Below is a study of Numbers 11-16 given on March 12, 2013 at our small group. This study is by one of the commentators I love the most, Chuck Smith, for a link to the complete study “Numbers 11-20” scroll to the bottom.
If I start murmuring and complaining about the things that are transpiring around my life, I’m really murmuring and complaining about those that God has brought into my life, and thus, murmuring and complaining is really against the Lord and God looks upon it as such. He looks upon it as a complaint against Him. And thus, as the children of Israel would murmur and complain, God would become angry with them. And on several occasions is ready to obliterate them. And we find Moses coming in and interceding again, always falling on his face before the Lord pleading, “God don’t destroy them” and God’s abundant grace being demonstrated, His forgiveness over and over again.
We are certainly taught through these passages the long suffering of God. And that is one of God’s characteristics that’s part of His nature, which is actually a characteristic of love. In its true sense the agape love suffers long and is kind and it is demonstrated no better place than God’s dealing with the nation Israel, the patience and the longsuffering of God with these people. They can be thankful I’m not God. I surely wouldn’t have the patience and the longsuffering with them that God did have.
Now as we go through these chapters, again, it is important that we keep in mind that God is sovereign and He is over all of the circumstances. And there seems to be points where God is just wanting to wipe the people out and Moses is reasoning with God and comes up with good reasons that causes God to change his mind and not wipe them out. As you read the text that seems to be what is happening. That seems to be the obvious kind of thing. God says, “Stand back and I’ll wipe them out. I’ll create another nation” and all. And Moses says, “Lord, if you wipe them out then all of the Egyptians are gonna say look what kind of a God they have. Took them out in the wilderness and wiped them all out. And the people are gonna think that You’re a horrible God. So don’t wipe them out, Lord”. And so the Lord says, “All right”, you know, and He doesn’t wipe them out.
Now, I must believe that one of God’s characteristics as being God and being divine is that of his immutability, which means that God doesn’t change. Now this is a characteristic of God’s nature that is taught in the scriptures. God said to the prophet, “Behold, I am the Lord God; I change not” (Malachi 3:6). Again, we read that “God is not a man, that he should lie nor the son of man that he should repent. Hath he not spoken and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).
So we know from the scripture that God doesn’t change. We know from the scriptures that God doesn’t repent, which means to change, a change of heart, a change of mind. Therefore, in the reading of these passages where there is an apparent change in God’s attitude towards the people, we must realize that in these senses God is not the bad guy and Moses the good guy and God is wanting to wipe them out and Moses intercedes as the good guy.
True prayer always begins in the heart of God. And God touches my heart with his purpose and with his desires. And as I begin to understand the purposes and the desires of God, I begin to express them in prayers. So actually the inspiration for Moses’ prayer came from God. That intercession of Moses, that whole inspiration behind it was that of God. And thus He lays upon the heart of Moses the intercession which opens the door and gives God the opportunity to be gracious, to demonstrate his longsuffering and His love.
Sin #1: Lust
Numbers 11:1-3 – People complained, Fire burned among them, Moses prayed and fire stops. But the people didn’t learn.
Numbers 11:4-6 – lusting after food because they only had Manna, remembering Fish in Egypt.
Egypt represents the flesh life, the world. people who come to Christ still long for the things of the flesh, they still have the taste of the world. They have a surface commitment “I would that you’re hot or cold but because you’re lukewarm, I’m gonna spew you out of my mouth”(Revelation 3:16)
He doesn’t want your life to be in a mixture. He wants your life to be fully committed to Him. And “Ye which are his have crucified the flesh with the desires, the lust thereof. Know ye not that the old man was crucified with Christ?” (Romans 6:6)
Sin #2: Jealousy (When Moses took Ethiopian wife)
And they said, Has the LORD only spoken unto Moses? hath he not spoken also unto us? (Num 12:2)
Now here they were speaking against the man that God had anointed and the man that God had called: God’s servant. Now God said, “Look with prophets, if a man is a prophet I usually speak by visions or dreams, in similitudes, in dark sayings, in forms that oftentimes need interpreting, but with Moses, plainly face to face, apparent, direct speaking with Moses. “And inasmuch I have spoken to Moses this way, how is it that you are not fearful to speak against him?” In other words, they should have respected his position as God’s servant and the anointing of God that was upon his life.
