A Year for Each Day, Part II
While going through the book of Numbers in our Sunday sermons, we are also going through 1 Corinthians in our weekly Bible studies on Thursday nights. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul speaks of the punishment of the Israelites as, he says, “their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.”
That is something that will actually first be hinted at in today’s verses. Along with the Bible studies, for those who are brave enough, we are also going through a daily, verse by verse, commentary on the book of Hebrews. There in Hebrews, it speaks of exactly what is referred to in today’s verses as well.
When reading the New Testament, the writers refer to these passages, the verses simply state what the Old Testament says as a matter of fact, but without any extra context for the reader to understand what is being referred to.
And so, unless one either knows the Old Testament, and what is being referred to, or unless the reader simply takes the statements at face value and under the assumption that there is no need to know more, then there is actually a void in understanding what is presented by the writers in the New.
That doesn’t mean a void in understanding the theology presented, but rather a void in grasping how the Lord got us to the theology. That is why it is so wonderful to go through these Old Testament passages. Again and again, the person who understands Jesus’ work from the New Testament can suddenly say, “Aha! I get it. I see why the Lord picked that story or chose that particular word.”
It really is marvelous to be able to tie it all together without any gaps in our knowledge – either from the New while reading the Old, or from the Old while reading the New.
Text Verse: “Today, if you will hear His voice:
8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
9 When your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me, though they saw My work.
10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
And they do not know My ways.’
11 So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’” Psalm 95:8-11
The thing about this text verse is that it never explicitly says “They shall not enter My rest” in the books of Moses, that David states in the psalm. That is something that David said, under inspiration, and which then looks forward to an amazingly complex set of verses in the book of Hebrews. And so knowing just the original account in Numbers, and the explanation of it in Hebrews, is not enough. One has to know what the psalms say about the matter as well.
Further, for the person who is stuck in the Torah, meaning the five books of Moses, unless they know what David says, and what he means in what he says in the psalm, then they are completely deficient in what is being portrayed in these Numbers verses. Because of this, and as I say time and again during the Thursday night Bible studies, learning theology is hard work. It is mentally taxing, it is complicated, and it is easily misinterpreted by those who are not fully trained in the word of God.
Hence, we continue on today in the book of Numbers. In our passage, we will once again find pictures – yes marvelous pictures – of the work of Jesus Christ. Such great things are to be found in His superior word. And so let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. Let the Power of My Lord Be Great (verses 11-19)
To put this passage into perspective, we need to remember what occurred before it. In Chapter 13, the land of Canaan was spied out, and the report was brought back to the people. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, the report was a negative one. This was passed on to the congregation who then complained to Moses and Aaron concerning the situation.
They determined to select another leader and head back to Egypt. They also said to stone them with stones. It was at that time, and in the rescuing hand of the Lord, that we read the final words before this passage today, “Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.” The glory has appeared, and that doesn’t bode too well for the congregation…
11 Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me?
What we are not told here is whether the voice of the Lord came out audibly for the people, or if the appearing of the Lord before all the people prompted Moses to go in and commune with the Lord. Either way, the people would have been fully aware of the fact that the Lord had appeared just when they were about to stone Moses and those with him. That alone should be clue enough that the Lord was displeased with the events. And so it is. The Lord’s words to Moses are ad anah yenaatsuni ha’am hazeh – “Until when does spurn me the people the this.”
The Lord introduces a new word into Scripture with these words, naats, to spurn or treat with contempt. As an exception to the usual meaning, in Ecclesiastes, it is used to describe the blooming of the almond tree, and so one can almost get a sense that such spurning is something that blooms forth in abundance. The people’s rejection of the Lord has literally flourished in His presence, and His question is, “How long will this continue?” Unfortunately, the question remains unanswered 3500 years later. But He proceeds…
11 (con’t) And how long will they not believe Me,
v’ad anah lo yaaminu bi – “and until when not will they believe Me.” The words complement and build upon the previous words. To not believe the Lord is to spurn Him. The concept is seen throughout Scripture. To believe the Lord is pleasing to Him, and to not believe Him is repugnant to Him because it is a rejection of Him. To believe the Lord is worthy of reward; to not believe Him is worthy of punishment.
