When I was a boy, my dad and mom wanted to take us four boys on family vacations. I think I mentioned that we had a Rambler station wagon that had no air conditioning and the trip was from California to Minnesota with four boys in the back seat, all fighting, screaming, throwing things, yelling, "Stop," and "When are we going to get there?" As you can see, I remember it vividly and I also remember that there were a couple of great places and whenever we boys saw them we wanted our parents to pull over: A & W root beer stands and Stuckey's because the pecan logs are like heaven. Go from four boys and imagine 3 million people plus their pets, 800,000 children, and 200,000 senior citizens going through the wilderness for about 40 years. Although it presents opportunity for faith and wonderful lessons to be learned, it's also a recipe for disaster and for some problems. The book of Numbers covers some of that territory of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. In fact, the Hebrew word for the book of Numbers is "bamidbar," which means, "in the wilderness" and that's really the Hebrew title for the book, "In the Wilderness." Our Bibles say the "Book of Numbers" because the Latin Vulgate translation says, "numeri," from which we get the term "numbers" in English and that came from a Greek translation, "arithmoi" from "arithmetic." Now I know you hear those terms and you think, "You know I hate math, I never liked it in school and I don't think I'm going to like it here." Relax, the title Numbers comes from the census that was taken - the numbers of people in the wilderness - the first census was taken in chapter 1, and the second census was taken in chapter 26. Some people call the book of Numbers the book of journeyings; others call it the book of murmurings; I'm going to give it my own title - On the Road Again. It's perfect, "On the road again, Moses and I are traveling on the road again!" This book will cover a span of time of 38 years and ten months. In fact, from chapter 1, the first census, to chapter 26, the second census, is 38 years and 10 months. Or you might want to title the book, "How to Turn a Two Week Journey into a Forty Year Trial." That's what it is and that's the failure that's recorded in this book. From Mount Sinai to the entrance of the Promise Land called Kadesh-Barnea, which was the bottom portal of the land, is about 150 to 200 miles. It is an 11 day journey according to Deuteronomy chapter, verse 2. It should have taken them 11 days. They wander in the wilderness for almost 40 years.
We've looked at the book of beginnings, Genesis - the formation of the heaven and the earth, the first family, the first nation. We saw four great events and we saw four great people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. We've looked at the book of Exodus already: redemption and revelation. We looked at the book of Leviticus and those two themes that ran through the book: the way to God through sacrifice and then the walk with God through sanctification and that sums up that entire book. Now we come to the wilderness wanderings and we have great lessons in here of both faith and unbelief. One of the questions is: How do we transmit our faith in God and our relationship with God? Is there a way to transmit faith to the next generation? Yes, by example and by obedience; because I've learned that faith and unbelief can both be contagious. To be around somebody with great faith is very inspiring to your own walk with the Lord. It's contagious to find someone with great trust in God's power. But I've also discovered that unbelief is also very contagious and when there is complaining and murmuring, it spreads like wildfire as it does here in this book. We could divide the book of Numbers into two: we could look at the first generation that left Egypt (that's the first census that was taken), and then we could look at the second part of the book beginning in chapter 26, which is the generation of people that made it into the promise land. Rather than looking at it in two, I'm going to give it to you in three sections. Here's the outline that I'll give you of this book: number one - organization, number two - disorganization, and number three - reorganization. Those three words capture the whole flow of this book. They get organized, they get numbered, the census is taken, they march through the wilderness in an orderly, organized fashion, they then become disorganized because of unbelief and then a reorganization takes place. So that's how we're going to look at it. Tonight we're just going to cover the first one and part of the second one.
