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041 The Israelites’ Unbelief

‘But Caleb … said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we’

Numbers 13:30,31

Key Verse:

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God”

(Hebrews 3:12)

(Numbers 13, 14)

We continue to explore the Pentateuch. As we have learned, the Pentateuch is the first part of the Writings of the Prophets and contains five sections or books. In the first book, called Genesis, we learned how sin entered the world, bringing with it suffering, death and condemnation. However, we also saw how God designed a plan to save Adam and his descendants from the penalty of sin, the eternal fire of hell. We learned how

God promised to send a Redeemer to die for sinners

so that God could forgive them of their sins and still remain righteous. The book of Genesis also taught us how God chose Abraham and promised to make of him a great nation, the nation from which the prophets would come and, at last, the Redeemer of the world.

In the second book of the Pentateuch, that is, Exodus, we saw how God delivered Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, from their chains of slavery in the land of Egypt, through the hands of Moses, His prophet.

God led the tribes of Israel out of Egypt

and into the wilderness, bringing them to Mount Sinai where He gave them His commandments and taught them about the way of blood sacrifice by which He could forgive their sins.

In the last lesson, we saw how God commanded Moses and the Israelites to build for Him the beautiful Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) so that

He might dwell among them.

Once everything was ready 

“a cloud covered the Tent of Congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34)

God was showing the Israelites how He wanted to have a wonderful relationship with them, but that no one could approach Him except by means of

the blood of a sacrifice

offered on the altar of the Tent of Meeting. The Tent of Meeting with its animal sacrifices were mere shadows and illustrations of the Redeemer who was to come from heaven, dwell on earth, and shed His blood as a sacrifice to take away sin.

In the third section of the Pentateuch, called Leviticus,

God inspired Moses to write the laws

that explain in detail how the Israelites were to present to God sacrifices which cover sin. This book is full of details, and we do not have time to look at all it contains. If you study it for yourself, you should note two words which appear some two hundred times. These two words summarise the message of the whole book. The two prominent words are

Holy” and “Blood.”

Why do these two words appear repeatedly in this book? Because one of the most important messages a person can ever grasp is that

God is holy,

and that “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22) The value of the third book of the Pentateuch was to teach the Israelites how an impure sinner stained with sin could approach God who is pure and holy. God showed clearly that no one could approach Him, except by the blood of a sacrifice, a sacrifice which foreshadowed the holy Redeemer who would come into the world and die for sinners,

to pay their debt of sin.

Let us now open the fourth section of the books of Moses, the book of Numbers. In this book, we read how the Israelites lived at the base of Mount Sinai for about one year. During that year, God taught them many things, and inspired Moses to write what we are reading today.

However,

God did not intend for the Israelites to live in the wilderness forever. That is why, one day, God directed them to get up and move out, and continue onward to the land He had promised them, Canaan,

the land of milk and honey.

The Scriptures tell that, on the day they were to depart from Sinai, the cloud of the glory of God, which covered the Tent of Meeting, arose and began to move out in front of them.

The LORD Himself was leading them,

in a cloud during the day to show them the way, and in a pillar of fire every night.

Thus, the Israelites followed the cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night until they arrived at the border of Canaan, the land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants a long time before.

God did not forget His promises.

Because of God’s faithfulness and power, the Israelites had arrived at the border of the land of Canaan, which today we call Palestine or Israel.

However, Canaan was filled with people. They were many and mighty. How then could the Israelites possess it? There was only one way:

God would give them the land.

Nothing is too hard for God! God promised Abraham: “This land of Canaan I will give to your descendants!” God planned to destroy the people of Canaan and turn the land over to the descendants of Abraham, the Israelites. It is important to understand that the sins of the people of Canaan were very great. They were guilty of gross immoralities, even sacrificing their children to their false gods.

God had been very patient with the people of Canaan,

but they continued in their shameful desires and sinful ways. Therefore, God planned to give their land to the tribes of Israel.

Now then, let us read in the fourth section of the Pentateuch, Numbers, to see what happened when the Israelites arrived at the border of the land of Canaan. In chapter thirteen, the Scripture says: (Num. 13:1-3,21-14:11) “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search

the land of Canaan,

which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall send a man, every one a ruler among them. And Moses by the commandment of the Lord sent them from the wilderness of Paran … so they went up and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath. And they ascended by the Negev, and came unto Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with one cluster of grapes, and

they bore it between two upon a staff;

and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The place was called Brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from there. And

they returned from searching of the land

after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land which thou sendest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey;

and this is the fruit of it.

Nevertheless, the people are strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and, moreover, we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites, dwell in the land of Negev; and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the edge of the Jordan. And

Caleb stilled the people

before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for

we are able to overcome it.

But they that went up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger that we. And they brought up an evil report of the land, which they had searched, unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, who come of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And

all the children of Israel murmured

against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God that we had died in the wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and

let us return into Egypt.

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. And Joshua, the son of Nun, and Caleb, the son of Jephuneh, who were of them that searched the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke unto all the company of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is a very good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land,

and give it us:

a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us; their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us:

fear them not.

But all the congregation demanded to stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be before they believe me, for all the signs which I have shown among them?”

Let us pause here. Do you hear how Israel transgressed and offended God?

Do you see their unbelief?

Do you notice how they accused God of going back on His word? Yes, on that day, the Israelites sinned greatly because they did not believe God’s promise to give them the land of Canaan. They did not believe what God had promised Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. They were like so many today who say, “We believe in God and the prophets!” yet they do not really believe God and they do not believe the prophets, because they do not believe what God has promised through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures!

Unbelief is a terrible sin before God.

Enough said. Let us continue in the story. (Num. 14:26-32,35-38) “And the Lord spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

How long

shall I bear with this evil congregation, who murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you.

Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness;

and all who were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I swore to make you dwell therein, except Caleb, the son of Jephuneh, and Joshua, the son of Nun. But your little ones, whom you said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised. But as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wilderness …

I, the Lord, have said,

I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and

there they shall die.

And the men, whom Moses sent to search the land, who returned and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up slander upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord. But Joshua, the son of Nun, and Caleb, the son of Jephuneh … lived still (because they believed the word of the LORD).

Thus we see how

the Israelites refused to believe the LORD

even though He had redeemed them from the hand of Pharaoh and brought them to the border of the land of Canaan. What did God do with those who did not believe His Word? He condemned them to die in the wilderness! Why did this generation of Israelites not enter the land of Canaan?

Because they would not believe the Word of God!

Friends, to refuse to believe the Word of God is a terrible tragedy. God must punish everyone who refuses to believe Him! Whoever despises and treats with indifference what God says in His holy Word is calling God a liar and can have no part in His eternal kingdom!

It is not God’s will

that anyone perish in unbelief. God wants all to believe the Good News about the way of salvation which He has established.

But each person must decide for himself. All who refuse to believe God’s Word will perish. Read this warning from the Holy Spirit of God through the prophets: “Today, if you hear his voice,

harden not your hearts

as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert. … Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God!” (Heb. 3:7,8,12; Psalm 95:7-11)

In the next lesson, God willing, we will see how all those who refused to believe God perished in the wilderness,

just as God had said .

God bless you as you heed this warning from the Holy Scriptures: 

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” 

(Heb. 3:12)

We would invite you to answer the questions attached and send them together with any questions that you might have