To state that the Lord causes a person to believe, or to place the blame upon the Lord for unbelief, is a doctrine wholly unknown to Scripture. Such Calvinistic thinking is a cop out which denies the fundamental truth that we are accountable for our actions, including our beliefs, before the Lord. In the case of Israel, they were all the more culpable for their disbelief. They had actual, visible, and verbal proofs from the Lord…
11 (con’t) with all the signs which I have performed among them?
Moses had come to Egypt and spoken to the elders of Israel. Eventually, the people had been alerted to what he was called to do, and that it was the Lord who would work out this calling. They had been told, in advance, of the coming plagues, including the final great plague.
They had observed the Passover and had been drummed out of Egypt. They came to the Red Sea, and they had seen the arm of the Lord accomplish their salvation. They had the pillar of cloud and fire with them. They had defeated Amalek. They had been given quail when promised. They were given manna to sustain them. On and on and on, the people had been told – in advance – what would occur, and then it came about.
And yet, with a successive line of proofs that the Lord would deliver on His word, they failed to believe Him. When He had spoken out His words to them, they failed to take Him at His word. It is the sin of unbelief. In Hebrews 3:19, it is explicitly stated that what will come upon them in the verses ahead is solely based on their unbelief. The spurning of the Lord is based on their failure to believe Him.
Surprisingly, this doesn’t mean that they didn’t believe in Him. It was that they simply didn’t believe Him, meaning His word, despite who He is. Israel today, and indeed much of the Christian world believes in God, even the God of the Bible, but they do not believe Him, meaning in His word. The disconnect between the two is a fatal mistake. For Israel in the wilderness, it was a temporal mistake which would result in temporal punishment of some sort…
Here we have a thought reflective of that spoken by the Lord in Exodus 32, at the time of the incident with the golden calf. Because of the people’s actions, we read –
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them.’” Exodus 32:9, 10
The difference here is that the pronouncement of the Lord is considerably stronger than before. First, he says that He will strike them ba’deber or “with the pestilence.” It is one of the curses promised upon the people in Leviticus 26:25. No sooner had they received the words of warning, than the Lord is already threatening to come against them as He promised, and they had not even yet entered into Canaan! And so great is the Lord’s wrath at this point that He continues with v’orishenu, or “and disinherit them.”
Whatever was promised as their lot and inheritance, including Canaan itself, is threatened to be removed from their future. This is, in actuality, exactly what they had already threatened to do on their own. In selecting a leader to take them back to Egypt, they had, in essence, disinherited themselves. The Lord is, in principle, agreeing to their desires. With this threat standing, He then makes a promise to faithful Moses…
12 (con’t) and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
v’e-eseh otekha l’gow gadol v’asum mimenu – Again, the words are reflective of Exodus 32, but they are more strongly formed now than before –
“And I will make of you a great nation.” Exodus 32:10
Before, he was promised to be a great nation. Now, using those same words but with addition, he is promised to be a nation greater and mightier than Israel. Moses, being the leader of the people, knew their size. He knew what they were now. He also knew what they were to become based on the Lord’s promises to them. That would be less than what is now offered to Moses.
The first words, without the addition of becoming mightier than Israel, are almost an exact repeat of the words spoken to Abraham over 430 years earlier. There the Lord said to him, “And I will make you a great nation.” The Lord is speaking these words as a test of Moses, just as he did at the incident with the golden calf. But He is making the promise greater than at that time.
What is the measure of the love of Moses for his people? What is the scope of his faithfulness to his duties? Is his desire for recognition and fame greater than his allegiance to his calling? And is it his honor, or the Lord’s, which will most motivate him? Here, he is seen as a type of Christ who was tempted by the devil with greatness by bypassing the hard work.
