“And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried . . .” (v. 1). The people lifted up their voice, cried out and wept because of that which they had just heard. They had heard the report of the twelve spies. They heard that there were giants in the land, the cities were walled, and the people were strong. They cried out and wept in fear.
This was not the response that the Lord intended. The Lord had shown His power to the children of Israel in bringing them up from Egypt with great gain. The Lord had shown His watchcare over them by providing manna from heaven. The Lord had shown them the abundance of Canaan, a land of milk and honey that He would give to them. Their response was to murmur against Moses and Aaron and utter, “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!”
New Testament believers are quick to condemn the children of Israel for their lack of faith. We look at verse 4 and say: “Shame on you!” Surely, this is not the response which the Lord intends of us. This is not the reason for which this scripture exists. All scripture is given by God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. The account before us exists such that New Testament believers might be perfected to serve our Lord and Savior (II Tim. 3:16-17).
The children of Israel looked to themselves. They thought to select a captain to lead them back to Egypt. In so doing, they would cast aside the captain which the Lord God had selected. The Lord called out to Moses from the burning bush that he should lead Israel out of Egypt. Israel, however, was determined to trust in themselves rather than in God. New Testament believers find it easy to trust the Lord to count our faith for righteousness but not so willing to let the Lord direct our paths.
Moses and Aaron fell upon their faces. Moses and Aaron were chosen by God. Their action is a picture of incredulity. They could not believe that the people would turn from the God who had brought them out of Egypt and continually provided them with their daily need.
Joshua and Caleb spoke out. Joshua and Caleb had spied out the land of Canaan. They had seen the land of milk and honey. Like the other spies, they had seen the walled cities, the strong people, and the sons of Anak. Unlike the other ten spies, they had seen the land which God would give to the children of Israel. They said, “If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us” (v. 8).
New Testament believers need to hear that which Joshua and Caleb said. They prefaced their words with “If” — the Lord would bring the children of Israel into the land and give it to them “if” He were pleased with them. If is conditional. God’s promise that Abraham’s seed would possess the land was unconditional. What goes?
The Lord would and did give the land of Canaan to the seed of Abraham as He promised. It occurred 38 years after Joshua and Caleb spoke these words. The Lord would keep His unconditional promise to Abraham. The Lord brought a seed of Abraham into the land which believed that He was with them and would go before them. The Lord waited for the seed which would believe. The Lord brought a people who were both Abraham’s seed by faith and his seed by flesh. The seed that lacked faith died in the wilderness. Only those who believed the promise entered into the land.
Those who lacked faith sought to stone Joshua and Caleb (v. 10). Joshua and Caleb had urged the people not to rebel against God. They had urged the people to trust God and to take possession of the land. They were about to perish because they desired that which the Lord would have Israel do.
The Lord intervened. The glory of God appeared in the tabernacle. The form of the Lord’s glory may have been as cloud covering the tabernacle (see Ex. 40:34). The presence of God’s glory was definitely such that all thought of killing Joshua and Caleb ended abruptly. Joshua and Caleb possessed faith. The Lord is a rewarder of faith. Joshua and Caleb would live such that their faith might be seen by others.
In the closing verses before us, the Lord asks two questions — How long will the people provoke me and how long will it be before they will believe me? The Lord does not provide a time limit for those who do not believe to change their way. He does, however, warn of that which He shall do when His patience expires. He will smite those who do not believe.
The Lord speaks to all who have the ears to hear. New Testament believers hear that which the Lord spoke to Moses. We know that the time in which men may seek Him will come to an end. Let us declare our faith while the door is open.