If you remember from our study last week, I mentioned this pattern that we see developing beginning in chapter 11 of the people murmuring against God. I warned you that it was going to be a pattern that we would see continuing as we progressed through the book. Where it looks like good cop bad cop. The people complain about God, Moses goes to God and asks for mercy, and the people continue to complain.
Two weeks ago we were in chapter 11 and the people complained against God. This aroused the anger of the Lord and God sent fire that consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. I’ll remind you again, to never neglect the opportunities God gives us to learn from the lives of others. Rather than take heed and be grateful for their deliverance, The people had been complaining about how much they missed the food they were given when they were slaves in Egypt. Because they continued in their incessant whining, what did God send them? Meat to eat! Quail. Quail so thick they could just bat them from the sky and they did, thousands upon thousands of them. At the end of the chapter we read that the wrath of the Lord was again aroused against the people, while the meat was still between their teeth, they were struck with a great plague. And they called that place Kibroth Hattaavah - Literally translated as Graves of Craving. The sacrificed their lives to the lusts of their flesh.
As much as I want to complete this book before our Growth Groups begin, I don’t want to do it at the sacrifice of content, so if we don’t get it done, we’ll just finish the ending on Sunday mornings, but lets pray and we’ll see how far we get....
1 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
I hope that as we have been going through the Scriptures together, both in the Old Testament and the New, the emphasis of Unity among God’s people has stood out to you. In the new testament, as we see the disciples being sent out, always being sent out in two’s so that we are not alone, we have strength and encouragement through fellowship with one another. Many of you have felt like you were all alone in this world as a Christian. When you feel all alone you can quickly get discouraged and go back to walking in the flesh that place of Kibroth Hattaavah, rather than being led and encouraged in the Spirit. There is a huge difference in being all alone, and just being small in number. When you’re small in number you are just the underdog, the world can be against you, but if it’s US against the world, walking in the Strength of the Lord, it’s a whole lot different than being all alone....does this .....
Feel any different than this....
Of course it does, silly illustration, but I want you to see the significance of how chapter 12 begins...
1 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
Let’s remember who Miriam and Aaron were to Moses…Miriam was his sister and Aaron was his brother…those that should have been the closest to him. That is why it is sooo, sooo, important if you are called into a place of leadership or into ministry, and we all are to one degree or another, that you feed your relationship with God because He is faithful even when others are sometimes not.
Notice too what they criticize Moses for…for marrying an Ethiopian woman…now back in Exodus 2 we are told that Moses marries a woman named Zipporah, the daughter of a man named Jethro from Median. There’s some disagreement among Bible scholars if Jethro was originally from Ethiopia and then moved to Median, or if Moses outlived Zipporah and remarried which was very possible as he would have been around 81 years old at this point, to me, that stuff doesn’t matter, because we won’t know till we get to Heaven, but what I want you to see, is that they start with an attack that is not only very personal, but it was also something that she couldn’t change about herself. Whether their issue was about where she was from, or because she was Ethiopian so her skin was dark, either way, out of her control, not stuff she, nor Moses could change. That’s pattern number one that we still see so prevalent in our current culture…and sadly it is being done by a people that have suffered persecution for centuries, just simply because they are Jews.
The second thing I want to point out is that this personal attack that they start with, this personal offense against the wife of Moses, wasn’t really what they were upset about at all, and how often does that happen in our culture? Let’s see what they were really upset about...
2 So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it.
The ugly head of jealousy is exposed! Has the Lord spoken only though Moses???? This was totally intended to tare Moses down, and it starts with an assumption that He is prideful about what the Lord has done through him, that the Lord has chosen him to be the Leader of Israel and the one to whom God speaks....they go on, hasn’t He also spoken through us, tare Moses down, and then attempt to elevate themselves....and that caught the Lord’s attention, the end of the verse says, and the Lord heard it! Look what the Scriptures reveal to us about Moses in the very next verse....