Moses is not being tempted, but he is being tested. He has faced the difficulties of leadership, and he is now being offered a way out of them, at the expense of the people he leads. Jesus was offered the same. If He took the devil’s offer, mankind would have been doomed, just as Israel is being offered up for destruction and disinheritance now.
The Lord’s words of promised pestilence and disinheritance are merely an exercise in revealing the character of Moses. This is what occurred with Jacob when the Lord wrestled with him in Genesis 32:24-28 –
“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’
But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’
27 So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’
He said, ‘Jacob.’
28 And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’”
The Lord tested Jacob, not for the Lord’s learning, but for Jacob’s. Once again, and for a second time, the same thing is occurring with Moses. The Lord already knows what Moses will do, but He still needs Moses to know this as well, and there is a reason for it which will be seen later in the chapter. For now, Moses responds…
Albert Barnes notes the unique structure of Moses’ coming words. It is worth understanding this before we actually look at them –
“The syntax of these verses is singularly broken. As did Paul when deeply moved, so Moses presses his arguments one on the other without pausing to ascertain the grammatical finish of his expressions. He speaks here as if in momentary apprehension of an outbreak of God’s wrath, unless he could perhaps arrest it by crowding in every topic of deprecation and intercession that he could mention on the instant.” Albert Barnes
Moses’ words of verses 13-19 are words of intercession. They are similar to what he spoke after the incident of the golden calf, but they are deeper and more heartfelt than even then. The motive behind them remains the same as before, even if it is expanded on here. And so, he begins by referring to the Egyptians. He could have started with any thought that came to his mind – one of a million things could have prompted him to speak, and yet he begins with where Israel came from, meaning being among Egypt.
Egypt, as we have seen is, in type and picture, the place that we as believers have left, meaning our old life of bondage to sin. The Lord brought Israel up from Egypt, and He brought us up from our bondage to sin. In both, it was by – as Moses says – “Your might.” What is so important about this that Moses begins with it? And, what is so important about it that the Lord ensures it is recorded here? Moses next explains it with…
The “inhabitants of this land” are not speaking merely of where they are in the Sinai, meaning the Arabians and others, nor merely of Canaan, but those surrounding Canaan as well. They are referred to in the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 and include Philistia, Edom, and Moab. In his song of victory, Moses had said this –
“Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out Your right hand;
The earth swallowed them.
13 You in Your mercy have led forth
The people whom You have redeemed;
You have guided them in Your strength
To Your holy habitation.
14 “The people will hear and be afraid;
Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed;
The mighty men of Moab,
Trembling will take hold of them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away.
16 Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them
In the mountain of Your inheritance,
In the place, O Lord, which You have made
For Your own dwelling,
The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.” Exodus 15:11-17
It appears that this song of victory is exactly what is on his mind as he now appeals to the Lord. It was about a year earlier that they had sung the words, and now Moses is recalling them before the Lord. Already the people had heard. They knew what had taken place, and there was now a doubt that those events would lead to ultimate victory. And so Moses speaks further…
14 (con’t) They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people; that You, Lord, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.
In these words is a rather unique expression. Rather than “face to face,” the Hebrew reads, “eye to eye.” The proximity of the Lord to the people is so close as He is among them, that it is as if they can see one another’s pupils. Further, Moses describes the three aspects of His visible presence – 1) the cloud which stood above them, shading them and protecting them; 2) The pillar of cloud that went before them by day, showing all that He was Israel’s Head; and 3) the pillar of fire that went before them by night, lighting the way, and providing illumination. The nations had heard of these things and could only watch in awe at the marvel of Him being among Israel. But what if that changed? Moses goes on…
Moses is not asking for judgment to be withheld. He understands that it must come, however the Lord determines. But in order to ensure that the honor of the Lord in the sight of the nations is maintained, He notes that if they are killed as one man, it will bear negative consequences.
The exact opposite is true concerning what happened when Jerusalem was surrounded by the army of the King of Assyria at the time of King Hezekiah. He pleaded with the Lord for rescue stating, “Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.”
