In what ways did Israel test God? How did God deal with Israel’s disobedience? What characteristics of God allow Him to forgive us?
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I would like to begin with you today in the book of Numbers. Just a wild guess, but I'll betcha' that's not a book that most of us have spent a whole lot of time in. Isn't that just where they enumerate all the tribes, enumerate numbers of the tribes of Israel, and they give the marching directions on how to get out of camp? Well, that sort of instruction is in there and, sometimes we might wonder, what application does that have for Christian living? I think it does, but even beyond that, there are portions of the book of Numbers that are quite instructive for us "upon whom the ends of the world have come," and I would like to start with Numbers, chapter 14 and just break into the thought. There is a phrase here that gives us the title of the sermon today. Let's look at verse 22 of Numbers 14, and we'll later come back and develop the context here, but I want to just begin with this statement. This is God Almighty Himself speaking, in a rather agitated state, you might say.
He says in verse 22:
Numbers:14:22 – "...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." You know, there are consequences. That is what He goes on to say.
There was something about what had just happened that had reached...the cup had become full, the line in the sand had been crossed, there was something about what had happened, culminating in the tenth of "these ten times" in God's interaction with Israel, such that He had reached the limit. This was a point of no return and He said, because "they have tested Me now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice..." (the consequences you're very aware of).
V. 23 – "They," that is, this generation of adults, responsible adults, who have tested Me "these ten times," because of this it says in verse 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."
And then He goes on to talk about the two exceptions to that, of those twenty and older, Joshua and Caleb, because in them resided, He says, a different spirit.
"These ten times." I want to, in the sermon today, go through "these ten times" with you, admitting at the outset that there might be a slightly different way to go to the book of Exodus, from the time that God began to deal with the nation of Israel, till we get to Numbers:14:22, there could be a couple of variations of ways to get to ten, "these ten times" of provocation, "these ten times" of testing, but certainly the ten we're going to look at fill the bill. They do show ten distinct times that the people tested God and, as we see, He had reached, or they had reached a limit.
God reveals Himself and we will also see this in the course of the sermon. His Self-description is that He is a God of mercy and great patience and great forgiveness, but there are limits and, apparently, in His dealings with Israel, at this stage of history that limit had been reached, that cup had been filled, that line had been crossed, and there were significance consequences that were going to have to be faced by the nation that tested Him "these ten times." These ten provocations, we might say, or these ten irritations.
Before enumerating them and trying to gather for us some guidance and edification from "these ten times," I want to go back and just review with you in Romans 15, sort of the underlying philosophy of the sermon. And that is that we can look at the dealings of God with Old Testament, Old Covenant Israel and gain very important insights on how He expects us to respond to Him in the New Covenant Israel of God, in the New Testament Church of God.
Romans:15:4 – In Romans:15:4 it says, "For whatsoever things were written before." Well certainly, Numbers was written before Romans, wasn't it? Clearly talking about what we call the Old Testament scriptures. "Whatsoever things were written before were written for our learning." In a newer context; in a later time period, were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
So there is hope to be gained, there is education, there is edification from looking at the examples in Old Testament Israel, in the Old Testament Scriptures. And then we can go to I Corinthians, chapter 10, and it says virtually the same thing, in slightly different language. I Corinthians, chapter 10. In fact, in my Bible there are subheads in front of all the chapters and the subhead the editors or publishers of this Bible put in was "Old Testament Examples," right at the start of I Corinthians, chapter 10. But it says in verse 9:
I Corinthians 10:9 – "Neither let us tempt Christ." Tempt, test, provoke, irritate. The same thought as we see "these ten times," where they provoked Him, irritated Him, tested Him. We're not to do that. We're to learn not to do that. It says, "Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents."
Vs. 10 – "Neither murmur ye...that is complain, gripe, bemoan...neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer," reaping what was sown. And verse 11.
Vs. 11 – "Now all these things," including Numbers 14 and going back into Exodus 12, the beginning of "these ten times," "all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition," so earlier they are written for our hope and our learning and now, "they are written for our admonition," so we're to learn and be cautioned and warned by them, "for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."
Well, I would never succumb to that. What about a person who would think that? That was them; I'm me. I'm different. I'm a different kind of creature. Well, "let him who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall." We're to learn from, be sobered by, be educated by, and also receive hope from "these ten times," from the reactions of Israel to God, His reaction to their reactions, His leadership of them, and be set on the straight and narrow by that.
Well, what is number one of "these ten times? Let's go clear back to Exodus 12, a chapter dealing with the Exodus coming out of Egypt, Israel being delivered from bondage, as a slave people. Let's go back to Exodus, chapter 12 and pick it up in verse 41, talking about the exodus, it says:
Exodus:12:41 – "And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years," on that very same day, and I don't have to explain, I think, to this audience that the day, or the night, that is being described here is the one that we call the Night to be Observed, the Night to be Much Observed, the Night to be Remembered, the 15th of Nisan or Abib. It says 430 years to the day, prior to that something significant happened, because this was 430 years to the day later than some significant event. Well, that's clear back in Genesis, God's covenant with Abraham. It happened 430 years to the day before they came out of Egypt.
And as an aside, I am of the belief that the firstfruits have always known about and were expected by God to keep the holy days. You see God, through Melchisedek and through the One we know as Christ, having a meal with Abraham back in those early days and there was bread and wine. And you see in Genesis in the earliest chapters the heavenly bodies being put up there for molad, in the Hebrew, for seasons which is the same term used when we come to Leviticus dealing with the festival seasons. So, though I can't prove it, just as an aside I tell you, I am somewhat convinced that the firstfruits, beginning with Abel, all the way through Abraham and the few in the hall of faith there in Hebrews 11, were keeping the holy days. It's too coincidental, 430 years to the day. God does things on a time schedule.
Vs. 41 - Anyway, I know we've gone over that before but here we are back in verse 41 of Exodus 12, to the very day, "it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt."
Now this was the time when God was showing Himself as their miraculous Deliverer in ways that didn't require just faith, because they could walk not only by faith, but by sight. Because you had a pillar of cloud by day, you had a pillar of fire by night, and preceding this there had already been the ten plagues on Egypt at the hand of Moses, and Moses who working with God, could turn on and off miracles, bloody water, flies, lice, murrain, 100-pound hailstones, turn 'em on, turn 'em off. They had seen many miracles already. They'd seen the hand of God as He worked through Moses and Aaron already.
