Monday, 29 September 2014
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:5
Despite the Israelites having all of the privileges which Paul mentioned in the preceding verses (baptism in the cloud and the sea, the spiritual food, and the spiritual Rock), he shows that it didn’t profit them at all in their spiritual lives. He leads into this with the word “but.” Despite all of the proofs and all of the physical demonstrations of God’s presence among them, instead of having faith that He would see their redemption through to a good end, they failed to trust.
What God looks for is faith in Him and His promises. What He got was rebellion and a stubborn, stiff-necked attitude. And because of this “with most of them God was not well pleased.” Because they lacked faith in Him and His provision, He rewarded them with what they accused Him of.
Time and again, the Israelites complained and accused the Lord of wrongdoing. One example is from Numbers 14:2-4 –
“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! 3 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?’ 4 So they said to one another, ‘Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.'”
After this, Moses petitioned the Lord to pardon the people, but there would be a penalty for their lack of faith. This is recorded later in the chapter –
“Then the Lord said: ‘I have pardoned, according to your word; 21 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord— 22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.'” Numbers 14:20-25
The Israelites would receive the punishment that they deserved. Because of their lack of faith, “their bodies were in the wilderness.” This was the very thing that they had said would happen and so their words were used as a witness against them. Despite this though, there was grace in the sentence. Instead of being snuffed out immediately, they would be allowed to live out their lives and raise their children until they were old enough to assume the responsibility of going into Canaan. This is detailed later in the same chapter –
“But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. 35 I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.” Numbers 14:31-35
In the end, only two of the 603,550 registered males who were of fighting age were permitted the honor of entering the promised land. Figuring in the women, well over a million people would die as they wandered through the wilderness. Such was the price for lacking faith and rebelling against the Lord.
Life application: God asks for faith in His faithless creatures, so a little bit will do. He asks us to trust Him, even when times seem out of control. If we truly believe that He will fulfill His promises, we will continue to trust Him and to praise Him each step of the way. With this, He will be well-pleased.
Heavenly Father, the lesson of those Israelites who perished in the wilderness should teach us that we need to trust You when times are tough or even seemingly out of control. Yes, life takes turns that lead us into deep and dark valleys, but You have promised to never leave us nor to forsake us. Help us to remember that You are there with us in those dark places and that You have a good plan and purpose for those times. Remind us that the dark valley is merely a short walk towards a bright and wondrous mountaintop. Thank You for Your ever-faithful presence. Amen.