And the Lord – for the sake of His name – responded to Hezekiah’s pleas. The account says, “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.”
They were destroyed as one man and the Lord was glorified. Moses understood that such a display of power could only reflect negatively upon the name of the Lord should it be brought against His own redeemed people. As he says…
Of the scholars I have read, they are all in agreement that Moses is implying that the nations would think that the Lord simply wasn’t strong enough to continue the job He had begun, and sworn to complete. He was either exhausted from His great acts, or He knew that the power which Israel was to face could not be overcome, and so He killed them. I disagree.
It isn’t because the Lord isn’t powerful enough to accomplish His words, but because the people were uncontrollable. In Genesis 6, the people of the world had become completely uncontrollable, and the Lord destroyed all but eight. At the tower of Babel, the people did not do what the Lord had instructed. Instead of spreading out, they united as one. And thus, the Lord had to divide their tongues. At the incident of the golden calf, it says “Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained…”
When the people of the Lord are uncontrollable, it is the Lord who is seen as incapable of accomplishing His word. And this is exactly what the people of the world think of the Lord when they see Christians who are unrestrained. In bringing discredit upon themselves, they bring discredit upon the Lord. It is His honor which is called into question by the actions of His people. Moses knew that if He killed the people as one man, the nations would say, “The Lord couldn’t even control His own people! How then can He accomplish anything beyond what He promised them?”
Consider it. When a well-known evangelist is found to be completely unrestrained, the people who see him will inevitably question the promises of the Lord. We, as a species, look from the bottom up, not from the top down. The Lord already knew this, but he is drawing this out from Moses for his learning, and for our instruction. The Lord speaks out this same thought in Isaiah 48 –
“For My name’s sake I will defer My anger,
And for My praise I will restrain it from you,
So that I do not cut you off.
10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it;
For how should My name be profaned?
And I will not give My glory to another.”Isaiah 48:9-11
v’atah yigdal na koakh adonai – “and now let be great, I pray, the power of Adonai.” Moses uses a verb in the form of a declarative. “Let be great the power of Adonai.” His appeal now is not based on what he has said, but on what he will next say. What is it that will most marvelously display the power of Yehovah? Moses will recount the Lord’s own words…
17 (con’t) just as You have spoken, saying,
In Exodus 34, Moses went up Mount Sinai a second time, carrying the tablets of stone. There on the mountain it said –
“Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’” Exodus 34:5-7
Moses reaches back to his time there and now substantially repeats the Lord’s own proclamation of Himself…
18 ‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’
Astonishingly, Moses sees the power of the Lord most fully demonstrated in His mercy and forgiveness. This is what the Lord had declared concerning Himself when He had most fully revealed who He is. Moses grasped onto this, knowing that the Lord is unchangeable in His being, and he appeals to that truth now.
Moses is considered Israel’s great law-giver. A law demands justice leading to punishment for transgression. But Moses sees the strength of the Lord in withholding that, and in the granting of mercy. Does that not sound like God working in Christ? The greatest demonstration of all of God’s power is found in the giving of His Son for sinful man. It is the very heart of the gospel, and the gospel is the very heart and purpose of all Scripture in regards to salvation. Paul says as much in Romans 1:16 –
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The law and its penalties cannot compare to the mercies of the Lord. And the Dispensation of Law is but a dark moment in redemptive history as it led to the gloriously revealed light of the Dispensation of Grace. Moses, understanding this precept above all else, then speaks out his petition to the Lord…
“How can you demonstrate Your greatness, O Adonai? You can do so through pardon.” In Exodus 34:9, just after the Lord proclaimed His name, Moses asked for salakh or pardon. It was the first of 47 times that the term is used. It was next seen ten times in Leviticus concerning the sacrificial system of the law, in the granting of pardon for offenses.
