“And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron” (Num 14:2).
When we last left Israel, they were at a decision-point. Would they listen to the voice of the cowards, or Caleb the Conqueror? The answer is given rather quickly as we move into Chapter 14 of Numbers. The people get so depressed over the bad report of the 10 cowardly spies that they decide to choose a leader to take them back into Egyptian slavery.
Sin is insane. Sin drives us mad and makes us crazy. When sin is ruling our hearts and minds, we cannot and will not think straight! We pastors see this repeatedly in the counseling room. Someone caught in sin is stumbling and bumbling through life making one insane decision after another. Digging their own grave ever-deeper, the mad sinner refuses to hear the voice of truth, love and reason. Yet, God is so faithful to send His people the Voice of Truth, even in their sinful madness.
The Voice comes through Joshua and Caleb: “The land which we passed through to spy it is an exceedingly good land; if the Lord delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey” (v. 7-8).
What truth! What courage! What faith! The Lord had shown His delight in these grumbling people called Israel time and time again; after all, He rescued them from slavery, bringing the world’s dominant empire to shame in the process!
Truth’s Voice continues: “Only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them” (v. 9).
At this point we expect something like the initial battle scene in the movie Braveheart to transpire. William Wallace has just ridden in on his war horse and delivered a rousing speech. The Scottish troops who were determined to tuck tail and run have a change of heart. They begin to cheer wildly and begin to foam at the mouth ready for war!
But sin and idolatry do not work that way.
“Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones” (v. 10).
No human, no matter how great, can remove the insanity of sin from our hearts. This is something God must do!
“But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel” (v. 10).
Glory! Grace! Mercy! The real Hero rides in to save the day and to save us from ourselves and our sinful lunacy!
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will this people despise Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs I have done among them?‘”
Our sin and grumbling is always ultimately about the Lord. Our fear of man is always ultimately a demonstration of our lack of faith in God. Our walking by sight and leaning unto our own understanding is always evidence of our sinful tendency to forget all God’s wonders and to not take Him at His Word and live by His promises.
And we should all be judged severely for it. God’s speech to Moses goes on: “I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they” (v. 12).
Justice. It’s what we deserve. It’s what we’ve all earned from God. Should the Lord follow through here, it would be perfectly just and fair and right. Crazy, insane sinners need to soak in this reality until they feel the weight of their own guilt and shame. But so often we share the Gospel today in only “positive, encouraging” ways.
But there’s nothing to commend in the sin-stained hearts and minds of crazed rebels. What is positive about ungrateful idolatry?