Friday, June 07, 2024

2024.06.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Numbers 13–14

Read Numbers 13–14

Questions from the Scripture text: Who spoke to whom in Numbers 13:1? Whom, specifically, was Moses to send to do what (Numbers 13:2)? What is the Lord doing with that land? From where did Moses send them? Who from which tribes (Numbers 13:4-16)? What instructions did Moses give for the spying (Numbers 13:17-20), and what two concluding instructions? What time of year was it? Where did the spies go (Numbers 13:21-23)? What did they cut down, and how did they have to carry it? What else did they bring? How does the name of the valley indicate the greatness of the grapes (Numbers 13:24)? How long did they spy (Numbers 13:25)? Then what did they do (Numbers 13:26)? What did they say about the land (Numbers 13:27)? But what did they say about the people (Numbers 13:28-29)? Who did and said what in Numbers 13:30? Who opposed him by what words in Numbers 13:31? How did they then begin to speak about the land and its people (Numbers 13:32-33)? How did the people respond (Numbers 14:1)? Against whom do they complain (Numbers 14:2)? What do they say (cf. Numbers 11:20)? Whom do they accuse in Numbers 14:3? What do they say would be better (Numbers 14:3-4)? How do Moses and Aaron respond (Numbers 14:5)? How do Joshua and Caleb respond (Numbers 14:6)? To whom do they speak (Numbers 14:7)? What do they say about the land? Whom do they describe in Numbers 14:8? How, then, do they urge the people to relate to the Lord and to the people of the land (Numbers 14:9)? But how do the congregation respond to them (Numbers 14:10a)? And Who responds to this how (verse  10b)? Who speaks to whom in Numbers 14:11? What does He ask? What does He propose to do (Numbers 14:12)? But how does Moses reason with the Lord not to do this (Numbers 14:13-16)? What does Moses ask YHWH to display greatly in Numbers 14:17? And in Numbers 14:18 (cf. Exodus 34:6–7)? What does he ask YHWH to do in Numbers 14:19? How does he describe the whole of the journey so far? What does YHWH say He has done in Numbers 14:20? What does He say He will do (Numbers 14:21)? How will He show His glory to these who have thus far refused to heed it (Numbers 14:22-23)? For whom will He make an exception (Numbers 14:24)? Where does He now say to go, and why (Numbers 14:25)? Who spoke to whom in Numbers 14:26? What does He ask (Numbers 14:27)? What has He heard? What oath form does He use in Numbers 14:28? To what will their punishment correspond? What will happen to whom (Numbers 14:29Numbers 14:32, cf. Numbers 14:2)? Who will be spared (Numbers 14:30)? And who else (Numbers 14:31, cf. Numbers 14:3)? What will their children have to do for how long (Numbers 14:33)? Why this number (Numbers 14:34)? How does He sum up the verdict and sentence in Numbers 14:35? Who are the first to die (Numbers 14:36), in what manner (Numbers 14:37)? Who were spared (Numbers 14:38)? To whom does Moses relay the message (Numbers 14:39)? What do they now attempt to do (Numbers 14:40)? But what does Moses warn them about this (Numbers 14:41, cf. Numbers 14:25b)? Why will they be defeated (Numbers 14:42-43)? But what happens (Numbers 14:44)? With what result (Numbers 14:45)?

What should we “spy” about our circumstances? Numbers 13–14 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these seventy-eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the great thing that we should see in every circumstance is the Lord Himself, what He is like, and what He has promised to do.

Spying out the hearts of the people, Numbers 13:1–20. It becomes evident that the sending of the spies and the receiving of their report is a significant test for Israel. The entire nation is carefully represented in this test (Numbers 14:1–16). The Lord does not need any spying, but just as Moses had valued the insight of Hobab (cf. Numbers 10:31), he gives the spies directions about how to carry out their spying mission with a good will (Numbers 13:17-20). Most significantly, he instructs them to be strong (Numbers 13:20, NKJ “be of good courage”). It is the land that the spies go to see, but what ends up being exposed are the hearts and minds of Israel.