Throughout the rest of its uses, it is always ascribed to the pardon of the Lord. Moses had seen the Lord’s compassion in His spoken word before, and He appealed to it then. As the word of the Lord is the revelation of Himself, Moses knew that He is, by nature, compassionate. And so, as he petitioned the Lord for mercy in the instance of the golden calf, he again asks for it now. It is that which He knows the Lord possesses in unlimited abundance…
19 (con’t) just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
“From Egypt even until now” is all-inclusive. The people were rebellious even before they set out after the Passover. They called into question the Lord’s goodness at every stop they made. They continued to doubt Him throughout their time at Sinai, and there was no reason to assume that the attitude should suddenly change on their trek to Canaan.
Understanding this, pardon of their offenses is the only option apart from showing that He is simply incapable of restraining Israel any more than He is incapable of restraining the world at large. That is, apart from simply destroying them all. Free will in man is on prominent display in these verses. And it is the free will, displayed through the receiving of pardon, which is most radiantly highlighted.
Moses got this, and in his getting, the Lord has once again revealed who He really is, and what He really will continue to do as history progresses. He will magnify His own glory through the pardon of His people. That is seen in the Lord’s response…
The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious
Longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth
Keeping mercy for thousands, mercy so spacious
His forgiveness to us is surely the proof
He forgives iniquity and transgression and sin
But the guilty He will not clear, they will see a bad end
He will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
This is the warning which His word to us does send
But His word also shows us where His pardon to find
In the giving of Christ, He has granted it to us
Be sober in thought and of a reasonable mind
Search out His goodness in the face of Jesus
II. Corporate Pardon; Individual Punishment (Verses 20-25)
salakhti kidbareka – “I have pardoned.” As Moses has petitioned, so the Lord has granted. Pardon here, then, is inclusive of Moses’ own words. In verse 15, Moses said, “Now if You kill these people as one man.” The pardon then wasn’t asking for no punishment upon them, but that they would not be destroyed all at once. That would have two effects. First, it would immediately destroy the people, but secondly, it would destroy the seed of the people. Moses wanted neither, as it says…
20 (con’t) according to your word;
Moses spoke, and the Lord granted. The lesson was for Moses to understand the Lord more fully, but Moses’ lesson is our lesson. The Lord pardons according to His nature, and that is the greatest display of His greatness. However, the Lord does this so that He will be glorified…
There is an “and” missing in this translation. It says, “but truly as I live, and shall be filled with the glory of Yehovah all the earth.” In other words, what He will next say concerning the punishment of the people is actually a point upon which the glory of the Lord fills the earth. Well, how can that be?
First, in not immediately exterminating them as they deserve, the Lord’s glory is made manifest. Secondly, by allowing their seed to continue, the Lord’s glory is made manifest as is seen throughout the rest of Scripture, and especially in the coming of Christ through them. And thirdly, what is this account picturing?
The people have been promised rest in Canaan. They rejected the Lord, and they were denied that rest. Instead, they will wander for forty years in the wilderness. Each of these things has been seen in Israel’s rejection of Christ. In type and picture and step by step, we have been led to this point.
When they rejected Christ, the curse of the covenant came upon Israel. The curses of Leviticus 26 have been played out in them for 2000 years. And yet, the glory of the Lord is revealed in His keeping His covenant to them. By keeping them alive, meaning as a people, and now in the calling of them back to the land of Israel, as His word said He would do, the glory of the Lord has literally filled all the earth.
They were scattered everywhere that man lives, they were kept as a people in their dispersion, and they have been regathered from every point where they were scattered. This is what is being pictured since the departure from Sinai, and it will continue until the crossing of the Jordan in Joshua 4. This is what the book of Hebrews so meticulously details concerning the rest offered to the people of Israel. It is in Christ that they will find their rest. Not entering Canaan (their promised rest), is pictured in their not coming to Christ (their true promised Rest).