Let’s take a note on David, how respectful he was even when the anointing had left saul, he was still respectful because once he WAS anointed by God.
There are consequences for rebelling and murmuring against the servant of God, here Miriam and Aaron were smitten with leprosy. Num 12:10-13
And so Miriam was ostracized from the camp for seven days. And while the period of this ostracizing was taking place they did not move. They stayed in that same area there at Hazeroth.
Now on Chapter 13 They had been about two years, a little over two years now in the wilderness. At this point they were at the border of the Promise Land.
Moses chose 12 people to go spy on the land, and on 13:8 from the Tribe of Ephraim, Oshea (Joshua).
Moses called Oshea the son of Nun [Jehoshea or] Jehoshua (Num 13:16).
Which was later contracted to Joshua. Oshea means deliverer or salvation and Yeh is the contraction for Jehovah, the name of God. So the name Joshua is one of the compound names of Jehovah, which means, “God is salvation” or the “Lord is salvation” or the “Lord our salvation”. The Greek word for Joshua is Jesus. So that when Joseph was debating what to do with Mary when she was pregnant and the angel of the Lord came to him and said, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bare a son thou shalt call his name Jesus” or the Hebrew Yeshua Why? “For he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). The name implies the mission. Jehovah is our salvation; so Jehoshua, later Joshua.
So these 12 went out, But only Joshua and Caleb brought positive comments.
Sin #3: FEAR / DISBELIEF
God did you bring us here to die? Num 14:1-4, 6-10 Afraid of being crushed by the people in the land.
They Never Posses the rich land that God promised, they were overcome with fear, ready to stone the people of God (joshua/caleb)
Red sea – baptism
Wilderness – growth
Promise land – full rich life that you can have in Christ now
And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? How long will it be before they believe me (Num 14:11),
There is the key; it was a lack of faith that kept them from what God had for them.
You do not get to the promise land with good works, it is by faith. Believing and trusting God.
So because of their sin of disbelief, God told them to turn around and die in the desert. Only their children and Joshua/Caleb will enter. Then they tried to go in the promise land, but they got killed, a few of them.
In chapter 15, God speaks about the sacrifices they will do and speaks about sacrificing for those sins of ignorance, someone also disobeyed God by working on the Sabbath, and was put to death. Then that’s when God told Moses to tell them to make Tassels ( blue ribbon around the borders of the coat to remind them about the commandments, “that you do not seek after your own heart or your own eye, like you tend to do”) Set as a reminder for them to know to follow God and not their heart.
Chapter 16: (Num 16:34-35) Korah rebelled against Moses and Aaron got the people of Israel and his people the levites and started saying that Moses and Aaron were not the only ones that had to do sacrifices, and that Aaron was Moses’ family and that Moses chose them because they were family, etc.
So Datham and Abiram didn’t want to listen to Moses when he told Korah to gather all these 250 people to make a sacrifice with incense. and Moses said “Okay, you guys. You don’t want to come out you just stand there in your tents with your families and kids. And all of you that want to go along with this you just stand over there. If this thing be of the Lord, then let the Lord do a new thing. Rather than you guys going on and dying natural deaths, let the Lord open up the earth and swallow you alive right down into the pit.”
And no sooner had Moses said it then the earth opened up and Korah and the whole rebellious troop went right down into the pit. The earth closed up again and a great fear came upon Israel. And the other 250 that also were burning incense were burnt.
So God made them make plates as a memorial not to do this like Korah. (v. 40)
After this, also, they came saying “You’ve killed the people of the Lord” and so God got angry and Moses and Aaron got the incense and go out because the plague has already started. The people are beginning to drop like flies and you stand between the living and the dead and make intercession.” So Moses grabbed the incense and he went out and he stood between the living and the dead to stop the plague of God that was wiping out these people for their murmuring.
There’s a beautiful picture of intercession; standing between the living and the dead. And we as Christians often do this, our intercession for those that are lost.
Smith, Chuck. “Numbers 11-20.” The Word for Today. Blue Letter Bible. 1 Jun 2005.2013. 29 Aug 2013.