So there had been much that sight was able to help them with: faith and sight.
We are to live by faith and not by sight, but they had plenty of both and so, already preceding this great miracle, the waters of the Red Sea parting, etcetera, etcetera, there had been many examples that God had shown of His right hand of deliverance; intervening and overriding nature, the laws of nature, that is, the physical laws of nature were being overpowered by these miracles, and so there had been plenty of evidence already that He was there to lead them, that He was their God, that He was bringing them out by a mighty hand from slavery, and He was going to take care of them. Abundant evidence already existed.
And so, how did they come out? How did they come out 430 years to the day? Well, it says over in chapter 14 of Exodus and verse 8, describing how they came out, it says:
Exodus:14:8 – "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with boldness," that's the New King James, the Old King James says, "with an high hand." You know, maybe "high fives." We're number one! Maybe they just raised hands of exaltation. Boldness. Confidence. Nobody can touch our God. Our God's bigger than your god. You know, my Dad can whip your dad. Our God can whip ALL the gods of Egypt! Great boldness. Great confidence. They had spoiled the Egyptians. They were going out richer than they had ever imagined that they could ever be through all those generations of being slaves. This was a high point.
So, right after that, how long lived was that? How long lived was the faith, boldness, confidence, obedience of this people that we are to learn from? Oh, about a minute and thirty seconds, or whatever you could say, not very long, because look at verse 9. All that had to happen was this remnant of Pharaoh's army, this tiny remnant of which the majority is dead on the shores of the lake, see, but a little remnant of their former oppression had to start making a hostile, aggressive move toward them and all that boldness, "high-fives," our God is great, Moses, we're with you and we're with your God, show us the way, it just evaporated like, you know, fog in the morning when the sun burns it away. Here today, gone tomorrow. Here this minute, gone that minute. Look at what happens in verse 9.
Vs. 9 – "The Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal-zephon."
And verse 10. This is number one of "these ten times," when they provoked God, irritated God, did not heed the voice of God, did not believe God, and in verse 10 it says:
Vs. 10 – "And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes," expecting delivery from God, "God here we are, we know You'll see us through this," no, of course not, "and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid." Where's the boldness, where's the confidence, where's the faith? It says they became very afraid. "And the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord." Cried out, Oh God, please help us. We know You're going to help us. We know You've done these many things to bring us to this point. We believe You. It wasn't that kind of crying out to God. Verse 11.
Vs. 11 – "And they said unto Moses, it's crying out accusing God, accusing Moses, no gratitude, no confidence, moaning, whining, "'Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?'"
Vs. 12 – "'Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, Leave us alone?'" And I want those words to kind of just ring in our ears as we start this sermon. The reaction of Israel, in the beginning of these times, God, You and Your servant, leave us alone. It's no great shakes back in Egypt, but when we start hooking our wagon to Your Star, look at the jams we get in. It seems like You are always a day late and a dollar short. It seems like we're always getting in trouble. It seems like the problems we had are just a forerunner of the problems we now have because we're trying to follow You. Would You just leave us alone!
That is the theme behind the carnal reaction of the people that are being dealt with by God. God, leave us alone. Stay out of our lives. It's rough in the world, but we'll take the knocks of this world rather than the difficulties that we have needing to trust You, because we don't know where You're leading us. You're expecting us to just go where You lead and that requires us to trust You and we don't trust You. We think You have ulterior motives. You brought us out here to kill us. Now it's apparent to us what Your real motive was. Would You just leave us alone.
Well, the answer is when God begins to deal with people, the answer to that question, "Will You just leave me alone?" is No, I'm not going to leave you alone. I've set My mind, My hand, to work in Your life, and I'm pretty stubborn and I am not going to leave you alone. But that was the reaction of this carnal people whose confidence and faith in God was like the morning dew. It just burns off. And this was number one. "Would You just (please) leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?"
Now, in a modern-day context we read the whole story, we go to the Feast, we hear the plan laid out, and we understand that after the Seventh Trump and the binding of Satan, it's going to be so much easier for those alive then, and certainly for those who come up in the Second Resurrection, it's going to be so much easier, they're not going to have to deal with Satan. "God, would You just leave me alone?" Why did You have to call me now? Why did You have to bring me out of Egypt now?
The honest ones of us will admit that we've at least been tempted by that thought. The temptation is not the sin, it's the succumbing to the temptation that's the sin and, as I say, I think that the self-aware and the honest ones among us will admit we've at least been tempted, at some point in our following this Cloud, with that thought, "Would You just leave us alone?" It was so much easier. It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians, difficult as that was, it would still have been easier, "than that we should die in this wilderness."
Vs. 13 – "And Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid.'" Now that is another series of words that I want us to really be impressed by and have it, you know, in our hearts and in our minds. Don't be afraid. You look at the history of God dealing with people down through the ages and that is a constant theme. God says don't be afraid. I know it's hard. Don't be afraid. I'm going to be with you. Don't be afraid. Yes, but it's difficult. I know it's difficult, don't be afraid, I'm not going to leave you, over and over again.
We must conclude that God believes there is good, eternal good, to be achieved by leaving us in dangerous circumstances, so that we have to trust Him. To admit the danger is there, to admit the hardships are there, to admit the difficulty is there is not a problem. That's not whining or complaining in a way that would count up as one of "these ten times." It's, if the Spirit of God would just leave me alone, and yielding to the fear, instead of choosing faith, instead of choosing to trust God even when it requires us to go against what our eyes see. If His Word says, I am not going to leave you and I am going to see you through this in a good way; that should be good enough for a believing heart. But that, I would count as number one of "these ten times." How did they provoke God? By wanting Him to stop dealing with them and leave them alone and by accusing Him of not being good.
Really, this isn't that complicated. The themes of this sermon are not that complicated. Accusing God of something short of being good. Accusing God of having some plan or motive other than that which would be good for those He's dealing with. That's the thing we see.
Well, how far do we have to go before we get to number two? Well, I want to finish this, verse 14, before we go to number two.
Vs. 14 – The words of Moses, the words of faith: "The Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." Just calm your spirit. Suppress that fear. Suppress that self-pity. Suppress that accusing finger toward God. "Hold your peace." And verse 15.
