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God's Changed Purpose with Israel (Numbers 14)

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CHAPTER 14 Mar. 31 
The People Want to Return to Egypt
All the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. 2All the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3Why does Yahweh bring us to this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will be a prey: wouldn’t it be better for us to return into Egypt? 4They said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. 5Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. 6Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were of those who spied out the land, tore their clothes: 7and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, The land which we passed through to spy it out is an extremely good land. 8Since Yahweh delights in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us - a land which flows with milk and honey. 9Only don’t rebel against Yahweh, neither fear the people of the land; for they are bread for us. Their defence is removed from over them, and Yahweh is with us. Don’t fear them. 10But all the congregation threatened to stone them with stones. The glory of Yahweh appeared in the Tent of Meeting to all the children of Israel. 11Yahweh said to Moses, How long will this people despise Me? and how long will they not believe in Me, for all the signs which I have worked among them? 12I will strike them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they. 
God and Moses in Dialogue
13Moses said to Yahweh, Then the Egyptians will hear it; for You brought up this people in Your might from among them; 14and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Yahweh, are in the middle of this people; for You, Yahweh, are seen face to face, and Your cloud stands over them and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night. 15Now if You killed this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of You will speak, saying, 16‘Because Yahweh was not able to bring this people into the land which He swore to them, therefore He has slain them in the wilderness’. 17Now please let the power of the Lord be great, according as You have spoken, saying, 18‘Yahweh is slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and disobedience; and that will by no means justify the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and on the fourth generation’. 19Please pardon the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your grace, and according as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. 20Yahweh said, I have pardoned according to your word: 21but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh; 22because all those men who have seen My glory and My signs which I worked in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted Me these ten times, and have not listened to My voice; 23surely they shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of those who despised Me see it. 24But My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed Me faithfully, him will I bring into the land into which he went; and his seed shall possess it. 25Now the Amalekite and the Canaanite dwell in the valley. Tomorrow, turn and go into the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea. 
The Punishment of the People
26Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, that murmur against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against Me. 28Tell them, ‘As I live, says Yahweh, surely as you have spoken in My ears, so will I do to you. 29Your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness; and all who were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against Me, 30surely you shall not come into the land, concerning which I swore that I would make you dwell therein, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31But your little ones, that you said should be for a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which you have rejected. 32But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33Your children shall be wanderers in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your prostitution, until your dead bodies be consumed in the wilderness. 34According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, even forty days, for every day a year, you will bear your iniquities, even forty years; and you will know the altering of My purpose’. 35I Yahweh have spoken, surely this will I do to all this evil congregation, who are gathered together against Me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die. 36The men, whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation to murmur against Him, by bringing up an evil report against the land, 37even those men who brought up an evil report about the land, died by the plague before Yahweh. 38But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land. 39Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly. 40They rose up early in the morning, and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, Behold, we are here, and will go up to the place which Yahweh has promised; for we have sinned. 41Moses said, Why now do you disobey the commandment of Yahweh, since disobedience shall not prosper? 42Don’t go up, for Yahweh isn’t among you; that you not be struck down before your enemies. 43There the Amalekite and the Canaanite are before you, and you shall fall by the sword, because you are turned back from following Yahweh; therefore Yahweh will not be with you. 44But they presumed to go up to the top of the mountain; nevertheless the ark of the covenant of Yahweh and Moses didn’t depart out of the camp. 45Then the Amalekite came down, and the Canaanite who lived in that mountain, and struck them and beat them down, even to Hormah.


14:3 There should be no question amongst us, not in our deepest heart, about returning to the world / Egypt, the life we knew before our baptism (cp. the Red Sea crossing, 1 Cor. 10:1,2). If we do allow this question, then it will lead to actually doing this in practice (:4).
14:4 A captain- Human beings so want human leadership. God through Moses was their captain, but they wanted a leader who would them where they wanted. The large number of human religions and religious leaders is proof enough of this desire for human leadership. 
14:11 How long will they not believe in Me- It’s not that the people were atheists. They speak about the existence of Yahweh quite freely (:3). But to not believe that He will give us the Kingdom, the promised land, is to effectively be in denial of Him. We too can be effective atheists when we doubt our salvation by grace.
14:13 To have done this would’ve resulted in God changing His stated purpose with Israel. He is prepared to alter His intentions, according to human behaviour. And He shows Himself here open to dialogue, to persuasion, from His faithful children like Moses who reason according to a desire to see God’s glory rather than their own glory. It may be that it becomes clear that God intends to do something- perhaps to end a life, to relocate us geographically, to close one road and open another. Our prayers shouldn’t be simply asking Him to do or not do something. Rather should we reason with Him, giving our reasons as to why we wish Him to act in the way we are asking. This is for our benefit and reveals our motives to ourselves; and also deepens our faith that we are really asking according to God’s will as revealed in His word.
14:14 They have heard that You, Yahweh, are... seen face to face- It was only Moses who saw Yahweh face to face. But his personal relationship with God had been shared not only with Israel, but somehow the Gentile world of Canaan had got to hear about it. If we have a close relationship with God, we will not need to boast of this to others, it will become apparent, and the knowledge of it will somehow spread widely.
14:20 I have pardoned according to your word- Others can be forgiven because of our intercession (see too Mk. 2:5,6). This has huge implications; for in this case we should be praying constantly for others, if the prayers of a third party can have such power in another’s life.
14:24 Followed Me faithfully- ‘Caleb’ means ‘dog’ in Hebrew, and God alludes to this in describing Caleb as His faithful follower. The intimacy between a man and his dog can be see between God and His man.
14:33 Your prostitution- To disbelieve we will enter the promised land of God’s Kingdom is effectively prostitution against God. The Bible often describes unfaithfulness in terms which are startling to us, but this is to show how serious is unbelief.
14:34 The altering of My purpose- That God can change His mind is an indication of the extreme sensitivity He has to human behaviour. The only thing in which He is unchanging is His patience with sinners (Mal. 3:6).
14:44 Those rejected by God at His judgment still desperately want to enter His Kingdom (Mt. 25:11). In that day of final judgment, all present will desperately want only one thing- to enter the Kingdom. Nothing else will matter. We should have that spirit with us now.