The good grapes and the sour grapes, Numbers 13:21–33. The truth of the believer’s circumstances is that they offer fruit even greater than a grape cluster so big that it takes two men to carry it between them on a pole! The believer’s circumstances are bearing fruit unto eternal life. This is what God has told us. We know that it is true. But presentation and perception can turn our hearts exactly opposite the reality of the case. The spies bring a factual report up through Numbers 13:29. Apparently, the people are alarmed, because Caleb has to quiet them down to speak in Numbers 13:30. It is at this point that the other men seem to turn against Caleb and against the Lord. Numbers 13:31 is not leadership (cf. Numbers 13:2)! 

The true leadership of Joshua and Caleb reminds the people that they need to “spy” one more thing, besides the fruit of the land and the strength of the people of the land. They need to “spy” YHWH! YHWH is with them, and the people of the land have lost their protection (Numbers 14:7–9). Even as they sinned against God, it was the mercy of that God that had spared them thus far (cf. Genesis 15:16). Remembering the truth about God should have kept them from viewing the situation in a way that was patently false—for instance, there were three total Anakim observed (Numbers 14:22), but the wicked spies exaggerate this to “all the people” in Numbers 13:32 and fear-monger by calling them the Nephilim themselves in Numbers 13:33

Cowards who should have been more afraid, Numbers 14:1–10. Truly, the people have no regard for YHWH. He had called the desire to return to Egypt a despising of Him (cf. Numbers 11:20). Now they do it again, even accusing YHWH Himself (Numbers 14:1–4). Even though YHWH is in their midst, they are cowards at the thought of facing the Anakim. But they don’t have the sense to be afraid to attack Moses and Aaron! Moses and Aaron’s falling on their faces in Numbers 14:5 is before the congregation, implying that they are begging for their life. “Let us select a leader” in Numbers 14:4 apparently indicates that they are going to murder the current ones! Whether the rally to execute by stoning in Numbers 14:10 is against Moses and Aaron, or Caleb and Joshua, or all four, it is plain that these people are not at all factoring in the reality and almightiness of the Lord. Let us not think that if we had seen great miracles, we would have more faith. These people had seen great signs (cf. Numbers 14:11), but they are completely disregarding God.

The God Who is as He says, Numbers 14:11–25. Truly, the Lord condemns the people for rejecting Him (Numbers 14:11) and declares what they deserve (Numbers 14:12). But Moses makes strong arguments from God’s glory (Numbers 14:13-17), God’s covenant oath (Numbers 14:16), and God’s own words about His character (Numbers 14:18, cf. Exodus 34:6–7). We could have a good, long devotional or sermon on prayer just in that verse! God is just as He has said. Numbers 14:19 gives a wonderful summary of His leading them thus far, “You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” Is this not a sweet and true description of how He has been with you, dear reader? He has forgiven you from your beginning, even until now! So the Lord is has He said in Exodus 34—right down to the part about not clearing the guilty. He will keep His promises (Numbers 14:23b), but those guilty of this incident will fall in the wilderness. 

The God Who does as He says, Numbers 14:26–45. The Lord now gives Moses a word for the people, in line with what He has said to Moses. They wished to have died in the wilderness (Numbers 14:2), and now they will (Numbers 14:29Numbers 14:32). They made show of being concerned for their children (Numbers 14:3), but it is these very children who will inherit the land (Numbers 14:31). Why YHWH speaks, He will surely do (Numbers 14:35). Amazingly (but not surprisingly), the people do not take Him at His word. They propose to “obey” now, in Numbers 14:40, as if this could make up for their sin (end of Numbers 14:30). Whenever we think that we can obey to make it up to God for our sin, such “obedience” is actually rebellion. Even worse, in their case, they had already received instruction to go toward the Red Sea (cf. Numbers 14:25). Moses warns them that the one thing (cf. Numbers 14:9) that would have protected them will not be a help to them; the Lord will not be with them (Numbers 14:42-43). But they go anyway (Numbers 14:44), and the result is as they were warned (Numbers 14:45). In mercy and in justice, the Lord does as He says.

Where is the Lord taking you? What circumstances seem to threaten you? What fruit is there in it for you? How will you be able to come through fruitfully and as more than conqueror? What will God be like? What will God do?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding us that You Yourself are the single most important factor in every situation of our lives. You have promised us the peaceful fruit of righteousness unto our eternal blessedness in You. Grant unto us to trust You for it and not to fear our circumstances. Instead, make us to fear any unbelief or rebellion against You. Show Your power, mercy, and justice by bringing us safely into all that You have promised in Christ, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH68A “God Shall Arise, and by His Might”

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