Vs. 15 – "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Why do you cry to me?'" Now, it's okay to cry out to God, acknowledging Him as our Deliverer. It's not good to cry out to God accusing Him and saying, See, I told You so. I knew You couldn't pull this off. I knew it was better in Egypt than it was to follow You in the wilderness. That's the kind of crying out they were doing. "'Why do you cry to me?'"
Another thing we see about God in "these ten times" is that people have to participate in their own salvation. It's not: God pick me up and carry me the whole way. Now there is a sense in which God picks us up and carries us the whole way, but He expects us to get on our feet and walk and do what we can. He provides ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine, nine, nine, but there is that point zero, zero, zero one, that comes from our strength. Otherwise, it's Life of Riley salvation. We just lie in a hammock and we just don't do anything. God, You do it all. Paul said, "I beat my body." "I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ." It says, you know, that there's exertion to be made and it says, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." So, He says, you're just lying there in the hammock whining, crying about it. "Why do you cry to me?" "Tell the children of Israel to go forward." Get on your feet and go. Move!
Vs. 16 – "But lift up your rod," and it's going to take a miracle, I know, if you take too many steps, you know, if you take too many steps you're going to be waterlogged, I know that, I know the sea is right there, I know you're at the port of a sea, but start walking and let's see if a path isn't created. "Lift up your rod, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea."
Vs. 17 – "And I, indeed, will harden the hearts of the Egyptians," I'm not going to take away all the problems. They're always going to be there. "And they shall follow them: so I will gain honor over Pharaoh, and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen."
Pharaoh was a world-class loser. Satan is a universe-class loser, when all is said and done.
Vs. 18 – "Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Eternal," and there will be a time when Satan and the demons will know that God created a family right under Satan's nose, Satan's and the demons' noses. He pulled it off! "Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Eternal when I have gained honor for myself over Pharaoh's chariots and horsemen."
Vs. 19 – "And the angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them: and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them." And it was there, constantly, with them: a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God commanded them to "go forward" and He revealed to them that He was working out His pre-planned will. He had been working it out all along and would continue and they just needed to trust Him.
Well, then we come to chapter 15 and, again, if you have a Bible with chapter headings it says, "The Song of Moses." And then later you have "The Song of Miriam" and what are those? Well, those are high-fives again. God is great! God saw us through all this. I mean Moses and Miriam led the people in all this rejoicing. Our God is greater than your god. So they were temporarily back in a state of exulting in God's deliverance. It looked like trust. It looked like faith. It looked like they had learned a lesson.
But you don't have to go very far until you come to number two of "these ten times." It's the incident at Marah. Exodus:15:22.
Exodus:15:22 – "Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water."
Vs. 23 – "And when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter," poisonous waters, polluted waters, "therefore the name of it was called Marah."
Vs. 24 – "And the people murmured against Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?'" Right after the deliverance at the Red Sea and celebrating with the songs of Moses and Miriam, a genuine need was at hand, it was the need for water, and the people murmur and complain, rather than ask God to give them what they need and trust that He would. God was testing them with a need. Now they were following this cloud, right? So, God led them by this cloud to this oasis and all along the way there was the expectation that when they got to this oasis where there was water that it would be fresh water, that it would allow them to replenish their fresh water supply. So God was involved in this the whole way. He was engineering this test. He tested them with a need to see if they could learn to trust Him. Now God is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." Does God test us, as Christians, with needs to see if we will trust Him to supply those needs in His time and in His way?
Vs. 24 – "And the people murmured against Moses," this is number two of "these ten times." "'What shall we drink?'" So, "He cried out to the Eternal," verse 25, "and the Eternal showed him a tree, which when he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there he tested them." He tested them with a need and the test was: Will you trust me? Will you patiently trust Me to satisfy the need? God is not unaware of our needs. Jesus said, "Your Father knows what you have need of before you even ask Him." On day one, day two, and day three, God knew they needed water. He knew their supplies were running out and when they would get to Marah He knew the waters were bitter. He could have healed the waters before they got there, but He tested them with this need and they failed number two.
Well, it really doesn't take very long to get to number three: Exodus:16:1.
Exodus:16:1 – "And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin (aptly named I think), which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt." One month after they had come out.
Vs. 2 – "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel," trusted God and praised Him for His deliverance. Well, of course, that's not what it says. We know these people by now! They're our ancestors! We're just like them, aren't we? "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness." Why? Because they were faced with another need and, based on the same God, Who is "the same yesterday, today, and forever," He knew this need was there. He tested them with the need to see what their reaction would be. This need was the need for food. God knows we have a need for food. He made us to need food. Now notice what happens here.
Vs. 3 – "And the children of Israel said to them," that is to Moses and Aaron, after all the ten plagues on Egypt, after the miraculous deliverance from Egypt, after test one, failed the test, hopefully learned the lesson, test two, failed the test, hopefully learned the lesson, here's test three, had they learned the lesson? "Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, and when we ate bread to the full..."
In their minds, dealing with the vicissitudes and difficulties of being led by God, they were rewriting history in their own minds, and all they could think of, of Egypt, was how good it was! You know, they were forgetting the beatings, they were forgetting the long hours of endless work, they were forgetting the privations, but compared to serving God, it was a banquet back there! Their minds, their memory had become twisted. "We sat by the pots of meat, we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness." They accused Moses, Aaron, and really God. "You brought us out here to kill us with hunger." You brought us out here to starve us to death. Death is an utterly and incomprehensibly illogical accusation to make against God. "You have brought us out here to kill us." Well, if He had brought them out there to kill them He would already have had plenty of opportunities to have done that before now. He could have let them die of thirst at the waters of Marah, couldn't He? But He didn't. This is, as I said, an utterly and incomprehensibly illogical accusation. It is human nature is what it is.
A genuine need was at hand: food. Had they learned the lesson of Marah? Well, of course not. They murmur. They accuse Moses of bringing them out there, of bringing them to their unhappy state. Verse 6.
Vs. 6 – "And Moses and Aaron said to all the children Israel, 'At evening, you shall know that it is the Lord who has brought you out of the land of Egypt.'" First of all, you are wrong as to Who is bringing you out, Who is leading you. Ultimately, it is God. You're looking at Aaron and me, Moses said, you're seeing our humanity. Yeah, we make mistakes and you're not seeing the God Who is engineering the whole enterprise. Well, that is also human nature.
Vs. 7 – "And in the morning, you shall see the glory of the Eternal; for he hears your murmurings against the Eternal." "And all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come," so that we might learn. "What are we, that you murmur against us?"