Let's look at chapter 1 verse 1 - this is the organization of the people of Israel and the priesthood. Beginning in chapter 1, verse 1, a census of all the 20 year old men and above is taken because they are going to create a draft; a military group of fighting men, 20 years and above, and all of them will be drafted for military service. Verse 1, "Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness," (there's that word, Bamidbar), "of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 'Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male individually, from twenty years old and above-all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies.'" So we have a census - names and numbers of people are given. You might be thinking, "What's so great about names and numbers? What's so spiritual about a census?" Nothing, unless your name is in it; if your name is in the list, it could be very exciting to read that list. Several years ago I remember being approached at our door by somebody from the census department who gave us a package and they wanted to know how many people were in the household, what their ages were and what their names were. Here they were taking a census of the city but at the same time wanting to register the names. So I look at the census with the numbers and the names as God saying to all the people of Israel, "I love you and you and you…" and just counting them all. It's a beautiful gesture of God's love. You see, in Egypt, they were an innumerable hoard of nameless slaves; the individual was expendable; but here the names are given of the tribes, names of the family, and numbers of people who are going to be in the army. It was Augustine who said, "God loves each one of us as if there were only one us to love." No person gets lost in the crowd when it comes to God; you're much more than a number to the Lord. Whenever God counts people it's because people count to God. There's a beautiful story in a Marvin Rosenthal book called, Israel, My Glory. It's the story of a census taker who went to a house where there was a mother with her children and the census taker said, "Give me the number of your children." She said, "Well, there's Billy, and there's Harry and there's Martha," and then she was interrupted and he said, "I don't care about the names just give me numbers." She became indignant and said, "My children don't have numbers, but they all have names." The Bible would indicate that God knows every name and every hair of your head and everything about you. Verse 45: "So all who were numbered of the children of Israel, by their fathers' houses, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war in Israel-all who were numbered were," (here's the total), "six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty." That's how big the army was of 20 year old males and above. They were drafted, conscripted into the military. It's interesting that even today in the nation of Israel there is this draft. If you're a male and your 18 years of age or if you're a female and your 19 years of age, you serve in the military; you get trained for a couple of years and then you go back to your life. They train virtually the whole nation that way and that's a smart idea because the Israeli Defense Force, the IDF, can mobilize five times its ordinary strength in about 48 to 72 hours. Whatever is there standing army at this moment could go five times larger within that short span of time - everybody is ready.
Chapter 2 shows the tribes that are organized into camps. The twelve tribes of Israel are divided up into four camps because there're four sides of the Tabernacle, north, south, east, and west. There are three tribes on one side, three on another, and so on, so there are four camps of three tribes. Each of those camps has a banner, or a standard, or a symbol, or a flag that would have picture of the emblem that represents their tribe. Therefore, you have Judah with the standard of a lion on a big ensign so that everybody could see. Then there was also Ephraim on the west and that was the symbol of an ox; and Reuben had the symbol of a man; Dan to the north, whose symbol was that of an eagle; those were their ensigns - sort of calling card representations of those camps. Those four camps of those twelve tribes become a model for us of the Throne of God. Typically, when you think of the Children of Israel, you think of them gathered in the wilderness. The Levites were in the center and then the other camps around them. So, you have these standards, these emblems of a lion, of an ox, of a man, and of an eagle. That should peak your interest, because you'll remember in the book if Ezekiel, the prophet gets a vision of these four creatures and they are wild looking. He says, "They have four faces and one is the face of a lion, one is the face of an ox, one is the face of man, and the other is the face of an eagle." Same sort of configuration - fourfold. We then get to the book of Revelation and we see that around the Throne of God are four living creatures and the description is very similar. "Around the throne were twenty four elders and before the throne were four living creatures. The first had the semblance of a lion, the second of a calf or an ox, the third of a man, and the fourth of an eagle." If you take those four faces and those four camps and then just for a moment think of four Gospels and you wonder, "Why four Gospels?" Couldn't one guy just have written one Gospel? We understand that each Gospel writer had a bent or a slant or a focus. When you read the Gospel of Matthew, you understand that Matthew was trying to show that Jesus fulfilled all of the Hebrew prophecy; He was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and He fulfilled the Jewish ideal of Messiah. When you read the book of Mark you see that he has a completely different slant: he shows the servitude of Christ; words like "and", "immediately", "now", or "then"; we see Jesus as the Servant; immediately carrying out His Father's will - an ox. When you get to the Gospel of Luke the term "Son of Man" appears more than in any other Gospel. The humanity of Christ is seen through the eyes of Doctor Luke. You get to John and that's the eagle. This isn't the Son of Man; John focuses on the deity of Christ - the Son of the living God. So again there is that fourfold representation.
