Forty Years in the Wilderness

Scripture Passage: 
Numbers 14:1-45

INTRODUCTION: This lesson teaches that sin exacts a heavy toll. It also teaches that one of the worst sins we can commit is to rebel against the known will of God in our lives. The sin of rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and idolatry (1 Samuel 15:23). Examine your own heart and make certain that you are not rebelling against God’s will for you.

  1. THE WHOLE CONGREGATION REBELS (Numbers 14:1-5)
    1. They Weep concerning Their Condition (Numbers 14:1).
    2. They Murmur against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14:2).
    3. They Wish They Had Already Died (Numbers 14:2).
      1. In the land of Egypt
      2. In the wilderness
    4. The Plan of God’s People (Numbers 14:3-4)
      1. Make us a captain.
        1. The whole idea here is that we don’t have a captain and we must make us one. This is idolatry.
        2. They would have certainly had a captain to lead them into the land as we find out later in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 5:14-15).
      2. Return to Egypt
        1. The people of God had a marred memory concerning Egypt. Somehow they saw it as a place of plenty and desired to return.
        2. How many today experience a hard truth or trial in their Christian journey and turn their back to return to Egypt?
      3. Note: The following is a quote from Notes on Numbers by C.H. Mackintosh. “There are two melancholy phases of unbelief exhibited in Israel’s history in the wilderness: the one at Horeb, the other at Kadesh. At Horeb, they made a calf, and said, “These be thy gods, O Israel. that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” At Kadesh, they proposed to make a captain to lead them back into Egypt…we need not marvel if those who thought that a calf had brought them out of Egypt should seek a captain to lead them back.” (pages 247-248)
    5. Moses and Aaron Fall on Their Faces (Numbers 14:5).
  2. JOSHUA AND CALEB SPEAK UP (Numbers 14:6-10)
    1. They Rend Their Clothes (Numbers 14:6).
      1. The rending of the clothes was an outward demonstration of the inward turmoil of a man or woman.
      2. By rending their clothes they were showing that this was rending their heart and emotions to pieces.
    2. They Speak of the Land (Numbers 14:7-8).
      1. It is a good land (Numbers 14:7).
      2. The Lord will give the land (Numbers 14:8).
    3. They Speak against Rebellion (Numbers 14:9).
      1. Rebel not against the Lord.
      2. Fear not the people of the land.
        1. They are bread for us.
          1. A phrase sometimes used in a competitive sense is “we are going to eat them for lunch.”
          2. That is the idea of this phrase.
        2. Their defense is departed from them.
      3. The Lord is with us.
    4. The Congregation Rejects Their Advice (Numbers 14:10).
      1. They are ready to stone them.
      2. The glory of the Lord appears.
  3. MOSES INTERCEDES FOR THE PEOPLE (Numbers 14:11-20)
    1. God Prepares To Destroy Them (Numbers 14:11-12).
      1. He has lost His patience with them (Numbers 14:11).
      2. He is ready to destroy them (Numbers 14:12).
      3. He will make a nation of Moses (Numbers 14:12).
    2. Moses Gives God His Arguments (Numbers 14:13-19).
      1. He pleads concerning God’s reputation (Numbers 14:13-16).
        1. The nations will hear (Numbers 14:13-14).
          1. The Egyptians (Numbers 14:13)
          2. The inhabitants of the land (Numbers 14:14)
        2. They will question God’s power (Numbers 14:15-16).
      2. He reminds God of His own name (Numbers 14:17-18).
        1. As God Himself declared it (Numbers 14:17; Exodus 33:17-19; Exodus 34:5-8)
        2. As a God of mercy and forgiveness (Numbers 14:18)
      3. He pleads according to God’s mercy (Numbers 14:19).
        1. According to the greatness of His mercy
        2. As He has done so many times before
    3. God Pardons According to the Word of Moses (Numbers 14:20).
  4. GOD JUDGES THE CONGREGATION (Numbers 14:21-39)
    1. God Declares His Glory (Numbers 14:21-25).
