Numbers 14

Sunday Evening Bible Study

January 11, 1998


The book of Numbers is the history of the Israelites while they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, as they made their way from the deliverance out of Egypt, to the conquering of the Promised Land.

We’ve seen much about the organizing of this nation of slaves into a lean, mean fighting machine.

After having made their first three day "test run", things kind of broke down as the people began to complain.

Now, after having sent twelve spies out to do a reconnaissance of the land, they've returned after forty days, and though the Promised Land does indeed flow with "milk and honey", and though it does produce huge quantities of fruit, there are also giants in the land.

Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, felt that there would be no problem in conquering the land, but the other ten spies disagreed –

(Num 13:31-33 KJV) But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. {32} And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. {33} And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

I like to see it as though the Promised Land involves the kind of abundant life that God promises to Christians. They are saved when they are delivered out of Egypt. Entering the Promised Land is finding out how to live in all the fullness God has for us. And there are giants in the land. It ain't always easy.

Numbers 14

:1-4 The people are afraid, they complain

:4 let us return into Egypt

LUK 9:62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

No turning back, no turning back.

:5-10 The faithful plead to go in

:9 their defence is departed from them

It's very easy for us to look at situations from our earthly perspective and measure the size of my army against the size of your army.

But what Joshua and Caleb are saying is that the size of the army doesn't really matter. There is a spiritual realm behind all that you see, and if in the spiritual realm a person's protection has been removed, there is no amount of weapons or armies that can protect them.


Wicked King Ahab of Israel went to war with Jehoshaphat of Judah against the Aramaeans.

At Jehoshaphat's request, they sought counsel from the Lord. God warned them of disaster for the King of Israel.

But off they went anyway. King Ahab went in disguise so no one would shoot at him as the King of Israel. Sounded like a good plan!

1KI 22:34 Now a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, "Turn around, and take me out of the fight; for I am severely wounded."

Just a coincidence? No, God had removed Ahab's protection from him.

If God decides that it's time for someone to fall, they're going to fall, no matter how well protected they are.

:9 the LORD is with us

Here's the main key to victory!

(Rom 8:31 KJV) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?


Judges 7 - Gideon faced 120,000 Midianites. He was able to raise an army of 32,000, but God said that was too many soldiers. He finally got down to just 300 men. Guess who won?

:11-19 God's anger, Moses intercedes

:12 disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation

In other words, God is offering to start all over again, getting rid of the entire nation, and starting with just Moses.

:18 The LORD is longsuffering …

Moses is recalling the time when God declared His nature to Moses.

EXO 34:6-8 Then the \Lord\ passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The \Lord,\ the\ Lord \God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave {the guilty} unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. " 8 And Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.

In interceding for the people, Moses is going back and using what God has already revealed about Himself to Moses.


Just how much do you know about God?

If you were to sit down and off the top of your head write an essay about what God was like, how many pages could you fill?

How much of what you know about God do you actually let affect you?

I heard a tape by Kay Smith (Pastor Chuck's wife), and she was talking about what a poor worship vocabulary most Christians have. They know about five things they can say about the Lord, but that's about all they know.

In my marriage counseling, sometimes I find that couples just don't express their appreciation towards each other enough. When that happens, they don't build each other up the way they are supposed to.

So I give them a homework assignment to write down ten things that they appreciate about each other, then make them share them with each other.

What's really sad is when you ask a husband, "What do you appreciate about your wife?" and he doesn't know what to say. It isn't that he can't find anything to say, it's just that he's never learned, or gotten out of practice of expressing appreciation.

If you want your relationship (which is like a marriage) with the Lord to blossom, try sitting down and listing out the things you appreciate about the Lord. Then tell Him!

:19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people

Here's the heart of a good shepherd.

When you think of all the trouble the people have put Moses through, how he can turn around and plead for their lives! They just got through saying they were going to dump Moses, and then they turn around and are going to stone him too!

:20-35 Forty years of wandering promised

:22 all those men which have seen my glory

It's amazing to think of what these people have been through!

They saw God deliver them through the ten plagues on Egypt, ending with the Passover.

They saw God divide the Red Sea, lead them through on dry land, then drown the Egyptian army!

Every day they saw the pillar of cloud, heard God's voice, were fed the manna in the wilderness.

And then they can't find it in themselves to believe that God was big enough to take them into the promised land! What a bunch of faith-wimps!

Yet in many ways, we're not much different.

How quickly we forget all the wonderful things God has done for us and those around us.

:23 Surely they shall not see the land

Let's look at the New Testament commentary on this subject of not entering into God's Promised Land.

Hebrews 3:7-19

:12 Be careful of falling away

We too, like Israel, have evil hearts.

:13 Encourage one another

:19 They did not enter because of unbelief - the root problem

God promised that He would take them in. They didn't trust Him.

God has made many wonderful promises to us as well.

We can look at the Promised Land as exclusively salvation, but I think the principles apply just as well to the fullness of the abundant life that Jesus has promised to us.

If we desire to live in all the fullness that God has for us, we have to learn to trust Him at His word.

An example:

God has promised to help us live free from the chains of sin.

ROM 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.

1CO 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

When we are tempted and fall into sin, is it because God has failed to keep His promise and provide a way of escape from our sin? No, it's because we didn't trust Him enough to take His way of escape that He provided.

:13 Encouragement to receive the promises

The whole key to not becoming like the Israelites is fellowship, encouraging one another.

We too can find ourselves living in the wilderness, delivered from Egypt, but not entering into the Promised Land.

But one of God's provisions to keep us from falling away is encouragement.

