Continuing a plan to get through the entire Bible in a year, follow as I journal through the reading. I have chosen a straightforward approach that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. This will not be an in-depth study or a comprehensive commentary. There are plenty of sources for such material. This is stage one Bible reading, taking the text at face value and sharing impressions.
Today’s reading comes from the book of Numbers, chapters 14 through 15, in which Israel’s rebellion becomes more costly than ever before. Some impressions from the text:
- The “whole congregation” of Israel responded to the spy report from the land of the Amalekites with panicked rebellion. Again, as they did when demanding meat to eat, they looked back with longing upon their time as slaves in Egypt. This expressed a profound lack of faith, not just in Moses and Aaron, but in the God who had time and again proven his ability to protect and provide.
- Joshua and Caleb, who dissented from the spy delegation, joined Moses and Aaron in exhorting the people to trust in God. Israel’s response? They sought to stone them. Think of that. They were prepared to kill their own leaders rather than trust God.
- “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.'” God thus expresses what justice would require. The Israelites deserved to die for their sin. God’s goodness, his holiness, required it.
- But Moses intercedes on the people’s behalf. He does so very wisely, utilizing the one argument God would approve of. He asks God to spare them, not for their sake, but for the sake of his holy name.
- God spares Israel from the death they deserve, but does not let them off without consequence. All but Caleb and Joshua are condemned to die in the wilderness before seeing the Promised Land. This was an entirely self-inflicted punishment. They were right on the cusp of having everything they were promised, and ruined it with their rebellion against God.
- When Moses tells the people that God has decreed they will not enter the Promised Land, they offer an astounding response. They mourn and then defy God again! This time, they resolve to go into the land themselves and take it without God. This is ludicrous. They doubted God’s ability to give the land to them, to the extent that they were willing to stone their leaders rather than follow the Lord, then they turn around and act as though they can take the land without God? This is the behavior of children in tantrum, as any parent will tell you.
Return soon as we continue our year-long journey through the text of the Bible.
Catch up on the previous entries:
The book of Numbers lives up to its name. – Numbers 1-2
Tests and tributes. – Numbers 5-6
God leads Israel from Sinai into the wilderness. – Numbers 8-10
Rebellion and disobedience run rampant among Israel. – Numbers 11-13