      1. All the earth to be filled with His glory (Numbers 14:21)
      2. His judgment on those who saw His glory (Numbers 14:22-23)
        1. They saw His miracles (Numbers 14:22).
        2. They tempted Him ten times (Numbers 14:22)(Note: List taken from Dake’s Reference Bible).
          1. By murmuring at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:11-12)
          2. By murmuring at Marah for water (Exodus 15:23-26)
          3. By murmuring for flesh and bread (Exodus 16:1-18)
          4. By leaving the manna until morning (Exodus 16:19-22)
          5. By murmuring for water at Rephidim (Exodus 17:1-7)
          6. By making the golden calf and returning to idolatry (Exodus 32)
          7. By murmuring at Taberah (Numbers 11:1-3)
          8. By murmuring for flesh (Numbers 11:4-34)
          9. By asking that spies be sent into the land (Deuteronomy 1:20-25)
          10. By rebellion at the evil report of the spies (Numbers 13:26-Numbers 14:10)
        3. They shall not see the promised land (Numbers 14:23).
      3. Blessing on him who declared God’s glory (Numbers 14:24, 6-9)
        1. He had another spirit in him.
        2. He followed the Lord wholly (Numbers 32:11-12; Joshua 14:8-9).
        3. He shall enter the promised land.
      4. Instructions to return to the wilderness (Numbers 14:25)
    2. God Declares His Judgment (Numbers 14:26-35).
      1. They shall receive what they suggested (Numbers 14:26-30).
        1. They murmured against the Lord (Numbers 14:26-27).
        2. They wished to die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:28-29).
        3. They shall indeed die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:29-30).
      2. They shall wander and die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:31-35).
        1. Their children (Numbers 14:31-33)
          1. Shall enter the land (Numbers 14:31-32)
          2. Shall bear their sins (Numbers 14:33)
        2. Their wanderings (Numbers 14:33-34)
          1. Forty years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:33)
          2. A year for each day the spies were in the land (Numbers 14:34; Numbers 13:25)
      3. So shall this evil congregation be consumed (Numbers 14:35)
    3. God Judges the Spies (Numbers 14:36-39).
      1. The unfaithful spies die (Numbers 14:36-37).
        1. They made the congregation to murmur (Numbers 14:36).
        2. They brought a slander on the promised land (Numbers 14:36).
        3. They are killed by the plague (Numbers 14:37).
      2. Joshua and Caleb are spared (Numbers 14:38).
      3. Moses tells the people God’s message (Numbers 14:39).
  5. THE CONGREGATION NOW TRIES TO OBEY (Numbers 14:40-45)
    1. They Prepare To Go to Battle (Numbers 14:40).
      1. They rise early in the morning.
      2. They go up into the mountain.
      3. They confess their sin.
      4. They prepare to take the land.
    2. They Are Warned Not To Go (Numbers 14:41-43).
      1. Obedience out of season (Numbers 14:41)
        1. Is transgression against the Lord
        2. Will not prosper
      2. They are commanded to stay (Numbers 14:42-43)
    3. They Presumed To Go Up (Numbers 14:44-45; Psalm 19:13).
      1. They went despite the warnings (Numbers 14:44).
      2. The ark of God stayed in the camp (Numbers 14:44).
      3. The Amalekites and Canaanites smote them (Numbers 14:45).

CONCLUSION: The presumption of God’s people illustrates the nature of sin. Just a short time earlier, they thought they could not win even though God had promised to go with them. Now they have decided that they can win the battle, even though God will not go with them. In both cases, they presumed to know what was best and rebelled against the revealed will of God. We sin when we presume upon God. We presume on God when we assume He will support us in any endeavor we undertake—as long as it is a good cause. However, God only sees as a good cause those things toward which He has directed us. Are you submitted to the known will of God in your life?

David Reagan and Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 30:9

Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.