“And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel. 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.” (Numbers 14:10b-12)
“And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man,…” in Genesis 6:3. While God is a very loving and patient God, he is also a just God, and there is a limit to his patience. In Genesis 6, God had reached the end of his patience with mankind and decided to start over with Noah and his family, destroying the others with a flood.
After more than a year of seeing miracles and God’s for them every day and agreeing to do what he asked them, Israel has again refused to do what he instructed them. Moses had already asked to be relieved of the burden for their complaining and stubborness, and now God offered to just wipe them out and start over with Moses’ family like he did with Noah’s.
“And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;) And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.
Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.
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.” (Numbers 14:13-19)
A short time before, Moses had been so frustrated with the peoples constant complaining he would have probably jumped at the chance to be rid of the responsibility, tired of the burden. At this time he was more concerned with the testimony about God the surrounding people would get than about his own benefit. It is the state God wants every Christian to come to. As John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The offer caused Moses to get his priorities in order.
“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. 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: 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. (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) To morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.” (Numbers 14:20-25)
God will not allow his sovereignty and glory to be denied. The surrounding people will see that he can and does keep his promises. The people’s refusal to acknowledge it despite his efforts will result in every one of those who refused to believe dying in the wilderness. Because Caleb and Joshua chose to believe God, they will be the only adults to survive the time in the wilderness. The next day they were to turn back into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea, some of the area they had already crossed. God may allow us to do things our way, but it is never as rewarding as what he originally planned.
“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 carcases 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. 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.
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.” (Numbers 14:26-35)
The people were not murmuring against Moses, but against God and they had reached th limits of his patience with them. God instructed Moses and Aaron to warn them of the consequences of their sin, that the very thing they feared would happen if they obeyed would happen to them because they didn’t. It is what usually happens as a result of disobedience. They would spend the next forty years in the wilderness, one year for each day they spent spying out the land. They will know that God has not fulfilled his promise because of their disobedience.
“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, Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. 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.” (Numbers 14:36-38)
Slander is making false accusations. God sent a plague on Israel because of their disobedience, and all the spies except Joshua and Caleb died immediately for their part in stopping the others from obeying God.
“And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly.” (Numbers 14:39)
Because of their refusal to trust him and go into the land, God told Moses “To morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.” in Numbers 14:25, because they would not be permitted to enter the land for forty years.
“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.” (Numbers 14:40)
Now that judgment had been pronounced for their sin, they decided to do what God had told them, admitting they had sinned. They would go where he originally told them to go, ignoring the fact that he had given them new instructions, because they didn’t like the results.
“And Moses said, 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.” (Numbers 14:41-43)
When they refused to go into the land, they had disobeyed God because they were afraid. This time they were deliberately rebelling against what God told them to do. Moses warned them that God would not support their rebellion. The Amalekites and Canaanites were already in the land, and without God’s help they were certain to be defeated.
“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.” (Numbers 14:44)
When the people started up over the hill into the land of Canaan, the cloud didn’t lift up to lead the way, so the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant didn’t lead the way, nor did Moses. They simply remained where they were.
“Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.” (Numbers 14:45)
It turned out just the way Moses had warned them. They were driven from Seir, on the edge of the Edomite lands all the way to Hormah according to Deuteronomy 1.
A great deal is made of the permissive will of God, that he may permit us to do things our way. However, as we see here, doing other than exactly what he asked is still sin, and will result in serious consequences and loss of blessings. Once he has redirected us to another direction, because of our refusal to yield to his plan, we may not be able to change our minds and follow the original plan.