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Numbers 13:2628, 31; 14:69, 1723comment (0)

December 15, 2011

By Dale Younce

Related Scripture: Numbers 13:2628, 31; 14:69, 1723

Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Numbers 13:26–28, 31; 14:6–9, 17–23

Obeying God is always right but can sometimes land believers in fearful situations. They may expect that obeying God will put them in opposition to someone in authority over them or even in conflict with cultural norms. If the latter occurs, then believers may become targets of ridicule, ostracism or hostility. Fear is a normal human response to threatening situations, but believers can combat their fears associated with obeying God by remembering that He will always encourage and help them. This week’s lesson records the Israelites’ fearful refusal to enter the promised land and God’s judgment upon their disobedience. The emphasis is upon courageously obeying God in view of His promises.

What’s Keeping You From Obeying? (13:26–28, 31)
The central section of the Book of Numbers records the events resulting in the Israelites spending 40 years in the wilderness. On their march from Mount Sinai to the promised land, they came to the oasis called Kadesh about 50 miles southwest of Beersheba on the promised land’s southern border. From there, 12 tribal leaders were sent to survey the land and report on the quality of the land and its inhabitants. They were to find out whether the land of Canaan was agriculturally fruitful or not; whether the inhabitants were few or many, militarily weak or strong; and whether they were nomads living in tents or a people long settled, having walled fortresses.

The survey of the land may have been wise from a conventional military point of view, but it was not in God’s sight. God had already given them the land and had instructed them to go in and take it. This reconnaissance was a first step toward failure.  

After traveling more than 500 miles in 40 days of reconnaissance, the spies found that the land was indeed all that God had said it would be. But 10 spies gave a negative report. They emphasized the obstacles and concluded that Israel was too weak to conquer the enemy. The land’s people were giants, the city walls were high and the spies felt themselves to be grasshoppers. They revealed fear and a lack of faith, which discouraged the people. Only Caleb and Joshua voiced a minority report in favor of boldly entering the promised land, trusting God’s promise.

Fear and lack of faith cause spiritual stagnation and ultimate defeat. The man of faith is assured of victory because, in the final analysis, the victory is the Lord’s.

Like Caleb and Joshua, we need to trust God’s Word and carefully avoid letting personal considerations, including our fears, turn us aside from fully obeying His plans for us.

What’s Good About Obeying? (14:6–9)
Joshua and Caleb, both of whom had been part of the spying team, passionately disagreed with the other 10 spies’ negative report. Joshua and Caleb declared their confidence that God would deliver the land and its inhabitants into their hands. They urged the Israelites to obey the Lord, trusting in His presence, power, promises and good pleasure.  

What is good about obeying God? When we courageously obey His commands and leadership, we please Him, enjoy His intimate presence and experience more of His power and good purposes for us.

How Does God Handle Disobedience? (14:17–23)
As he had done on a previous occasion (Ex. 32:11–14), Moses interceded for the people on the basis of God’s character and glory. His intercession resulted in God’s forgiveness of the nation; He spared the people’s lives. However, there would be judgment upon the 10 unfaithful spies (they died by a plague — Num. 14:37), and the Israelites would wander in the desert for 40 years, until everyone 20 years of age and older died. Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb would enter the promised land. Obedience brings blessings, while disobedience is rebellion and brings loss. When we are disobedient, we miss out on things God wants us to have; yet because God is patient, loving and merciful, we can seek and receive His forgiveness.

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