A, B, C, D, E, G, F
Numbers 14:1-4 (1) And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. (2) 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 we had died in this wilderness! (3) 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? (4) And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt. The children of Israel had arrived at the border of the promised land. About one year had passed since they first saw the mighty arm of God revealed on their behalf to deliver them from their bondage. They had seen God arise for them at Egypt's expense: the ransom price to deliver Israel from bondage was the blood of the Egyptians (DEU 7:8 c/w ISA 43:3). They had been miraculously fed with manna and quail (PSA 78:23-31), the former to satisfy their need and the latter to slake their lust. Their shoes and garments had been miraculously preserved (DEU 29:5). They had received the inspired word of God, the chiefest of their blessings (EXO 20:1-17 c/w ROM 3:1-2). They had learned God's displeasure with the folly of mingling pagan concepts with the worship of the true LORD (EXO 32:4-7), and also His displeasure with the folly of inventive worship (LEV 10:1-2). It had been quite a year, a year bursting with blessings and loaded with lessons. Now they were on the verge of entering into even greater experience and promise and rest (DEU 12:9-10). But something was holding them back. Twelve spies had just returned from a successful reconnaissance mission into Canaan, bringing with them news of incredible blessings but also of challenges (NUM 13:26-33). There were walled cities and giants in the land: that meant exposure to risk and unpleasant things. Israel then deemed the cost of commitment greater than the cost of caving, so they caved. As our text shows, instead of moving forward with eyes upon God, they looked instead to their families. Herein is a powerful lesson. There are many reasons for which God's children will not commit fully to Jesus Christ. For some it may be the riches of this world are deemed more valuable than the riches of His grace and the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God (MAR 10:17-24 c/w EPH 1:7; ROM 11:33). For others it may be the loss of prestige or status which prevents them from becoming a Christian, as it was with King Agrippa (ACT 26:27-28). For some, it may be fear of ostracism by their religious contemporaries (JOH 9:22; JOH 12:42). One of the most common reasons, though, is family concerns. The Savior and His gospel are often disruptive to family harmony and they were meant to be so. Think not that He came to send peace on earth when He plainly said that He would put family members at odds with each other (MAT 10:34-37). How often have the words of the Lord Jesus been fulfilled when His Spirit is at work in a man's heart, bidding him to come, but the response is, “...I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come” (LUK 14:20). Men have struggled with this issue since Adam gave into Eve instead of God (GEN 3:6) and the outcome of that event should not be forgotten. How many parents have faced a dilemma similar to Israel's (our text), concerned that doing the right thing might upset their children, deprive their children, or expose them to unpleasant things, challenge or ridicule? For the children's sake, Israel refused to walk forward with God. For irony's sake, God then pronounced, “Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein...But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in...[though they] shall wander in the wilderness forty years...” (NUM 14:30-33). Parents who presume to insulate children from the rigors of God's kingdom are doing neither themselves nor their children any favors. As an example, consider the parents who will not commit to a church where the pastor preaches candidly (as he ought to do) because they are afraid that the children will be exposed to some of the “icky” parts of the Bible. They might dread the thought of a pastor mentioning anything about human sexuality and its foibles (a topic which offends some people's sensibilities but which is nevertheless regularly on their minds). God forbid (they think) that the pastor should be like Paul and preach “...all the counsel of God” (ACT 20:27). A man of God is to keep back “...nothing that was profitable...” (ACT 20:20), and “All scripture...is profitable...” (2TI 3:16), even the “icky” parts like EZE 16:25-26, EZE 23:20 which rebuked Israel for sexually fixating on the Egyptians who were “hung” like donkeys and ejaculated like horses (a graphic exposure of a sinful tendency that is not unique to ancient Israel). Reader: when was the last time your pastor gave a candid exhortation from DEU 23:1? Things like these are “...written for our learning...” (ROM 15:4); they are “...our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted” (1CO 10:6). Mind that Moses once commanded that every seven years the whole Law was to be read to all the men, women and children (DEU 31:10-13) and there were some VERY candid, “icky” portions therein (for example, LEV 18:1-30). The New Testament has its share of “icky” stuff also (e.g., 1CO 5:1; REV 2:20-23). Sadly, some parents today, while “saving” their children from a full gospel ministry, will let them sit in front of a television or computer screen that delivers every perverse message imaginable. Or, these same parents will send their children to schools and colleges where they end up being taught as acceptable the very things the preacher could have told them were sinful and abominable to God. What inconsistency and hypocrisy! In today's text, it was not the children who were voicing concern about the giants, it was the parents. Parents can struggle more with issues of basic faith than do the children. “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (MAT 18:3), Jesus warned. “Family Worship Center” is a common sign seen these days. It sadly can be a case of unintended truth in advertising: family concerns taking priority over God's. Love of God is the first and great commandment, not love of man (MAT 22:36-40). The blessing of God is held in store for the person who puts God before family. When crunch time comes and a decision must be made to follow God or “spare” the family, the sons of Levi should be remembered. Because they stood with the LORD without regard to family (even children), they inherited God's blessing (EXO 32:25-29 c/w DEU 33:8-11), a covenant of life and peace (MAL 2:4-5). Their families were better off because of their commitment to truth, not from sparing their children the pain of committing to truth. In God's alphabet, G comes before F. God comes before Family. Lest any think that this issue is so much “straining at a gnat” or contrary to the spirit of the New Testament, let the Holy Ghost's commentary on the event featured in today's text speak: Hebrews 3:7-12 (7) Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, (8) Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (9) When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. (10) Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. (11) So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) (12) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.