In Numbers the people rebel against God’s plan to lead them into the promised land because of the report brought back to them by the twelve spies. On the one hand it is a land said to be flowing with milk and honey, but it is also a land whose occupants make the Israelites fearful. They say that they were like grasshoppers compared to the inhabitants.
What follows is not unusual for God’s people when facing adversity: grumbling and rosy descriptions of slavery in Egypt. They are angered that their God–who has done great and marvelous things for them–has led them to such a great and marvelous land. Well, that’s not how they said it. They’re upset that God’s plan doesn’t appear easy. The people are afraid of the inhabitants and do not trust that God will continue to lead them, be with them, and deliver them.
They have a new plan, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” After all, they had fish in Egypt. (Num 11:5).
When Caleb and Joshua, two of the twelve spies, try to dissuade them the people are so angered that they intend to stone them. They won’t hear any challenge to their cowardice. Not until God comes to speak to them. Because of their disobedience God pronounces judgment. The promised land is still promised for the people of God, but it is not to be seen by the current generation. None of the men but Caleb and Joshua may enter. Instead of God delivering this land to his people, the people will die wandering in the wilderness, spending one year for each day the spies were in the land, until the next generation is ready to enter.
I wonder what blessings of God we miss out on because of our disobedience. I wonder what God wants to give to his people that he might reserve for another generation. This is not just a selfish consideration, but look at how Caleb and Joshua, who acted righteously, still felt some of the consequences. How might our sins bring collateral damage on those around us or how might our sins limit other’s reception of God’s blessing?
God is never through with his people, not here in Numbers and not ever. But there still is discipline for his children. I hope our trust can overcome our fear when God calls us to follow him.