After the crying, the murmuring, and the fear failed to solve their problems, they wanted to select a leader to head back to Egypt: “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.” (Nu. 14:4). An “unbelieving heart” will cause a person to fall away from God (Heb. 3:12). When we long for the things of the flesh, God will eventually give us over to our lusts (Rom. 1:28). When we leave God’s protection, the devil will tempt us with things of our old lives. Yet, is there any sin that he, the father of lies, can offer that will bring lasting joy and peace? Would you rather live a tough live knowing that God is protecting you? Or, would you rather live a tormented life on your own?
Be a light to others gripped with fear. Joshua and Caleb were God’s two witnesses who tried to encourage the fearful people to have faith (Nu. 14:9). They foreshadowed God’s two lonely witnesses who will try to encourage the people to turn to God in order to enter the Promised Land in heaven (Rev. 11:3). Joshua and Caleb’s different origins tell us that anyone can be a mighty warrior of faith. Joshua was a powerful and respected servant of Moses who was always steadfast in his faith. Through God, he previously defeated the Amalekites in battle (Ex. 17:8-13). He also patently waited for Moses at Mount Horab when others gave up hope (Ex. 32:17). He also patiently waited outside the Tabernacle tent when God stated that he would not stay with His people (Ex. 33:11). By contrast, Caleb, who name means “dog,” is believed to have been an Edomite and not a Jew. But he turned into a man of faith. All things are possible through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). Believers are to be lights to others (Matt. 6:16). They are also to comfort or encourage others with the comfort or encouragement they have received from God (2 Cor. 1:4; Heb. 3:13). Joshua and Caleb were stoned for their witness (Nu. 14:10). Are you, like Joshua and Caleb, trying to encourage others to do what is right? Or are you afraid to speak because of the verbal “stones” and stares that you might receive?
The Jew’s ten failures of faith. Because of their rebellion, God told Moses that they had forfeited their right to the Promised Land (Nu. 14:11). God promised to keep His promise to Abraham through Moses’ descendants (Nu. 14:12). Moses, however, prayed as an intercessor for God to pardon the Jews for their lack of faith. In doing so, Moses recited God’s statement that He is slow to anger: “The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness; but forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations.” (Nu. 14:18; Ex. 34:6-7). In response to Moses’ intercessory prayers, God pardoned the nation from the penalty of death (Nu. 14:19-22). But He said that they would forfeit their right to the land after the “ten times” that they tested Him and failed to obey Him (Nu. 14:22). Many times the God of the Old Testament is called the God of “wrath” and the God of the New Testament is called the God of “grace”. Yet, consider His punishment for each of the ten Jewish rebellions. Was He more than reasonable in punishing them after the tenth offense?
(1) The parting of the Red Sea. Ex. 14:8-12. With the first test, the Jews had just seen God strike down the Egyptians with ten separate plagues (Ex. Chapters 7- 12). Yet, as Pharaoh approached them at the Red Sea, they were terrified and cried out to Moses: "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (Ex. 14:12). Ironically, these were almost the same words the Jews said to Moses when the heard the bad report from the ten spies (Nu. 14:2-3). These were not a people of great faith. Yet, God did not punish them at all. Instead, He saved them by parting the Sea and crushing Pharaoh’s troops (Ex. 14:21-30). What does that tell you about God’s mercy that he did not punish Israel?
(2) The waters of Marah. Ex. 15:22-24. With the second test, the Jews marched for three days from the Sea and found no new water. The people were anxious about their water supply as they came to an oasis in the desert called Marah. To their disappointment, the waters of Marah were bitter and undrinkable (Ex. 15:23). The Jews grumbled at Moses for bringing them there. Yet, God was in fact guiding them by a visible pillar of light (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19). For the second time, instead of punishing the Jews, He responded to their complaints. This time, He transformed the waters of Marah to provide drinking water (Ex. 15:25-27). But He warned that they needed to keep His statutes to avoid the diseases of Egypt (Ex. 15:26). What again does this tell you about His mercy that he did not punish Israel for this second rebellion? He is slow to anger as He promised.
(3) The longing for “meat” in the wilderness of sin. Ex. 16:1-3. With the third test, the “whole congregation complained” about their food while in the “wilderness of sin.” (Ex. 16:1-2). Only a month after they had left the bondage of Egypt, they reminisced about their “pots of meat.” (Ex. 16:3). Moses warned that their grumbling was a sin against God (Ex. 16:8). Yet, rather than punishing them, God gave them quail and manna (Ex. 16:12-15). For the third time, they were not punished. What again does this say about His mercy?
(4) The hording of manna in the wilderness of sin. Ex. 16:19-20. With the fourth test, God also warned the Jews while in the “wilderness of sin” not to leave the manna until morning. But they tried to horde the manna anyways (Ex. 16:16-21). God previously told Moses that He would test the Jews to see if they kept His commandments (Ex. 16:4). They didn’t. Yet, for the fourth time, God did not punish them. Again, He showed great undeserved mercy.