Vs. 8 – "And Moses said, 'This shall be seen, when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full." Now in the midst of all "these ten times," we see how patient God is. He didn't wipe them after the first time. He didn't wipe them out after the second time. He had every right to. He didn't wipe them out after this third time. He's disappointed. He is provoked. He is, you might say, irritated, but there is something about God that He's, you know, ninety parts mercy and maybe ten parts judgment. There is judgment with God and, "It is a fearful thing to fall into His hands" when He has shoved aside that ninety percent component or whatever it is. I am just using that to illustrate the point. Ninety usually defeats ten, doesn't it? And we see the ninety, the mercy, the patience, over and over again, prevailing. In fact, in a minute here we're going to see that God almost has to consciously let the ten percent grow and grow and grow, so that it can overcome His natural inclination to forgive, to be merciful, to be patient and to bless. At times, though, the cup has been made full, the line has been crossed, and that's what happens.
Vs. 7 – But verse 7, "Your murmurings (are) against the Lord." That's Who you are really complaining about, you Israelites. Well, "what are we, that you murmur against us?
Vs. 8 – "And Moses said," in verse 8, "This shall be seen, when the Lord shall give you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the Lord hears your murmurings which you have made against him: and what are we? Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Eternal."
Vs. 9 – "Then Moses spoke to Aaron, 'Say to all the children of Israel (the congregational children of Israel), Come near before the Eternal: for he has heard your murmurings.'"
Vs. 10 – "And it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Eternal appeared in the cloud." What did God do after this third of the ten disappointments, provocations, and irritations? He gave them even more than they asked for. What did they really ask for? They'd asked for food. He gave them both manna and flesh. Later they complained about the manna. He gave them Quail in abundance, even at this early time.
Vs. 12 – "I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Eternal your God.'"
Vs. 13 – "So it was that quails came up at evening, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp." Two different kinds of food to satisfy their hunger. They needed to learn, they needed to understand that it was God leading them, God Whom they were murmuring at, and it was also God Who was quite patient with them, and quite merciful.
Now this chapter 16, of course, is a very important chapter in the overall sense that it reveals the importance of the Sabbath day. In fact, a number of miracles are given on a repetitive basis by God to show the sanctity of those hours between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday and in the process of showing how sacred the Sabbath is, we have number three, number four and number five of "these ten times." We have three provocations, three irritations, three exercises of carnality, instead of exercises of faith as it regards God. I think that should tell us something about how important, not only how important the Sabbath day is, but also how resistant to God's sovereignty over our time, which is our life, human nature is. In the process of showing, you can do what you want these six days, but I govern your life to the extent I govern your use of time. And human nature bridles at that to the extent that three of the ten provocations happen in this context.
So, you know, the instructions, the instructions were most evenings you are not to let this manna stay over until the morning because, if you do, I have engineered it such that it will become corrupted, it will breed worms and stink, but on one occasion exactly the opposite. God continues to show His sovereignty in how detailed is His involvement in the Sabbath day; these multiple layered miracles. Well, what happens?
Exodus:16:19 – "Moses said, 'Let no one leave it till the morning." So, number four is real, some of it, representative of a number of Israelites, nobody is going to tell me what to do with this manna, if I want to leave it over to the morning, I'm going to leave it over to the morning. How do I know God is going to give me anymore tomorrow? I mean, you see the various facets of their reaction. A lack of faith in God, just this innate rebellion against God's instruction, not withstanding, verse 20, and this is number four of "these ten times,"
Vs. 20 – "They did not heed Moses; but some of them left part of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and it stank: and Moses was angry with them." God regulated their handling and treatment of this miraculous gift. They carelessly and rebelliously ignored His regulation of this blessing and I would say, more generically, of their lives, because when God regulates your use of time, He is really telling you, your life is His. You can only use it in the way that He permits you to. What is our life other than our time?
Well, we come to verse 26.
Vs. 26 – "Six days you shall gather it," and the regimen was the same, six days you don't let it stay over, but there's something different about the seventh. "Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there will be none." There isn't going to be any fresh manna on the seventh day because on the night of the sixth day you are to leave it over. What is it with this God? Talks out of both sides of His mouth. Sometimes He says this, sometimes He says.... Well, it's two aspects of a command. There are multiple levels of understanding God's Sabbath day, you know, you can draw your own conclusions with your own way of expressing it, but here is number five. On the one time when they're supposed to leave it over and not to go out, verse 26 says don't do it, and verse 27:
Vs. 27 – "Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, and they found none."
Vs. 28 – "And the Lord said to Moses, 'How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?'"
Vs. 29 – "Look, see, the Lord has given you the Sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day bread for two days; let every man remain in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." Well, that's the fifth of "these ten times." Searching for manna on the Sabbath when they were specifically told not to. They didn't need more manna on the Sabbath because they already had a double portion on the sixth day. This was simply perverse rebellion against God's commands to rest and treat as holy the Sabbath day. There was never a better example of what it says in Romans:8:7: "The natural mind is not subject to the law of God: neither indeed can it be." And that was manifested in these Israelites.
Well, we go to chapter 17 to find number six.
Exodus:17:1 – "And all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Eternal, and they camped at Rephidim: but there was no water for the people to drink." DŽjˆ vu. There is a need. It is water. Had they learned the lesson of Marah, had they learned to trust God Who miraculously provided water, drinking water, clear, fresh water, when there was none? Well, of course, they had not learned that. This is only number six. We've got four more to go. These people were not learning the lessons. They failed the test, but they didn't learn from that failure. So they complained, they whined, they don't trust God. "They contend with Moses," it says in Verse 2.
Vs. 2 – "Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said to them, 'Why do you contend with me?'" Haven't you learned the lesson of the previous five provocations? Why do you tempt not only me, but the Lord?
Vs. 3 – "And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, 'Why is it," does this sound like a broken record, "that you have brought us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" So the answer to the question, had they learned the lesson of Marah is no, they had not. The same reaction, the same lack of faith, the same accusing of God, accusing Him of having something other than their best interest at heart. So, verse 4:
Vs. 4 – "Moses cries to the Eternal, saying, 'What am I going to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.'" Now if you, or I, were God, wouldn't we have wiped them out by now? Would we have gotten even to number six? He is so merciful. He is so patient. You know what He is going to do before I read it. He gives them water.
