The Wilderness is not Israel’s destination, any more than the Ark was Noah’s home. The plains around Mount Sinai must have been fruitful enough to sustain the tens of thousands of Israelites for the better part of a year, and God was still providing their daily Manna. But they are to keep their eyes on Canaan. As we’ve seen before, and will probably see again, rescue is just the first step toward the destination God is preparing.
That destination comes into view today, but the text prepares us for the possibility that the future may not be all roses. Chapters 11 and 12 recount three “complaint cycles” that begin with an Israelite complaint and end with the LORD’s response.
As you read these cycles, listen to how the LORD responds each time, and see if there is a difference between the theme or nature of each complaint that warrants the response. The first is a quickie, where the people complain about their misfortunes. Just three verses later, it says…“the rabble…had a strong craving…” for the meat of Egypt.
The third complaint, in chapter 12, is a personal attack on Moses that questions not only his judgment but also his fitness to lead God’s people. Listen to how the author pivots by boldly affirming Moses’ character, before the LORD “suddenly” responds on Moses’ behalf. Allow yourself to dwell in the terror each of them must feel when they hear the LORD’s voice: “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.”
But as we turn the page to chapter 13 it feels like a new chapter might be dawning. “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel…” Listen as the spies are listed, tribe by tribe… to their instructions, even noting the season… to the inhabitants… to where the grapes of Eschol grow.
And after forty days, they returned, with the report that would shape the future of a nation.
Our verse for this week is Ephesians 5:2: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Numbers chapters 11 through 13. Now let’s read it!
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.