(5) The search for manna on the Sabbath in the wilderness of sin. Ex. 16:22-30. With the fifth test, God further told the Jews while in the “wilderness of sin” that the manna would not come on the seventh day. But the Jews went out on the seventh day looking for it anyways (Ex. 16:22-30). The punishment for gathering on the Sabbath was death (Nu. 15:33-36). God expressed His anger for the first time. But He again did not punish them (Ex. 16:28). By overlooking their first five transgressions in the wilderness without punishment, he again shows that He is filled with mercy.
(6) Demands for water in Massah (testing) and Meribbah (quarreling). Ex. 17:1-4. Days later, the Jews failed their sixth test. They camped at a place without fresh water and immediately complained to Moses: “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex. 17:3). Rather than punishing the Jews, God made water come out from a rock at Horeb (Ex. 17:6). Moses named the place Massah (testing) and Meribbah (quarreling) because they tested the Lord saying: “Is the Lord among us?” (Ex. 17:7). Although the Jews were worthy of punishment, for the sixth time God did not punish them at all. Again, He revealed that He is full of mercy and slow to anger.
(7) The building of the golden calf at Mount Horeb. Ex. 32:1-35. The Jews’ seventh test came while Moses was at Mount Horeb for forty days (Ex. 24:18). Moses told the people to wait for his return (Ex. 24:13-15). But this was too long for them. For they believed that it was Moses, not God, who led them out of Egypt. They asked Aaron to “make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Ex. 32:1). Sadly, God just warned that the people were not to make gods of gold and silver (Ex. 20:23). The people responded by making a vow that they would obey God’s commandments (Ex. 24:3; 24:7; 19:8). They broke both their vow and the Second Commandment by committing idolatry (Ex. 20:3-5). They turned against God because their hearts were wicked (Jer. 17:9). On the seventh rebellion against God, He allowed for those who refused to repent to be punished. In total, 3,000 died in the rebellion against God (Ex. 32:28). But He later saved 3,000 lives (Acts 2:41). God was slow to anger in waiting until the seventh rebellion to punish those who refused to repent.
(8) The murmuring at Taberah “burning”. Nu. 11:1-3. God promised that the Jews’ initial journey from Mount Horab would be only three days (Nu. 10:33). Their murmuring against God, the eighth rebellion, began only a day or two into their journey at a place called Taberah (Nu. 11:1, 3). God’s anger burned, but He only “consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.” (Nu. 11:1). After Moses prayed, the fires died out (Nu. 11:2). God did not harm any of the people who had complained. Again, He showed that He is filled with mercy.
(9) The murmuring at Kibroth-Hattaavah, the “grave of greediness. Nu. 11:4-34. At Kibroth-Hattaavah, the ninth rebellion, the people again demanded meat (Nu. 11:4). As they did in the book of Exodus, they again longed for the food they had while in bondage (Nu. 11:5). Their appetite for God’s manna was gone (Nu. 11:6). God gave them the quail they requested. But rather than thanking God, the people stuffed themselves out gluttony (Nu. 11:31-32). God burned only against only those who lusted out of greed and failed to thank Him (Nu. 11:33-34). Again, He showed that He is full of mercy and slow to anger.
(10) The rebellion of Kibroth-Hattaavah. Nu. 14:3. The rebellion of the people at Kibroth-Hattaavah was the Jews’ tenth rebellion against God. Ten is a number representing the fulfillment of God’s revelation. It is the number of the 10 Commandments. The Jews were deserving of death, as we all are under the law (Ro. 3:20). But God again spared them death because of Moses’ intercessory prayer. God is slow to anger, but eventually He will punish the unrepentant sinner. Some skeptics scoff that a loving God would not punish His children. Yet, if He didn’t punish wrongdoing, would He be a God of justice? If we expect wrongdoers in civil society to punished, why wouldn’t we expect God to also punish wrongdoers? How many rebellions did you have before God allowed you to be punished?
Forgive as God has forgiven you. One of Christ’s last seven statements before His death was to ask that God forgive those who killed Him: “Father forgive them for they known not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34). To be forgiven, you must also forgive those who hurt you: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14). “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions” (Mk. 11:25). “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Lk. 6:36). “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:15, 18:34-5, Mk. 11:26). Are you forgiving those who have caused you harm?
If you are in the wilderness, draw close to God. Because of their lack of faith, the Jews were banished from the Promised Land. They would spend 40 years wandering in the desert (Nu. 14:34). “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:19). “When your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation. . . Therefore, I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest.” (Ps. 95:7-11). Only Joshua and Celeb would be allowed to enter because of their faith (Nu. 14:24, 30). Even after being forgiven, the Jews’ example shows that the consequences of our actions can sometimes stay with us for the rest of our lives. But God is still always there to comfort us. Are you calling out to God from your wilderness?