Vs. 5 – "Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your rod, with which you struck the river, and go."
Vs. 6 – "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel." Now what's the summary of this whole episode?
Vs. 7 – "He called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the contention (this is number six) of the children of Israel and because they tempted the Lord saying, 'Is the Lord among us, or not?'" Another one of these phrases that just jumps off the pages. This is how human nature responds to being dealt with by God. "Is God among us, or not?"
Had they not had a series of uncounted miracles that even their eyes could see, up until now? The daily provision of manna, the daily miraculous way that it didn't spoil, then it did, depending upon which day of the week, the daily double provision on the sixth day. The cloud by day, the fire by night, the ten miracles of the plagues back in Egypt, the coming through the Red Sea, and then for a group of people having lived through all of that to say, "Is God among us or not," is an expression of human nature in its distilled form, which is lacking a believing heart. So, that was number six.
Now we come to Mount Sinai. All of this happened before they ever got to Mount Sinai. We come to number seven and we go over to chapter 32. The golden calf. Number seven.
Exodus:32:1 – "When the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain," he's up there receiving instructions from God, he's up there a long time, he's fasting forty days, forty nights, receiving instructions to pass on to them of how God wants to regulate the kingdom, the nation, and they're left down there with Aaron, and even Aaron who I expect to see in the first resurrection, can't prove it, but I expect to see him there, whom I think it would be fair to say was a great servant of God, sometimes Aaron could follow a multitude to do evil. He could be influenced to do the wrong thing and we see that here in this tragic number seven of "these ten times."
Vs. 1 – "Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, and the people gathered to Aaron, and said to him, 'Come on, make us gods, that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt," had they learned the lessons of the first six provocations, that it was not Moses ultimately leading them, not Aaron, but it was God? Of course they hadn't. "This man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don't even know what's become of him." What an absurd thing to say. What an absurd thing, but you and I can sit here and cluck, cluck, what awful people these are, but again, if we think we stand we should "take heed lest we fall," because the same human nature that existed in these people has always existed in all people, and it must be actively fought against and overcome in our lives. That is why this lesson is here for us. That's why this history has been written.
Vs. 2 – "And Aaron (of all things) said to them," okay, you're right, let's make a golden god to lead us. "Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters, and bring them to me."
Vs. 3 – "So the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron."
Vs. 4 – "And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned," contrary to what he said, this thing just came out, just came out of the fire, the accurate history says he fashioned it, he was very involved in the making of this golden calf, "he fashioned it with a graving tool," he didn't even assign it to somebody else, it says, "he fashioned it with a graving tool." It just came out. It just came out of the fire. What a pathetic excuse, sometimes, we give an excuse, just like Aaron did, of our failings. It's best to say I did it. But, we have the same nature he did and we have to fight it.
The important point to get through all of this is the ninety/ten factor: ninety percent patience, ninety percent mercy, only ten percent justice. Again, just an expression to make the point. Probably ninety-nine to one, but even here we're going to see God didn't wipe them all out. He came close, but we're going to see how close He did come. He didn't just destroy Aaron on the spot. He would have had every right to, but He didn't. How merciful God is!
But Aaron, of all people, by whose hands some of these miracles had taken place, who had held the rod striking the water and it turns into blood. This isn't some nobody in the 15th rank of Israel. This is Aaron.
Vs. 4 – "He fashioned with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf: and they said, 'This is your god, Oh Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.'"
Vs. 5 – "And when Aaron saw it, he built," he goes one step further and makes an altar to this god, this false god, this gold, "this is your god, Oh Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt." "And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation, saying, 'Tomorrow is a feast to the Eternal.'" God is not unaware of any of this.
Vs. 7 – "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Get down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.'" A sense of humor with God? He was testing Moses, I guess. I'm pretty sure He was. He uses the same language to Moses that they had been using. You're the one, Moses, who brought us out. God says, "Get down, your people, whom you brought out, have corrupted themselves." What are you going to do about it? But He was testing Moses and aren't we all glad Moses passed the test?
Vs. 8 – "They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I have commanded them: they have made a molded calf, and worshipped it, and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.'"
Vs. 9 – "And the Lord said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and, indeed, it is a stiffnecked people:"
Vs. 10 – "Now therefore let me alone," the people had said, God would you leave us alone, now God says to Moses, "you leave me alone," because I am going to put suppression on this ninety percent, and I'm going to stoke the fires under this ten percent. I can't just do it normally. I'm too merciful. I'm going to have to focus. I'm going to have to focus on the ten percent and judgment is going to have to prevail over mercy. Usually mercy triumphs over justice with God and aren't we all glad? "Leave me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and I may consume them: and I will make of you a great nation."
We learn so much about God in this event number seven. First of all, that there's flexibility in His plan. Would this have messed up the whole plan, would this have made a lie out of God's plan to make a great nation, and a company of nations out of those who came from Abraham? Well, no, because Moses was from Abraham. It would have caused a mid-course correction, but there was that reality right here that God says, "Leave me alone, and I am going to start over with you." He actually did this twice. This is not the only time that God had done this and both times Moses passed the test and said, "Oh God, please don't do that." He said let's look at the ninety percent factor.
Vs. 11 – "Moses pleaded with the Lord his God and said, 'Eternal, why does your wrath burn hot against your people,'" this isn't like You, this isn't like You, "'why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with a great power, and with a mighty hand.'"
Vs. 12 – "Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains?'" They're going to say You couldn't pull this off, You couldn't bring a nation out of slavery, through this wilderness and into the Promised Land. Why will You let them say that about You, God? An incredible intercessory prayer and God listened.
Vs. 13 – "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants.'" He reminded God of His promises. And in verse 14:
Vs. 14 – "And the Lord relented." In the Old King James it says, "The Lord repented." He changed His mind. "He relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people." And, of course, then Moses goes down and deals with them. That was number seven.
Now let's go to number eight. Now we go over to the book of Numbers, pick it up in chapter 10. In between there and where we come to now, we have a lot of instructions, a lot of history, but this picks up the story chronologically. We come to Numbers, chapter 10 and verse 11. Where did we leave them back at Exodus 32? At Sinai, at number seven, and now we pick it up in verse 11 and they're about ready to leave Mount Sinai, the departure from Sinai, verse 11 of Numbers 10.