3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)
There is so much to learn from Moses here. So often I see leaders, inside and outside of ministry be criticized and that is all it takes to knock them off track or off mission. We just read the Lord heard it. The Lord always hears it, so we are to stay on mission and continue in the work that He has called us to do, and let Him defend us. As Jesus did.... in Isaiah we read this prophecy...
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
So neither did Moses, but God opened His mouth, Look at verse 4 with me...
4 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. 5 Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. 6 Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.
The traditional sense in which God spoke to prophets was through dreams and visions, but with Moses it was way more intimate...
7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. 8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?” 9 So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed.
This was way David was unwilling to lay his hands upon Saul, even after the anointing had left Saul, but he at one time had been God’s anointed and David feared God and held His anointed in high regard.
So the anger of the Lord is once again aroused and He departs…but He left them with something…verse 10
10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. 11 So Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!” 13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!”
It sounds like it was so sudden that Miriam may not have even realized it, but Aaron, the high priest certainly recognized it. Now Aaron is like so many people today, two minutes ago, he was arm and arm with his sister attacking Moses, now he calls him lord, or master, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t let her be as one dead. See leprosy was like our worst form of cancers or radiation poisoning, if you were a leper you were considered the walking dead, and had to instantly be quarantined. Look at verse 14...
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.”
This might not make allot of sense to us, but it sort of explains why God did what He did. He is talking about shame from having one spit in your face. The leprosy was an outward picture of the sickness in her heart, it was her heart exposed. We learn something else here as well. That there was a consequence to her sin, but it says afterward she may be received again…so we know that God also forgave her and healed her, or she never would have been allowed back into the camp.
When we get to chapter 13, if we were looking at a timeline, this would mark about two years out of the land of Egypt and in the wilderness. And they have come to the place of Kadesh Barnea, just south of the border to enter into the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. After all of their trials and complaints they are finally there and they think ready to enter into the land that the Lord has promised them.
God tells Moses to send in a group of men, to spy out the land. See what the geography is like, where they should settle, assess the strength of the enemy, God tells him to send one man from each of the tribes…if you look down to verse 6 we see...
6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh;
16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.
Oshea means deliverer or salvation and Yeh is the contraction for Jehovah, the name of God. So the name Joshua is one of the compound names of Jehovah, which means, "God is salvation" or the "Lord is salvation" or the "Lord our salvation". The Greek word for Joshua is what?.... Jesus.
So the 12 spies are sent into the land with instructions to go into the South, up into the mountains, see if the people are strong or weak, see if the cities are simple and small like camps or fortresses and strongholds, is the land rich or poor, and while your in there, it’s grape season, bring back a sample of the grapes…look at verse 23...
23 Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs. 24 The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the men of Israel cut down there. 25 And they returned from spying out the land after forty days.
Esh - call, we will see there is major significance to the length of time they were in the land, the 40 days…, now after the 40 days the spies return with their report…verse 26...
26 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.
29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
Caleb has faith, his name means “whole-hearted” bold, brave, he says let’s go for it, they’re not lying, but we are well able to overcome it! But....verse 31
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
The other spies discouraged the people saying the people in this land will devour us, we don’t stand a chance. And suddenly circumstances and perspective, defeat the promises of God, without a battle even being fought.
I want you to see that two different people, or 12 different people can see the exact same thing, the exact same challenges and circumstances and two can come back singing and praising God for the humongous grapes and the land that He’s going to give them, and others can see the exact same thing and despair in doom and gloom and their lack of faith lead them to a place of continued wandering and defeat. They saw the same exact things, so it’s not our circumstances or the obstacles that determine our faith, but rather in whom we place our faith. Caleb and Joshua were able to look at all the same things that discouraged and defeated their brothers and say, I can’t wait to see what God does here! Some might say, that’s not practical or realistic, but tell me how doubting the promises the the Almighty God are in any way practical or anything to place your faith in. Chapter 14
1 So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”
Skip to verse 6...
6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’
See what these guys do, they take the eyes of the people off the the circumstances and try to get them to look at God, place their faith in God. IF God wants to do this, circumstances don’t matter, God will do it. Verse 9
9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” 10 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.