The people saw the glory of the Lord on Mount Sinai. They saw it in His other visible manifestations of Himself, and they saw it in the things He accomplished. They also saw the signs of the Lord, both in Egypt and in the wilderness. The words here are speaking of what Yehovah did for and among Israel, but they anticipate what Christ would do for and among Israel. The same words are used when speaking of Israel’s interactions with Christ. The people are said to have seen His glory. They also saw His signs while living in their own Egypt, their own bondage to sin, and in the wilderness of their lives apart from Christ. Both are spoken of in John 12 –
‘Lord, who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’
39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
40 ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,
Lest they should see with their eyes,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’
41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.”John 12:37-41
In Israel under Yehovah, and in Israel when Christ was among them, they failed to heed. But there is more…
22 (con’t) and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice,
The term “ten times” is a Hebrew idiom meaning, “Various times, and often.” Ten is used this way in both Testaments of the Bible. It is a certain number given for an uncertain. It signifies a completeness of an entire round of a given subject. Jesus uses it, for example, in Revelation 2 where the saints are said to be tested for ten days. The people continuously tested the Lord, and they failed to heed His voice. It is, again, reflective of the time of Christ’s coming. In Deuteronomy, the Lord said –
“I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” Deuteronomy 18:18, 19
The gospels confirm the continuous testing of Christ by the people, and their failing to heed His voice. Yehovah warned; Christ was rejected; the people did not enter into God’s rest, typified by Canaan and realized in the salvation He provides, as is next seen…
The punishment is named. Those who, naats, or rejected the Lord, those saw His glory, and those who failed to heed His voice, were excluded from entry into the land of promise, meaning the “rest” of the Lord as described by the psalmist. The same punishment came upon Israel again at the time of Christ. Those who rejected Him, and those who failed to heed His voice, were excluded from the true Rest found in Christ.
In Scripture, one must be able to discern the larger pictures. Israel is a corporate body to whom everlasting promises are made. God will never take away the salvation of Israel. However, individually they are not all saved. Individual Christians are like Israel in that everlasting promises are made to them. God will never take away the salvation of an individual. But only those individuals who come to Christ are saved. This is pictured in His next words to Moses…
Though Joshua will enter into Canaan, the Lord singles out Caleb, the Dog, who is of Gentile descent. He is specifically noted as having a different spirit. He is excluded from the punishment levied upon Israel, showing that it is faith in the Lord and His promises which secure salvation.
24 (con’) and has followed Me fully,
The Hebrew says, “and has fully followed after me.” Caleb pursued the Lord, and the Lord’s ways, step by step, in faith. He simply trusted the Lord’s promise and defended his position by saying, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).
Caleb is singled out because he fills the typology of what would come during the Gentile-led church age. It is those who the Jews consider “dogs,” meaning Gentiles, that would inherit the lead role in this dispensation. While Israel was under punishment for not heeding the Lord, Caleb obtained the promise.
24 (con’) I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.
Caleb is promised entry into Canaan; Christians are promised entrance into heaven. The Hebrew reads, “and his seed shall inherit it.” Caleb is given as a type of Abraham here. Abraham was given an incredible promise, but by simple faith God counted it to him for righteousness. From there, those who follow Abraham in faith are counted as his seed. The same thought is given here in Caleb. Those who are his seed will inherit the land.
It must be remembered that Caleb also remained in the wilderness for the forty years, but his time was one of promise leading to entry into Canaan. Israel collectively was as well. But Israel individually was not. Individuals were cursed, leading to death. Understanding the typology leads to understanding the times in which we live.
We are in a wilderness, and we are seemingly wandering aimlessly – all of us. But some bear the promise and some do not. For those who do, our time here is simply in anticipation of entering what God promised since the fall of man. Caleb possesses that promise; all who trust in Christ do so as well.
Though seemingly misplaced, the words here are given in anticipation of the final seven verses of the chapter. There, a battle between disobedient Israel and the Amalekites and the Canaanites will take place. At this time, the narrative anticipates that, telling the people that these adversaries are abiding in the valley. With the Lord, they could easily be defeated. Without Him, their own defeat was certain. Because of this, the people are instructed to turn away from them by the way of the Red Sea.
