Rebels without reason

Numbers 14.1-25

This note was originally published on Thursday 3 February 2022.

All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron ... ‘If only we had died in Egypt!’


Do you like a good grumble? Do you enjoy a whinge and a moan? When you’re part of a group that starts being negative, are you a spreader or a stopper?


Numbers 14.1-25


The rabble made a proper racket, lifting up their voices, crying, weeping (v 1). The faithless spies had set the whole community on fire with their faithless words; see how many times the words ‘all’, ‘whole’, ‘entire’ appear in verses 1–10.

Against all reason the people rejected God and questioned his power, his promise, and his plan – with some passion! They threatened faithful Caleb and Joshua with the punishment they themselves deserved (v 10); it was only Moses’ prayers that saved them (vs 13-19).

What do you make of verses 20–23? How can God both forgive (v 20) and punish his people (vs 21-23)? First, the people totally rejected God (v 4), so deserved total punishment (v 12). God showed mercy by caring for them all in the wilderness (see Nehemiah 9.16–21), and giving their children the Promised Land. Second, forgiveness is never free. Under the Law, forgiveness came through costly sacrifice; the forgiveness was and is real, but the price had to be paid. Thank God Jesus has paid that price for us!


Moses interceded on behalf of the people, and God forgave them – read verse 19 again. Intercession is hard work, and often a long journey. For whom is God calling you to intercede? How can you keep going and not give up?