Also (we didn't read them all) but the numbers are given in the text as to the encampments of Israel. If we were to look at the configuration of the camps from on top of Mount Sinai, or you might say from heaven looking down to earth, it would have had the shape of a cross. Now I throw that out because I can just see the Holy Spirit smiling at all this as they're setting up the camp; knowing that this is all predictive in the eyes and in the mind of the Father.
Chapter 3 is the ministry chapter of the book. Aaron and the Levites that have been excluded from the census that was taken in chapter 1, have their own census. Verse 5: "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him.'" Let me remind you that Aaron had four boys who served along with him and two of them are dead, Nadab and Abihu were struck dead back in Leviticus because they brought strange fire. So there are two left; Eleazar and Ithamar and those two sons along with their dad are the ones that pick up the work where their brothers left off. Verse 7: "'And they shall attend to his needs and the needs of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of meeting, to do the work of the tabernacle. Also they shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting, and to the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are given entirely to him from among the children of Israel.'" Why? Because in order to do the work of a priest, in those days, it required all of those people in this tribe working together. There was just too much work in the tabernacle for any one man or small group to perform. Here are Aaron and his sons and it says that "This entire tribe is given unto the high priest for the service." Think for just a moment of who our Great High Priest is; none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says of you and I, that we are a royal priesthood; we call this doctrine the priesthood of all believers that says we don't need to go to a priest to represent us; we don't need a "go between"; we can go directly to the Father through our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are a kingdom of priests - the priesthood of believers. We have been given to Jesus Christ to do His work as part of the body of Christ while He is away. That's why when Jesus prayed in John 17 (and we call it the high priestly prayer of Christ), He said, "I have manifested your name to the men whom You have given me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me."
The Bible says, "You belong to Christ," the Father gave you, with all of your gifts and all of your talents, to Jesus Christ which means that right now - presently - you and I ought to be about the business of discovering our gifts, seeing where we fit, seeing how we can be a part of the Lord's work on earth, and find that niche and serve the Lord with all of our heart.
Beginning in verse 14 of chapter 3 and into chapter 4, the family of the Levites, according to their names, are given. There are three names that are given and the work of the tabernacle is given to them. First is Gershon, the Gershonites are those from the family of Gershon; second is Kohath, and the Kohathites or in the Hebrew, Kohanime, are those of that family; and thirdly, Merari, and we just say the sons of Merari. So we have the Gershonites, the Kohathites, and the sons of Merari and all of them are camped around the tabernacle and they have a specific ministry in the tabernacle. Gershon and the Gershonites camp on the west side of the tabernacle opposite of Judah and those tribes and are real close to the tabernacle. Here's their job: they have to maintain, pack up, and set up the curtains, the cloths, and the skins that overlay the tent of the tabernacle. The Kohathites have to tend to the articles of furniture, the Ark of the Covenant, the altar of incense, the golden lamp stand, the table of show bread, and all of those holy implements. The sons of Merari looked after the infrastructure: the poles, the bases, and the stands that hold the curtains around that courtyard - that's their job. Chapter 4, verse 46: "All who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses, Aaron, and the leaders of Israel numbered, by their families and by their fathers' houses, from thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, everyone who came to do the work of service and the work of bearing burdens in the tabernacle of meeting-those who were numbered were eight thousand five hundred and eighty. According to the commandment of the Lord they were numbered by the hand of Moses, each according to his service and according to his task; thus were they numbered by him, as the Lord commanded Moses."