Numbers:10:11 – "And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the testimony." Now, in passing, is "God among us or not?" Yeah, there's this miraculous cloud. What other nation has a cloud leading them? "Is God among us or not?" Well, God was right there in the cloud. God, would you please just "leave us alone." Obviously the answer is no, He's not going to leave them alone. The cloud is there every day; it's there every night. "Is God among us or not?" Well, how do you account for these miraculous provisions of manna, some of which spoils, some of which doesn't spoil, one day there is a double portion? "Why have you brought us out here to kill us?" He hasn't. He had plenty of chances to kill us. The Egyptians could have killed us. He hasn't let us die yet. He didn't bring us out here to kill us. "And it came to pass, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle,"
Vs. 12 – "And the children of Israel set out for the wilderness of Sinai on their journeys; and the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran."
Vs. 13 – "So they started out for the first time according to the command of the Lord by the hand of Moses." I wanted to read those verses just to show that God was among them because of this cloud's presence. Now we go to verse 33.
Vs. 33 – "And they departed from the mountain of the Lord on a journey of three days," that sounds familiar, three days to get to Marah with the bitter waters, well, "they departed from the mountain of the Lord on a journey of three days: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them for the three days' journey, to search out a resting place for them." Did God have the best interest of His people in mind? Did He, was He searching out a torture chamber for them? Was He searching out a place of unlimited labor and hardship? No. He was searching out a place of rest for them, out of the wilderness, "to search out a resting place for them."
Vs. 34 – "And the cloud of the Lord was above them by day, when they went out from the camp."
Vs. 35 – "So it was, whenever the ark was set out, that Moses said, 'Rise up, Oh Lord, let your enemies be scattered.'"
And now, we come to chapter 11 and this is number eight of "these ten times." Now this one kind of comes upon us unexpectedly, although you know, not unexpectedly. We know these people now, don't we? They are our ancestors. We're just like them in some regards because we have the same nature, but this one, with no warning you know, He brings them to a resting place, no warning, just boom! There it is. "The people complained." No reason for that, they're just complaining. You might get the point and I might, that that's their natural way of living: to complain, to be dissatisfied. No particular reason, that's just what they did. This is number eight.
Numbers:11:1 – "...it displeased the Lord: for the Lord heard it; and his anger was aroused; so the fire of the Lord burned among them." Did it kill all of them? Did He wipe out the whole group? Well no, but He did some of them. Some died.
Vs. 1 – "And it consumed some in the outskirts of the camp." But how far away is God's mercy? It's usually never far away.
Vs. 2 – "And the people cried out to Moses; and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched."
Vs. 3 – "And he called the name of the Taberah: because the fire of the Lord had burned among them." Of course, He was still with them and yet they complained.
And now, we come to number nine, which is verse 4.
Vs. 4 – "And the mixed multitude," now not much has been said about them in these first eight times, but there was this mixed multitude that was with Israel. Were the Israelites one kind of people and then everybody else in the world is a different kind of people? Did the Israelites have a certain nature and then everybody else has a different nature? Well no, not at all. All who have ever drawn human breath have human nature and it's the same. Now we focus on the mixed multitude. "The mixed multitude who were among them, yielded to intense craving." Here, again, was a need. Again, it was food, it had something to do with a physical need and it starts with the mixed multitude.
Hold your place right there. I want to quickly go back to Exodus 23 and see that an instruction that was given at Sinai, back there in tests three, and four, and five, and six, and seven, in that general time period, an instruction was given to them which was not at the forefront of their minds at this time. If it had been, they might have passed this test.
When you come to Exodus 23, there's a simple little statement in here, Exodus 23, verse 2: "You shall not follow a crowd to do evil." I think in the Old King James it says: "You shall not follow a multitude to do evil." Don't be influenced by the wrong behavior and the wrong example being set by others. You know, a very basic concept. Well, that's being violated here because when you go back to Numbers 11, the mixed multitude yields to an intense craving, they start complaining, they start displeasing God, and then right on the heels of that it says, "the children of Israel also," they joined in, they "also wept again." Not tears of repentance or anything else but of dissatisfaction with what God was providing for them. "Who will give us meat to eat?" Well, had they learned the lesson of number, what number was that, where they had craved food earlier, and God had provided it for them? Had they learned the lesson of number three there in the Wilderness of Sin where God had provided both manna and Quail, that if they will cry out to God in a right way, He's already shown He will provide all the food they could ever want? No, they had not learned that. "Who will give us meat to eat?" They followed a multitude to do evil. They ignored or forgot the lesson of number three. They doubted. They questioned. They complained regarding their desire for flesh.
Vs. 6 – "Now our whole being is dried up: there is nothing at all, except this manna, before our eyes." What is the spirit behind, "nothing but this manna?" What is the underlying notion there that would cause the people to say, there's nothing but this manna? Well, you could probably come up with a lot of good ways to express it. One would be, just being ungrateful for what God provides miraculously for our needs. This was a thing that had been keeping them alive in an otherwise hostile environment. No food for quite a number of weeks by now, months, but they had been brought to the point where they took it for granted, didn't appreciate it, in fact, detested it. "There's nothing but this manna," oh yeah, this miracle that's keeping you alive. "There's nothing at all, except this manna."
Then it goes on to describe manna, actually it sounds like it was sweet as honey, and it gives the taste of it and the composition of it. In verse 9, it talks about the way that God provided it. It fell on the camp in the night. Manna fell on it, on the dew.
Vs. 10 – Anyway, "Moses heard the people weeping," complaining, feeling sorry for themselves, you know, the same old story.
Vs. 18 – What is God's response? By now, surely, He's going to wipe them out. No, this is only number nine. The cup isn't quite full yet. "Then you shall say to the people, 'Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat: you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, "Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt": therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat.'" We're going to see. You're going to eat and eat and eat. Verse 19.
Vs. 19 – "You shall eat not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days;"
Vs. 20 – "But for a whole month, until the stuff comes out of your nostrils," so graphic, "and becomes loathsome to you: because you have despised the Eternal who is among you, and have wept before him, saying, 'Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?'" Such a sad commentary on human nature, the cup is almost full by this point.
Verse 21 – We see an interesting thing here. "Moses said," Moses said, Moses is the last hold out of somebody who trusts God and doesn't wonder, "Is God among us or not?" But even Moses, there were chinks in his armor. He even, at times, was weak in faith. He even, at times, questioned God at least a little bit. Moses said, "God, do you realize there are 600,000 men on foot? Are you telling me that You are going to provide enough meat out here in this desert, so that for a solid month they'll be able to eat Quail all day long? Does that sound like a small smattering of, "Is God among us or not?" You said, "I'll give them meat that they may eat a whole month."
