1That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
The bad, unbelieving report given by 10 of the 12 spies has disheartened everyone. Again, they start wishing for Egypt! How could they forget their cruel treatment as slaves? How could they forget the great miracles that God had done to set them free, … to show them just how powerful He was … and to reassure them that He could take care of them?
17 [Moses prays,]“Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”
The Lord is ready to wipe out the whole Israelite nation and start over with Moses, but Moses stands firm on what God has said before. He knows God is Faithful to Who He Is… always!
20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”
God hears Moses prayer, and answers with forgiveness – but there will still be consequences.
26 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’
35 I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.”
The consequences are in proportion to the unbelieving, grumbling, rebellion of the people. The spies scouted the land for 40 days … the people said the Canaanites would kill their wives and children. Now the Israelites would wander in the desert 40 YEARS and the children they said would die, will now be the ones to actually take possession of the Promised Land. Everyone else… except Caleb and Joshua … would die in the desert.
This reminds me of several things:
- God definitely does not like us grumbling and complaining to Him in unbelief. That doesn’t mean we can’t be honest about how we feel, but we can do that without complaining against Him.
- Our words do not just go out into thin air. They have power and consequences. God hears every one!
- God is always Faithful to His promises… whether we believe them or not. But unbelief will keep us from reaping the benefits.