Back-Seat Fighting

Numbers 14:33 “And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.”

Observation: Judgment had come upon the Hebrews. Of the twelve spies sent into Canaan, only Joshua and Caleb had been men of faith; the rest had given a coward’s report. God’s anger turned the spies’ forty-day outing into a forty-year banishment to the desert for the whole nation…a year of punishment for each day of spying (v. 34) The ten cowardly spies apparently died right away of the plague, (v 37), but the rest of the nation was doomed to roam the desert for forty years until everyone who was twenty or older had died (v. 35).

Application: Bummer! And they were so close to the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, the land of promise. It lay just across the river, yet they must now turn aimlessly back into the desert. That place of hunger, thirst and tedious boredom was going to be their home until the last of them had died. God would not bespoil His precious gift by admitting this ungrateful crowd. Even as Moses pled for mercy God reminded him that this was the tenth time they had provoked Him (v. 22). Does He seem a bit like the frazzled parent who, tired of the back-seat fighting, ended the fuss by demanding, “Give me that! If you can’t share, neither of you can have it”, thereupon tossing the contested item out the window?

In this He is not unlike the parent of an incorrigible child. It is natural to remember every offence, each time he was called to the principal’s office, or each time she broke curfew. Disappointment piles upon disappointment, yet still there is a flicker of hope for repentance, a hope that provocation would end and we might restored to the offending one. Years may pass as offenses mount. But still we pray for redemption of the one lost, of restoration of heart relationship. In this am I not like God Himself? For surely He longs for restoration each time I wander away from intimacy with Him.

Even as the Hebrews once again merited His judgment God made a way of escape. And He promised that “Your little ones…I will bring in and they shall know the land that you rejected.” (v 31). Hope abounds, for I know that my Redeemer liveth!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am not unlike Your chosen people, led by Your mighty hand to the edge of blessing yet tending constantly toward complaint. Forgive me Lord. Cause me to become like one of Your little ones whom You bring in by Your right hand. Amen.

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