Vs. 22 – "Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them," you see Moses even questioning a little bit, "to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them?" God, this is tough! You made a promise I don't even see how You're going to fulfill it. Can you imagine even Moses being brought to that point? And God's answer in verse 23 is one for the ages.
Vs. 23 – "The Lord said to Moses, 'Has my arm been shortened, Moses,' think I've lost my stuff, you think I'm over the hill, you think that's too hard for Me, 'has the Lord's arm been shortened, Moses? Now you shall see whether my word will befall you or not.'" And of course, what follows is tribute to the fact that Moses probably was just about at the end of his rope. God gives him some helpers. God could see that Moses needed help, even great servants of God reach their limits. Remember when Paul was in prison and he was down? At that time, God knew that something special was called for and so an angel appeared to Paul, or, I guess Christ in that case, materialized Himself to Paul in prison and said, I am here with you. Don't forget. Don't be afraid. Well, I see that same dynamic working here. Moses, who is even beginning himself to say, well God, have You bitten off more than You can chew? God could see in His mercy that Moses was at the end of his human strength and so He said, okay Moses, I'm going to give you some helpers and then follows the example of that, verse 25, "The Lord came in the cloud."
Vs. 25 – So in the midst of all of these provocations, we still see God's patience, we still see God's understanding, we still see God's care for Moses and, really, for Israel, "and spoke to him, and took of the spirit that was upon him," the special spiritual gifts that God had given Moses, "and he placed some of that upon the seventy elders: and it happened when the spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again." This was a one-time help that Moses really needed and God could see it and He provided it.
"Has the Lord's hand been shortened?" That is the rhetorical question God Himself posed.
Vs. 31 – The answer? No. "A wind went out from the Lord and it brought quail from the sea, and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day's journey on this side, and about a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp, about two cubits above the surface of the ground." Well, a cubit's what? Eighteen inches. Two of those is, that's three feet above the ground, they're hovering, I mean how hard is it to go get food if it's just right there? You just reach out and there's a Quail. How far did this go? How far could an average person with good health walk in a day? I don't know. A few miles? So, the radius out from the center of the camp was a day's walk. Five miles, ten miles, I don't know. But, a ten-mile radius hovering right at arm's...very convenient. "Has the hand of the Lord been shortened?" No. And of course, we won't focus on what they did, but they didn't even cook the stuff and that was also a problem. But, no, the Lord's hand had not been shortened.
Well, now we come to chapter 14. Now in chapter 12, as I said earlier, you might want to say that chapter 12 was one of the ten because here we see the problem that even Aaron and Miriam had with Moses, and they accused Moses, but I would view that, in the counting of ten, as not a problem with Israel in general, but of those two individuals. So I think we've come to number ten when we come to chapter 14.
Numbers:14:1 – "And all the congregation lifted up their voice and cried," same old story, "and the people wept that night."
Vs. 2 – "And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said to them," and this is so familiar by now, 'If only we had died in the land of Egypt! If only we had died in the wilderness.'" "God, why don't You just leave us alone?"
Vs. 3 – "'Why has the Lord brought us to this land,' God isn't bringing us out here to give us something good, He's bringing us out here to kill us, 'to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?'" Moses tried to intercede.
Vs. 11 – "The Lord said to Moses, 'How long will this people reject me? And how long will they not believe me? With all the signs which I have performed among them?'"
Vs. 12 – "I will strike them with the pestilence, and disinherit them," remember this is the second time now that God has proposed doing this, "and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they."
Vs. 13 – "And Moses said to the Lord, 'Then the Egyptians will hear it God,'" and he again...God, that's not like You, don't let this be said about You, that You couldn't fulfill Your plan.
Vs. 14 – "And they will tell it to the inhabitants of the land: for they have heard it that you are Lord among this people, that you are seen face to face, so that your cloud stands before them," all that will be washed away and they'll just laugh at the God of Israel, Who couldn't bring them into the Promised Land.
Vs. 15 – "Now if you kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of your fame will speak, saying,"
Vs. 16 – "'Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which he swore to give them, therefore he killed them in the wilderness.'"
Vs. 17 – "And now, I pray you, let the power of my Lord be great, just as you have spoken." I mean, what a prayer! What a way for a man to talk to God. He quotes God's own words. When God had revealed His back parts to Moses, back at Sinai, He said, you can't look on my face and live, but I'll let you see the back side of Me, I'll put you in the cleft of the rock and I'll pass by, and God had described Himself with these words, God's Self-description, God's autobiography.
Vs. 18 – "The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy," and Moses is reminding God that God had described Himself this way. "Forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he by no means clears the guilty." This was God's Self-description uttered in incident number seven. He is merciful, but by no means clearing the guilty. Interesting. Did God forgive David after he sinned with Bathsheba? But guess what? The baby died. There still are consequences. There still are consequences. In the midst of mercy, there is still a mixture of mercy and judgment. He forgave David. The baby died. "He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation." Don't ask me all the ramifications of that because I don't understand all of it, but maybe someday we'll fully understand those things, and in the Kingdom of God, I'm sure we will. But that's what it says.
Vs. 19 – "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray you, according to the greatness of your mercy." He goes on and on interceding for them. "Just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now." God, You didn't wipe them out after number one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight or nine, don't wipe them out now. And then verse 20.
Vs. 20 – "The Lord said, 'I have pardoned." Wait a minute. I thought He said they were all going to have to die. Yeah. In the midst of the pardon, that they didn't all have to die then, there was still a slight adjustment in the plan, that that generation would not see the Promised Land. But He didn't wipe them all out then, so there's a mixture of pardoning and not clearing the guilty that we see in this example.
Vs. 21 – "But truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord."
And so verse 22 is where we began.
Vs. 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;"
Vs. 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:"
Vs. 24 – "Except Caleb, because in Caleb there was a different spirit," also Joshua, as He goes on to explain.