Caleb and Joshua, attempt to encourage the people and remind them of the promises of God, and the reaction is to stone them! This is so incredibly sad, God had said as recorded in the book of Exodus...
27 “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.
30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. 31 And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.
So just go take it. They are right there at the border to the promised land, the only thing they lack is faith in God. The faith required to walk in His promises. How much more faith does it take to walk outside the promises of God, and who then is our faith in, us? Ourselves? It is so sad today the number of Christians that walk around continuously defeated and weary. Wandering and roaming in a type of wilderness, trying to endure and growing weary, instead of taking up Jesus’ offer to yoke with Him. To take up His yoke and learn from Him, His yoke is easy and light, not heavy and burdensome. Study that passage in Matthew 11 so you’re not living a life of wandering, just outside of the life that Jesus has promised you. Verse 11
11 Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?
God basically says, stand back Moses, I’m going to roast these guys. Moses says please don’t God, your name is mighty and known in this land, verse 17
17 And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” 20 Then the Lord said: “I have pardoned, according to your word;
God wanted to pardon the people and I think was blessed by the heart of his leader Moses, who here was selfless, interceding on behalf of the people and not full of self interest. And God forgave them. I love verse 21..
21 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord—
That was a promise to them and a promise to us. As surely as the Lord lives, there is coming a day when the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord! I can’t wait!
22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.”
26 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you:
You that have complained against me saying, God brought us out here to kill us, to have us leave our children buried in the wilderness. What you have said, will be so. And only Joshua and Caleb will be able to enter the land.
29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. 30 Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.
32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.
A year of wandering in the wilderness for each day that the spies were in the land. Then the people say, my bad, sorry God, we don’t want that consequence, we’ll go take the land now, ok? Moses, warns them not to go. Guys, God won’t be with you, this is going to go bad, look at verse..42
42 Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. 43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” 44 But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop. Nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.
Now Look with me how chapter 15 begins, remember this is right after their failure to enter into the promised land, and right after God says, you’re going to be in the wilderness for 40 years, chapter 15 begins....
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you,
God says, Look, I mean what I say and I say what I mean. You that were 20 and over when you left the land of Egypt, filled with doubt and spoke against my name, you won’t be making it in, but your kids, despite what things look like right now, and for the next several years of wandering, they will be going into the land and when they get there this is how I want things to look like. These are the sacrifices they are to offer up to me… and you are to offer sacrifices for sins that you are aware of and sins that you may not be. Sort of the idea that David gives in the Psalms when he asks God to search his heart and see if there is any offensive way within him…or when Jesus prays to the Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do....verse 18..
18 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land to which I bring you, 19 then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the Lord. 20 You shall offer up a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so shall you offer it up.
22 ‘If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses— 23 all that the Lord has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations— 24 then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering. 25 So the priest shall make atonement for the whole congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was unintentional; they shall bring their offering, an offering made by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their unintended sin.
I frequently do or say things that I have no intent to be offensive that later I need to go back and say, sorry I’m so stupid, please forgive me. Sometimes to God, sometimes to one of you, and sometimes to both…Look down to verse 32, and we see God’s reverence for the Sabbath.
32 Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.
The people didn’t know what to do, so they locked him up and brought him to Aaron and Moses and God gave the instruction in verse…35
35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.
So he is put to death and then the Lord gives further instruction to Moses…verse 38
38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, 40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. 41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”
I love this idea. Those of you that are visual like me probably do to. If my keys aren’t sitting where they’re supposed to, I walk out to my truck, and then have to come back inside. If I need to remember to take something to church with me in the morning, I have to set it right where I’ll see it before heading out the door. I have to write things in my calendar now and set notification alarms to remind me..I get busy and don’t think about it…God says, you guys get distracted and your own hearts and eyes are inclined to lead you astray, do whatever it takes to remind you of who you are and who you belong to. Be holy for your God....Lets end there.