When it came time for them to move, this is how it would work. First of all they wouldn't just get up and say, "You know, we've seen enough of this terrain, let's just go a few miles down the road." They did not do that. First of all, a few miles down the road looked the same as where they were - this was a vast wilderness. What they would do is make sure that God was moving them and there was a pillar of cloud by day that began to move and as soon as that cloud began to move, Aaron signaled his boys. Aaron and his sons would go into the holy place and into the holy of holies, take down the veil that separated those two and place it over the Ark of the Covenant. Then they would put a blue cloth over it; and then they put badger skins over it to keep it from inclement weather. Then the Kohathites would rush in would poles and put those poles in the Ark of the Covenant and bear that furniture out, after it was covered. Then the Gershonites would come in and take down the tents, the curtains, the skins, and the cloth wall. Then the sons of Merari would take down the poles and the bases and all of those little infrastructure support elements and they would march. Whenever the cloud would stop, they would set this thing up again. It would probably take no more than 30 minutes - it was very portable, mostly cloth. Those things could be put in place rather rapidly and the whole camp could be set up. So at first, the Ark would be put down, then they would build the tabernacle proper, the tent, the holy place, and the holy of holies. Then they'd put the furniture in; they'd build the wall in the outer courtyard and in 30 minutes they could have it assembled. It is a beautiful story of going through the wilderness. All of them were needed for a particular task and all of them had to do their little part.
Chapters 5 through 10 deal with the consecration of the people. If chapters 1 through 4 deal with the organization of the people, chapters 5 through 10 deal with the consecration and it's all under that heading of organization but now they are going to be consecrated. Look at chapter 5 verse 2, because chapter 5 seems a little bit harsh. Here's a sample, "Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, everyone who has a discharge, and whoever becomes defiled by a corpse." Some people read that and say, "Man, God is being a little hard on these poor people; they can't help it if they have this disease or if somebody keeled over dead next to them and they're defiled." Keep in mind that this is really an act of love. God is quarantining those that might have certain diseases so that it doesn't spread to the rest of the camp.
Chapter 6 is the law of the Nazirite. What's a Nazirite? A Nazirite is somebody who decides to go through a period of time where they want to consecrate all of their focus completely on the Lord. They want to do His bidding and they want to live a life of thanksgiving and there were certain requirements if you took this vow. The Bible has a few different people that we think took this vow. Samson, we believe, was probably the most famous Nazirite of all. He grew his hair long and some people think that his strength was in his hair; it wasn't. It was his strength in commitment to God via a Nazirite vow and in playing with that he was breaking his commitment to the Lord. Some people feel that John the Baptist was a Nazirite. Paul the apostle took a Nazirite vow with a few people in Acts chapter 21 and paid for their expenses at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Chapters 7 through 10 are the order of the march beginning with the offerings and now the tribes go out to march. By the way, look how many verses are in chapter 7. It's the second longest chapter in the Bible. What's the longest chapter in the Bible? Psalm 119 has 176 verses in it. So this is a close second with 89 verses. Go to chapter 9 and look with me at verse 15. This is the organization of the people; they've been consecrated to God and now there is the march that is commanded. In chapter 9 verse 15, there's this strange guidance system; this pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. "Now on the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the Testimony; from evening until morning it was above the tabernacle like the appearance of fire. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents. At the command of the Lord the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the Lord they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped." You never knew when God was going to move; there were no turn signals attached to this cloud; there was no brake light; it just began to move and when it began to move Moses said, "Aaron get your boys in there, cover up the ark and we're moving on." All of this system would just kick into place. God was moving and He was directing and even though they wander, God never removed His presence from them; it was an amazing act of grace. Even though they fail and they blow it and you might think that God would just set His people aside, He doesn’t do that. He will get His people to the land He promised, even though it will take almost 40 years.