Who do you have to encourage you?

Does anyone know you well enough, who is close enough to you, to encourage you when you need encouraging? To gently tell you to shape up when you're getting off track?

The problem we have is that so often we keep our Christian relationships so shallow that nobody knows the real me. Nobody knows what my life is like when I leave this place and go home. Nobody knows what I struggle with or when I need help.

:26-35 Forty years of wandering promised

:28 as ye have spoken in mine ears

Just a point of clarification: The people were complaining against and to Moses and Aaron (vs.2), but it doesn't say that they were necessarily expressing these thoughts in their private prayers.

We could even look at the point where God manifests His glory and responds to the situation (vs.10), but that takes place AFTER the people have been complaining.


God hears you.

He hears everything you say, and everything you think.

We can find ourselves slipping into the mindset that if we don't see anybody around, we must be alone, and no one sees or hears what we're doing.


PSA 139:7-12 Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 10 Even there Thy hand will lead me, And Thy right hand will lay hold of me. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night," 12 Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike {to Thee.}

There is no place you can hide to get out of God's sight.

This can bring comfort - When you feel alone and need someone to be there.

This can bring holy fear - when you feel tempted and think nobody's watching.

:28 … so will I do to you


Obsessive fears can come true.

There is a truth that usually most of the things we fear happening never come to pass. So often we get caught up in the "what ifs".

We would do much better to stop worrying about the what ifs and just focus on what's happening to us here and now.

MAT 6:34 "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. {Each} day has enough trouble of its own.

But sometimes when we keep focusing on our fears, over and over again, we can kind of fulfill our own fears.

PRO 10:24 What the wicked fears will come upon him, And the desire of the righteous will be granted.

The person who keeps thinking, "I'm afraid I'll be fired, I'm afraid I'll be fired, ... " just might be spending so much time worrying about their job that they neglect their responsibilities and indeed end up being fired.

The person who thinks, "I'll never get married, I'll never find the right person, etc., etc." can get so caught up in dreaming about it, that they never relax and just feel comfortable being themselves around others of the opposite sex. They can get so caught up in worrying about what they're doing or saying that they can drive people away.

:26-35 Forty years of wandering promised

:34 forty years

This number has come to acquire a symbolic significance in Scripture. The number forty has become symbolic of judgment.

It rained for forty days and nights - judgment on the earth in Noah's day.

The spies went out for forty days - to make their judgment on the land.

The people wandered forty years, God's judgment on them.

Prisoners were given forty lashes, showing their guilt in judgment.

Sometimes prisoners were only given 39 lashes to show the mercy of the court.

:36-38 Bad spies die

:37 that did bring up the evil report … died by the plague

I couldn't help but think of what Jesus said:

(Luke 17:1-2 KJV) Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! {2} It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

These ten spies had put a stumbling block before the nation. They had caused them to stumble in their faith.


Encourager or discourager?

Important: It wasn't the truth about the giants and the nations that caused the people to stumble, it was the bad spin they put on it saying, "We are not able to go up..."

It's not that we don't ever have any negative things to say, or that we never have any criticism of anything.

The issue is whether or not we encourage people to trust in the promised of God!

Do the unbelievers around you see in your life and hear from your lips that God is trustworthy?

Do the believers around you only hear of all the times that God has let you down because He didn't answer your prayer the way you wanted, or can they see in your life that you're trusting God no matter what?

:39-45 People try to go ahead, fail

:41 transgress the commandment of the LORD?

How are they transgressing God's commandment when He had told them to go up, and now they're going up to the Promised Land? This sounds kind of like repentance, how come God's not happy with it?

Because in verse 25, God withdrew His original command and instead told the people to set out into the wilderness.

:45 smote them, and discomfited them

Here the people had repented from their lack of faith and tried doing what God had originally wanted them to do, but met with utter failure.


Limited windows of opportunity.

It seems that God's plans and directions for our lives can sometimes have certain open time windows for when they are valid.

It's kind of like when NASA is launching a satellite to go to Mars. They calculate all the orbits of the planets, and depending on what they want to accomplish, there are certain "windows" when they can launch the spacecraft. If they don't launch the rocket before a certain time, it can't meet it's objective.


Esther had gone from being an orphan to queen of the Persian empire. When a plot to wipe out the Jews was discovered by her cousin Mordecai, he went to her to ask for her help. She hesitated because it was a bit risky for her. Mordecai responded:

(Est 4:14 KJV) For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

In other words, God was intent on delivering the Jews, and if Esther didn't do anything, God would use someone else. She would loose her opportunity.

This idea of "windows of opportunity" doesn't hold true for everything though. There are some things that God always has in His will for us to be doing.

For now, it is still always a good time to repent and ask Jesus into your heart.

It is always a good time to be filled with His Spirit.

It is always a good time to be walking in love.

But, there seem to be other times in our lives, with certain specific "missions" that God has for us.

These "missions" don't always have "at your convenience" stamped on them.

There may be a time when God is impressing on you that NOW is the time to share with somebody you work with about Jesus.

You put it off, and then find out that they've been transferred. You lost the opportunity.

They may still receive an opportunity from someone else, or maybe not, but either way, you lost your opportunity to share with them.


He apparently took 120 years to build the ark, during which the Scripture calls him a "preacher of righteousness" (2PE 2:5), yet there came a day when the ark was loaded, God shut the door, and it was too late to respond to the call to repentance.

May God help us to respond while the window is open.

Life is so fragile, so short. One day you are here at Bible Study, tomorrow you may be in heaven with Jesus while we do a funeral for you with your old shell up here in a box.

Use the open windows before you.