Refusing to go into the land, listening to the evil report of the two spies who influenced the people, or the ten spies who influenced the people, saying it's too hard, I guess I didn't read that part, but the rest of chapter 14, they refused to go into the land, that was really the provocation of number ten, they refused to go into the land after they heard the ten spies say, no, it's too hard, there's giants in there, we can't overcome those great walled cities, and the giants are there. They'll squash us like bugs and they didn't listen to Joshua and Caleb who said come on, "Is God among us or not? "Has the arm of the Lord been shortened?" We can do it. Let's go in. God's been with us until now. That's when they wept and cried and said it's too hard, and that was the tenth time, when they refused to go in.
God registered His disgust, we might say, there in verse 12 and then verses 22 to 23. We saw that God adjusted the plan because the people disqualified themselves from receiving the great blessing of going into the Promised Land, it would be received by only their children, the very ones that they thought God couldn't save and bring into the land. So verse 20 when we see, "I have pardoned," we see God's judgment, "this generation shall not see the promised land," in the midst of a pardon. There's a mixture even now.
To begin to wrap this up, Psalm 34, what lessons do we take from "these ten times?"
Psalm 34 – Here is an exhortation to God's people, at all times, which Israel at large did not get, did not follow, did not yield to.
Psalm:34:1 – "I will bless the Lord at all times." Well, that would mean even in days one, two, and three on the way to Marah. When I can see a problem coming out here, and wondering if God's aware of what's coming in my life, was God aware that three days out there, there was water but it was undrinkable? Well, of course He was. He was the One Who led them to that.
So we learn to know that God knows our needs before we ask Him. Even before we know the trouble that lies ahead, to trust that God knows, that God is there, Who knows how to deliver His people and He knows what He is doing, and therefore, "I will bless the Lord at all times." Including the third day when I get there and I find out the water I've been looking forward to is undrinkable. Is God aware of that? Of course He is. But "is the arm of the Lord shortened?" No, it's not. Twice He provided miraculous water. Twice He provided miraculous food. Many times He provided deliverance. Daily He provided His presence, which was miraculous.
Every Sabbath there was a reminder of the multiple-layered miracle of manna that had been going on unceasingly through the previous six days. So, we come down here to the exhortation to bless the Lord at all times and there's this verse 8, that kind of encapsulates what Israel didn't do.
Vs. 8 – "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good." The Lord is good. It's really no more complicated than that. Will the people come to believe that God is good, that He hasn't brought them out into the wilderness to kill them, that He hasn't brought them out to the wilderness to let them die of thirst or hunger or serpents or anything else? Now the Accuser says God is not good. "You will not surely die, (but God is withholding something good from you because) He knows that in the day you take that fruit your eyes will be opened and you will be as gods, knowing the difference between good and evil." God is not good, says the Accuser, He's bad. He's withholding good things from you. So from the Garden of Eden until now, it's been the same dynamic at work, but the people of God are to "taste and see that the Lord is good" on day one, two, and three, and day three, until the waters are made sweet God is good. The presence of a need that has not yet been fulfilled is not evidence that God is bad. That is the way, I think, that we should understand that.
Hebrews, chapter 3, verse 16, talks about these people and "these ten times."
Hebrews:3:16 – "Failure of the Wilderness Wanderers," it says in my Bible, the "Failure of the Wilderness Wanderers." Well, that's the people in "these ten times" of provocation. "For who, having heard, rebelled." Was it just one or two of them? Was it just the mixed multitude? "Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt led by Moses?" There was a general failure of "these ten times" to trust God and to believe and taste, "that He is good."
Vs. 17 – "With whom was he angry forty years?" Now think about that. He's angry for forty years. He's provoked for a long period of time, but He continued to bless them with their needs. So even in a time of judgment, there is mercy. There's always a mixture. It's very rare that you will ever see undiluted judgment from God. The ten last plagues might be an example of that at the very end where it's undiluted fury that's poured out, but even that is for a brief period of time and it's for a good purpose. "Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?"
Vs. 18 – "And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to them that did not obey?" So they did not believe and they did not obey. Those are two sides of the same coin.
All through Hebrews 3 and 4, sometimes it's translated they didn't believe, and other times it's translated they didn't obey, two sides of the same coin. If you believe God, you will obey Him, because you'll know He is still among us and His hand is not shortened and He does have a right to regulate us, from the examples of number three, four, and five, all in Exodus 16. He not only gives blessings but He retains the right to regulate our enjoyment of those blessings. He's not just a Giver but He's a Giver with expectations of how His people will respond to Him.
Hebrews:4:1 – "Therefore since a promise remains of entering his rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it." So, "there is nothing new under the sun." The basic pretext of this sermon was not original at all on my part. I'm only doing what Paul did, exactly. He points the people in the New Testament Church of God to the wilderness wanderers in "these ten times" and says there are spiritual applications that we should, individually, internalize for ourselves.
Vs. 11 – "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest." And along the way, let us not be guilty of saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?" "Is the hand of the Lord shortened?" "God will you just leave me alone?" "Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience." We should learn to trust in God's goodness. We should be satisfied with God's plan. We should understand that a "live and let live" approach is, "God will you just leave us alone?" No. A "live and let live" approach on the part of those God is working with is simply not acceptable to God. So the answer to, "God will you just leave us alone," is no, I won't. He won't just leave us alone.
Let's conclude in Ephesians, chapter 3. I think we should be convicted and sobered but also encouraged by this, because throughout "these ten times" we've seen the mind of God, the approach of God, the judgment of God, that it is always tempered with mercy, and that mercy usually triumphs over justice, and that God is good and that His hand is not shortened and that He won't leave us alone.
Ephesians:3:14 – "For this reason," Paul says, "I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Vs. 15 – "From whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named."
Vs. 16 – "That he would grant to you." So he is praying that God would give a certain spiritual awareness to the people, that He would give them something, an ability to see and focus and believe something. And what is that? "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man;"
Vs. 17 – "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,"
Vs. 18 – "May be able to comprehend." Comprehend things that the Israelites of old did not, could not. "May be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the width, length, depth, and height," you know I don't understand four dimensions, I can barely, you know, understand three, but there's just this full comprehension, he even mentions four dimensions.
Vs. 19 – "To know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge," to know something that you can't know because with a miracle you can, but without, you can't. "To know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge," passes human knowledge, "that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
Vs. 20 – "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think," well, God, if You could just give me one day of flesh, He gave it to them for thirty days at arm's reach, now they blew the blessing but what can God do? He can give us more than we even know to ask, spiritually as well, of course, more importantly. "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,"
Vs. 21 – "To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end."