There's a story about a pilot who was landing his plan on very foggy day and he couldn't see the ground and he had never been trained in all of the advance navigational techniques and instrument landing; he did not know how to do that. So he wired into the tower and the tower was walking him through all the things to do but the pilot also knew the terrain. He knew that though he couldn't see them there were hills, tall buildings and towers around and he started getting panicked. The tower could hear the panic in the pilot's voice and so in a stern but calm voice the tower said to the pilot, "You just obey our instructions and let us worry about the obstructions." I think that whenever the Lord is moving in your life, God has one thing and one thing only for you to do and that is to just do what He says: walk by faith, obey His commands, and don't worry about the rest of the stuff. So often we worry when God is moving us or calling us somewhere, and we think, "But what about this and what about that…?" Just follow instructions, just chill out, just take one step of faith and then another and another and pretty soon you'll have a whole walk of faith.
Look at verse 34 of chapter 10. The story continues and concludes: "And the cloud of the Lord was above them by day when they went out from the camp. So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: 'Rise up, O Lord! Let Your enemies be scattered,
And let those who hate You flee before You.' And when it rested, he said: 'Return, O Lord, to the many thousands of Israel.'" Some scholars will call this cloud the Shekinah. Have you ever heard the term, the Shekinah Glory? The term is Aramaic, shechinah, and it means the presence of God. One of the things that marked the children of Israel from all of the other peoples in Canaan, is that God's presence was with them and it was visible in this cloud. Their mistake was when they started turning to their own strength and their own defenses; they had numbered the army and when they started trusting in the army rather than in the God of the army is what got them into trouble - and it will get you into trouble. I had somebody wise tell me one time, "If you defend yourself, God will let you." So often something happens and we want to jump right in and start defending ourselves instead of letting the Lord be our defense, our shelter, and our shield, and carry us through.
Chapters 1 through 4 were the organization of the people; chapters 5 through 10 were the consecration of the people; and chapters 11 and 12 are where it takes a turn for the worse. This is the dissention of the people. Something happens in chapter 11 that's an obvious change in attitude and the people start grumbling and complaining. You say, "How could they? They watched a miracle of God open up the Red Sea and destroy the Egyptians. They saw manna on the ground and water come from a rock." Yes, they saw it all and they got used to it; it became old hat to them. Verse 1 of chapter 11: "Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp." There're were a lot of people, as I mentioned; we think about 3 million people out in the desert - that's more than four boys in a rambler station wagon. Complaining can be contagious and large groups of people complaining can get really crazy. In Acts chapter 6 it says: "And when the number of the disciples was multiplying there arose a disagreement," a dissention, a complaint, is the word. Growth is wonderful and great; we love seeing the crowds come out and the hunger for the Word and we love what we've seen over the years with this fellowship, but with growth comes a "perceived" lack of concern. "Oh, there are so many people, nobody cares about me. They probably cared about me when there were fewer of us but now there's so many and nobody cares. I'm just a number." When that multitude of disciples experienced explosive growth, there was that perceived lack of concern and a complaint arose and there was division; and there was here with the children of Israel. Verse 2: "Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched. So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the Lord had burned among them." God's reaction is pretty instant. What is God's attitude toward grumbling and complaining among His people, especially when a person or a few people infect others; do you have any idea what His attitude is? I'll tell you exactly; it says so in the Bible. He hates it - strong word. In Proverbs 6: "Six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises evil schemes, feet that are swift to run to wickedness, A false witness who speaks lies, And he who sows discord among the brethren." God immediately rose up and He kindled in His anger against them and it will eventually lead to unbelief as we'll see and cause the entire generation not to enter into the promise land. In verse 4, notice part of this group: "Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: 'Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.'" I'm sure the first day that manna showed up they thought, "That rocks; that's so cool; it tastes like Krispy Krème donuts; we can bake it; it's there and it's free! Wow!" Now they hate it, they loath it and they're complaining. Notice in verse 4 that it says the mixed multitude. These are people who are products of a mixed marriage. One of their parents is still in Egypt or died in Egypt or maybe came along on this trip and one of them is an Israelite. They are a mixed group and mixed heritage and these are the ones that cause a problem. Just as there are mixed multitudes back in the ancient days with the Children of Israel in the wilderness, I would say there's a mixed multitude even in churches today. People who come and like to mingle and hand out with church people but they also like to hang out and mingle with worldly values in a worldly setting and these group of people can often breed complaint and disruption through the body of Christ. They are trouble makers and it's contagious.