As there are fingers of the Red Sea on both sides of Sinai, it could mean either direction, if west is meant, it would then be ironic that they were heading in the general direction they had wanted to go when they rebelled, but they will rebel against that and turn to fight these enemies, once again in disobedience to the Lord.
Another hint of irony is found in what occurred after the rebellion of Israel with the golden calf, and what occurs after this rebellion of Israel now. After the incident of the calf, Moses went up Mount Sinai and asked for pardon for the people. At that time, he spent 40 days on the mountain a second time (Deuteronomy 9:18). Now, after the incident of rejecting entry into Canaan, Moses again petitions for pardon for Israel, and they will spend a full forty years in the wilderness.
In both, they are periods of grace, leading to revival and renewal. For Moses’ time, it was a period of grace, leading to a renewal of the covenant. For Israel, it is a period of grace, leading to renewal in the land of promise. In both, they picture the work of Christ on Israel’s behalf, despite Israel’s disobedience. Christ rose and forty days later ascended. This was followed by the confirmation of the covenant, the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. But Israel rejected that. They went into an extended time of punishment, but that is promised to lead to a time of revival and renewal.
During that time, the covenant promises belong to any who will come to Christ by faith, but it is a time of being led by the Gentile church. The patterns laid down here in Numbers are, literally, being lived out in our lifetime. At some point, the church will be removed and the focus will be back on Israel as the Lord completes His plans for them and fulfills His promises to them.
Until that time, we are given the lesson to follow after the Lord just as Caleb is said to have done. We are to have a different spirit in us, one of faith in the promises of the Lord. If we are willing to, by faith, put our trust in the promises of God found in Christ, we will be considered in the same light as Caleb was here in Numbers. It all centers on obedience to the Lord, and that all centers on faith in Him and in His word. And how do we appropriate that? By calling out to Christ.
Closing Verse: “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:16-19
Next Week: Numbers 14:26-45 The time in the wilderness seemed to go on endlessly… (A Year for Each Day, Part III) (27th Numbers Sermon)
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It may seem at times as if you are lost in a desert, wandering aimlessly. But the Lord is there, carefully leading you to the Land of Promise. So follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.
A Year for Each Day
Then the Lord said to Moses:
“How long will these people reject Me?
And how long will they not believe Me?
With all the signs which I have performed among them
———-how can they act so stubbornly?
I will strike them with the pestilence
And disinherit them too
And I will make of you a nation
Greater and mightier than they; so shall I do
And Moses said to the Lord:
“Then the Egyptians will hear it, so they will understand
For by Your might You brought these people up from among them
And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land
They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people
That You, Lord, are seen face to face; Your glorious sight
And Your cloud stands above them
And You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day
———-and in a pillar of fire by night
Now if You kill these people as one man
Then the nations which have heard of Your fame
Will speak, saying
Words that will bring disgrace to Your name
‘Because the Lord was not able
To bring this people to the land as He did address
Which He swore to give them
Therefore He killed them in the wilderness
And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great
Just as You have spoken, saying as You did do
‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy
Forgiving iniquity and transgression too
But He by no means clears the guilty
Visiting the iniquity of the fathers as He swore to do
On the children to the third and fourth generation
So it shall be the judgment from You
Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray
According to the greatness of Your mercy
Just as You have forgiven this people
From Egypt even until now, may it still be
Then the Lord said:
“I have pardoned, according to your word
But truly, as I live
All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord
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, and my solemn address
They certainly shall not see the land
Not even a little bit
Of which I swore to their fathers
Nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it
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, so shall it be
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
Lord God, we are even now in a wilderness
And we are wanting to be led by You
Without You to direct, our lives would be a mess
And so be our guide, O God; You who are faithful and true
We long for the water in this barren land
May it flow forth from the Rock, our souls to satisfy
Give us this refreshing, spiritual hand
And may we take it, and to our lives daily it apply
And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to you for all of our days
Hallelujah and Amen…