Don’t let your children suffer for your sins. The Jews had used the protection of their children as a pretext for not wanting to enter the Promised Land. God showed that He would protect the children by allowing them to enter when their parents died off (Nu. 14:31). Yet, the children would have to “suffer” in the wilderness for their parents’ lack of faith (Nu. 14:33). Parents can pass the consequences of their sins down to the children. If you have caused a child to suffer, are you praying for the child to be restored?
Sin has also separated us from God. Like the Jews, sin has also separated us from God: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God . . .” (Isaiah 59:2(a)). God has looked down from heaven and observed that not one person is holy and without sin: “[I]t is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”’ (Rom. 3:10-11). “[T]here is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Ps. 143:2). “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). Thus, if we say that we are going to heaven because we are good people, the truth is not within us. Likewise, if we are going to heaven because of our good works, Christ’s death on the cross was unnecessary.
Sin can also “hinder” your prayers to God. In the Old Testament, God warned that as a consequence of the separation caused by sin, He would not hear the prayers of sinners: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). “And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness.” (Is. 59:2-3(b)). “We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but He does listen to anyone who worships Him and does His will.” (Jo. 9:31; Prov. 15:29; 8:9 Ps. 66:18). In the New Testament, He warns that sin can “hinder” a believer’s prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Doubt or a lack of faith will also hinder your prayers. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:6-8). If you are praying with doubt, should it be any mystery if your prayers feel unanswered?
Don’t face your enemies while disobeying God. The Jews came to their senses when it was too late. When faced with their punishment in the desert, they were again afraid (Nu. 14:41). But Moses warned them that to try to enter Israel at that point would be to directly disobey God (Nu. 14:41). Moses warned that, if they went up, God would not be amongst them (Nu. 14:42-43). The Jews again ignored God’s warning, and many were slaughtered because God had lifted His protection (Nu. 14:45). J. Vernon McGee once said: “There can be no victory when there is no submission to the will of God.” (Thru the Bible Commentary, Numbers, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991, p. 97). This day, the ninth day of the fifth month later became known as the “fast of Av.” (“Tisha B’Av”) (Zech. 7:3). It was the same day that the Romans burned the temple in 70 A.D. Even Josephus, the famous Jewish historian who wrote about Christ, noted the amazing coincidence of this day. If you are in open sin, do you think God will give you protection when you are under spiritual attack?
A nation that refuses to follow God will also lose God’s hedge of protection. God once promised Abraham: “I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” But this was conditional and only would be true “if you obey his voice [The Holy Spirit] and do all that I say.” (Ex. 23:21-22; see also Lev. 26:7-8; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). We live in a country that tries to deny its Judeo-Christian heritage. And many call the good of the Bible evil (Is. 5:20). What type of protection should we expect from God from enemies and natural disasters?
A nation without God’s hedge of protection faces defeat. Just as the Jews faced defeat when they tried to face their enemies without God, God warns that a nation also faces defeat when it lives outside of His protection: “also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up. 17 I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.” (Lev. 26:16(b)-17). “The Lord shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Dt. 28:25). Should America expect God’s protection if it turns from Him?
Be an intercessor for our nation. God only relented from destroying Israel because Moses frequently stood in the breach and prayed for the nation. He saved the nation after they made the golden calf and on other occasions (Ex. 32:11-14; Nu. 11:2). His prayers also saved the nation as they rebelled at the edge of the promised land (Nu. 14:18-22). Moses shows that intercessory prayer works. Today, Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 8:1-2). He is the one and only mediator between man and God (1 Tim. 2:5). While the High Priests of the Old Testament could only enter the Holy of Holies once per year (Lev. 16:29), Jesus sits in the Holy of Holies interceding daily on our behalf (Heb. 9:1-10). We in turn are called upon to intercede for others. Christ’s death tore from top to bottom the “veil” of the Holy of Holies that separates us from God (Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38). According to the Midrash, the High Priest had to wear a rope to be pulled out in case he died inside the Holy of Holies as a result of failing to properly follow God’s procedures. By contrast, we can now enter the Holy of Holies with “boldness” to pray for others (Heb. 10:19-22). Like the High Priests, we are to be praying for others. Yet, when was the last time you heard an elected leader asking for God to forgive the sins of the nation? If you won’t pray for our nation, who will?
Build Your Faith by Reading the Word and Praying for the Spirit to Guide You. If your faith is lacking, God promises that you can build it up like a muscle through constantly hearing or reading His Word: “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:107). Pray then for the Spirit to guide you and give you strength: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). “And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26). You must also empty yourself of pride so that He can build you up in humility: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9). Is your faith lacking in any area?