There was a lady who went to John Wesley and said, "Mr. Wesley, I think I've discovered my talent from the Lord." And he said, "What do you think it is?" She said, "I think God gave me a talent to speak my mind." John Wesley said, "Madam, I think that's one talent that God wouldn't mind if you bury." You know the parable about the talents and burying your talent or using it. The Children of Israel seemed to have forgotten something; they used to be slaves and they've been redeemed from slavery; and they're not working in the brickyards of Egypt anymore. Okay, granted they're in the middle of the desert, but God was taking care of them with water, food, clothing, and shelter. It's funny though, but even God's children can develop selective memory disorder. We tune things out. I've seen this happen with recent converts. After a while they sort of loose the thrill of the Christian walk and they complain, "Oh, I remember all the friends I had back in the world; I remember all those great parties I went to." Of course they forget about the night they were so drunk they couldn't walk; they woke up in their own puke; and their friends stabbed them in the back. But the devil loves to say, "Weren't the good old days great? Do you remember the good old days?" The good old days, I've discovered, is a combination of a good imagination and a bad memory and the enemy would love to tweak your nostalgic nerve so you only focus on a few things but it's all skewed. "Oh the good old days; oh, we miss Egypt; oh, the onions; oh, the leeks; oh, I'm having a Big Mac attack!" and they complained against God. Verse 7: "Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil." In Exodus 16 it said it was like wafers made with honey. "And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it." I found an interesting text in Deuteronomy chapter 8 as now the 40 years was over and they were about ready to get into the land, Moses makes them look back and he says something to them. He said, "Do you remember those 40 years that your garments didn't wear out and your feet did not swell?" It's an interesting text. First of all they wore the same cloths for 40 years and their cloths didn't wear out. That would be a drag, wouldn't it? I mean to think that you couldn't change wardrobes. First of all your wife couldn't say, "Honey I need a new outfit." "No you don't, it looks fine. It's a miracle, but it looks great."It says that their feet didn't swell and doctors will tell us that if a person has the sameness of diet over and over again and lacks a variety there the necessary vitamins won't be present and one of the symptoms will be the swelling of the feet when they walk. It's interesting that this manna had all of the necessary ingredients, vitamins, and nutrients to keep them going for 40 years. Verse 10: "Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent;" (just imagine that sound), "and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased. So Moses said to the Lord, 'Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?'" Is Moses complaining? Yes, he is. Moses isn't perfect; he had his flaws, he had his limit. He couldn't take it any longer and here's the human flawed Moses saying, "I'd like to resign now God. I didn't sign up for this job, you talked me into it. Can I quit now?" In verses 16 and 17 the Lord tells Moses to do what Jethro his father in law told him back in Exodus 18. "Get other guys with you. Get 70 men who could be leaders and who can hear the cases of the people and who can help adjudicate the cases and the tough ones can come to you." So this committee develops to help Moses. Later on, this committee becomes the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus and that what started out to be a blessing turned into the Sanhedrin and the Sanhedrin was the committee that had Jesus Christ crucified. A good thing can sometimes turn out to be a bad thing. Sometimes people think in a church that they have to fix a problem, let's get a committee and that can be the worst thing because it can drag on and on or it can be ruinous like the Sanhedrin.
