September 28, 2015.
Daily Reading: Numbers 13-16.
Background: Numbers 9-12.
Concepts and Connections.
The spies and their report: As the children of Israel came to the edge of the promised land that the Lord their God had told them that He was going to give to them, He told Moses to send out 12 spies into the land, one from each of the tribes of the people. Twelve men were selected, perhaps two most noteworthy being Joshua and Caleb, as we will see later. These men spend 40 days in the land of Canaan, and they see the great fruits of the land, noting that it is indeed a land that flows with milk and honey. They even bring back a single cluster of grapes that is so large that it has to be carried by two poles. They Lord had indeed brought them a land that was bountiful. But there was a problem- the inhabitants of the land were huge and mighty, and 10 of the 12 spies came back with a bad report out of fear. They had no hope that the children of Israel could conquer the land, even though the Lord had already given them the land. Caleb and Joshua, however, trusted in the Lord, and they (specifically Caleb is mentioned in this place) tried to quite and calm the people, pointing to the God of their Fathers as their rock and guide. The 10 other spies, however, went against Caleb and frightened the people. This story continues on into the next chapter.
Rebelling against God: Here we have the continuation of the story that was started in the previous chapter when the spies were sent out into the land of promise to get a feel of the land. When 10 of the 12 spies came back with a bad report, not of the land, but rather of the frightful inhabitants of the land, they stirred the whole congregation of Israel up in fear against Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. Moses and those who are with him try to calm the people, asserting that if the Lord is for them, they will prevail without a problem over the inhabitants of the land, and that there would be nothing to fear. But instead of listening, the people wanted to stone Moses. This is when the glory of the Lord appeared over the tent of meeting in the sight of all Israel. The Lord expressed to Moses His frustration with the people who continually would not trust in Him, even after the vivid, tangible signs He had shown to them in their lifetime. He said He was going to wipe them out and rather make a greater nation out of Moses. Note the humility and compassion of Moses here. He intercedes for a people who wanted to stone him, and pleads with the Lord to not save the people even when he was given the opportunity of a blessing of being a great nation in and of himself. Moses relates to the Lord how it would look to the rest of the world if He wiped out His people, and pleads that the Lord turn away from His anger and pardon the people. The Lord indeed pardons the people, but there is still a consequence for their sin- they would be made to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all who were 20 years or older had died. The Lord would not bring them into the promised land, save for Joshua and Caleb, because of their lack of faith and rebellion against the Lord.Their children, however, would get to go in. Sin can still have its consequences even after it has been pardoned. The 10 spies who brought back doubt and fear died of plague from the Lord.
Unfortunately, that is not quite the end of the story. After seeing their transgression, there were some of Israel who wanted to make it right, and they said that they would now go up and take the land as they were originally instructed to do. Though this may have been done with good intent, it was a transgression of the commandment of the Lord, and Moses told them not to go up, for the Lord would not be with them. They did not listen, however, and fell before the inhabitants of the land. We must be careful to obey the Lord, even when it seems good to do something He does not want us to do.
Sacrifices, unintentional and intentional sin, and tassels: In this chapter we are given a record of some of the words spoken to Moses concerning various things that the children of Israel were to when they entered the promised land and where they were now. The record begins with sacrifices that the children of Israel were to make when the Lord brought them into the promised land. There was to be one law for both the native Israelite and the sojourner in the land. This discussion leads its way into the offerings that were to be made for unintentional sins, a provision that the Lord made both for the congregation as a whole and for the individual. Note the difference that is made between unintentional sin and intentional sin here, giving a way of redemption for unintentional sin, but not for intentional sin. An example is then made out of a man who was caught breaking the Sabbath. When Moses waited for the judgment from the Lord, the judgment came back that the man should be stoned. Sin is not to be taken lightly. Finally, the Lord tells Moses to have the people make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner, so that they would remember to do the commandments of the Lord and be holy.
Korah’s rebellion: Here we get a very interesting account of an uprising of people against Moses and Aaron. Lead by Korah, Dathan and Abiram, these men took some 250 men of the people and came up against Moses and Aaron and asserted that he should not be exalted among the people, he and the sons of Aaron, for all the people were holy. They truly had missed the humility of Moses, which has been apparent in his character throughout their journey in the wilderness, and would ironically remain true in this situation. Moses tells Korah and his men to assemble before the Lord in the morning and the Lord would show who He had chosen. They were to each take sensors and put incense in them before the Lord. It seems that Moses then called the families of these men to come up and bring them back down, but they would not, and Moses was very angry at this. Thus, the men of Korah assembled before the Lord the next morning, and then the glory of the Lord appeared, He told Moses and Aaron to step aside that He might consume the people in an instant. Once again, Moses pleads with the Lord that He would not destroy all the people, and the Lord tells all the people to get away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Moses then tells the people that they will know that the Lord had sent him by what He was about to do, if the Lord would open up the ground beneath the dwelling places of these men that had stirred up a rebellion and swallow them up. This is exactly what happened, and the people of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram fell into the earth and fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men with the offering of incense. The sensors of these men were hammered into plates that covered the altar to be a sign to the people of Israel that no outsider who was not of the sons of Aaron should come draw near to burn incense before the Lord. Even after this great display of power and consequence for sin, the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron the next day because of the death of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Again, the Lord was stirred up to consume the whole congregation in a moment, but Moses interceded. A plague had broken out from the Lord to destroy the people, and Aaron was told to take his censor and make atonement for the people, that they might not all be consumed. He did so and stood between the dead and the living, so as to stop the plague from traveling any further. 14,700 people died from the plague before it was stopped. A reference to this story is made in Jude 11.
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Chronicles 20-24.
Listen to the Lord.