Chapter 12. We know very little about the home family life of Moses. We just have little snippets of information but one thing I can assure you is that Moses home life was far from perfect. In fact, here we see that there's an incident where he's not very happy and there's a dispute and frankly, I'm glad it's in the Bible because too many of us still view Bible heroes, men and women, through stain glass windows and as if they were perfect. They weren't; they were flawed as well. Verse 1: "Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married;" (they're talking about his wife, Zeporah; she was a Medianite), "for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, 'Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?' And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)" It's an interesting text to read especially in the light of the fact that the author of this was Moses. You might say that you can't be very humble if you say you're humble. I don't agree with that. A humble person is an honest person. Someone once defined humility as being known for who you are. What if you're a great tennis player and I were to say, "Hey can you play tennis very well?" And you'd say, "Oh, no, no - it's all the Lord, bro - no I can't do anything at all." I would say that's not humility; I would call that false humility. If you said, "Well, I like to play tennis and I'm actually pretty good and I've won a few titles." Then you'd say, okay that's honest; he's being known for who he is. So for Moses to write this is a statement of fact under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it happens to be true. He's not say, "Nobody is as humble as I am; and I'm proud that I'm so humble." This is just a true statement.
What happens in the next few verses is that God explains to Miriam and Aaron that God speaks to Moses differently that to anyone else. "I chose Moses," the Lord says, "and I speak to him face to face." If God chose Moses and they're speaking against Moses, you've got a problem; now they're speaking against God's choice and that's a problem. If it's God's choice that Moses be here and their speaking against Moses, now they're fighting God's choice. I've always loved the fact that David, though he disagreed with King Saul and believed that he wasn’t the man for the job as the king, he said I'm never going to touch the Lord's anointed. It's not my job to do that and he had high respect for that office.
We're going to close with just a few verses in chapters 13 and 14. This is where organization goes to disorganization; this is the malfunction of the people of God. It says in verse 1, "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them." What was their mission? To spy out the land, check out the terrain, inspect the inhabitants of the land, what are they like, how many are there, what are their strengths and weaknesses? In verse 12 they went and in verse 25: "And they returned from spying out the land after forty days." Verse 27: "Then they told him, and said: 'We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.'" They had the fruit and it was huge; they had the evidence of God's blessing but in spite of the evidence, their evidence was offset by fear. The fruit was here but the fear of the people offset the fruit that they had. Verse 28:
"Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there." Verse 30: "Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, 'Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.' But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.'" Most of the people didn't want to go up; two of them did; is the majority always right? No. Here's a case where they were wrong. "And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.'"
In chapter 14, they now make the decision - are they going in or are they staying out? Will they enter the land or not? Verse 1, "So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, 'If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!'" I think Moses under his breath was saying, "Amen!" "'Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?'" So they said to one another, 'Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.'" They're going to use their kids as an excuse for the problem. "God doesn't care about our kids!" God did care about their kids; in fact who will enter the promise land? Not them, but their kids. So they're blaming God saying "We're stuck in the desert with our kids; and what about our kids?" "I love your kids. In fact, you're going to die out here and your kids are going to inherit the promise land - how's that?" That's what happens here. Verse 10: "And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel." When did God's glory show up? When they complained. You know, sometimes no news is good news? Just because you don't see a powerful move of God, sometimes that can be good because this powerful move wasn't so good. Verse 29: "The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in."
Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes we remember things we ought to forget and we forget things we ought to remember. That is what the children of Israel had done. They had forgotten that they were redeemed from Egypt. They remembered the leeks, the garlic, the onions and not the slavery. There were certain things they should be remembering, certain things they should be forgetting, and they got it backwards. In Psalm 103 we're told, "Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget not all of His benefits."
Father we thank you for this time and we thank You for this study and our time of worship and we remember that you loved us and You love each of us as if there was only one of us to love. Lord You've blessed us so much in this country; You've blessed us so much with the friends and the fellowship around us. I pray that our hearts would be filled with joy and packed with thanksgiving and that our joy, our faith, our excitement in Your promises would be contagious and would spread throughout this community. In Jesus' Name. Amen.