|Numbers 11-14||To the Promised Land: A Fatal Attraction with Dissatisfaction – Numbers 11-14|
Stand Up and Be Counted
The Wilderness Wanderings of the Book of Numbers
To the Promised Land: A Fatal Attraction with Dissatisfaction –
At the end of Numbers 10 the leading cloud of God had rose up over the Tabernacle (10:11), the people broke camp (10:12), and the wilderness journey was underway (10:13).
To review, the people had been prepared for the journey through the wilderness by being given certain instructions. The people were instructed so that they would know:
As they now moved toward the Promised Land they were to say:
But on the heels of these prayerful words came a crisis that would ultimately doom this entire generation of God’s people. In Numbers 11-14 we are introduced to A Fatal Attraction to Dissatisfaction.
This condition that developed in the hearts of the people kept them from the Promised Land! This is a condition that is in all our hearts and can keep us from experiencing what God desires for us.
Why is Dissatisfaction Fatal?
11:1a Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; . . .
Dissatisfaction is fatal because it displeases God. And this displeasure is rooted in unbelief. If you can’t trust God you can’t please God. This is the testimony of scripture:
The word “complained” (אָנַן ˒ânan, aw-nan’) means to mourn, murmur, complain. The younger sister of complaining is grumbling. It means to mull over one’s situation and assess it as negative and then voice dissatisfaction. Complaining flows from wrong thinking and weak to no faith. It is the result of impatience and feeling that one is not getting what one feels they deserve. Complaining is a product of the sinful nature, the flesh (1 Cor. 10:10; Jude 16). Complaining therefore is an attack on God’s character and nature as a Loving Provider for His people. This causes God great hurt and displeasure.
The word “displeased” (רַע ra˓, rah) literally means bad, wickedness, or evil. This doesn’t’ mean that evil was kindled in the heart of God in response to the complaints of His people. It means God saw and assessed the people’s complaints as evil.
The Lord sees complaining as wicked and evil. When we look in scripture evil is associated with a number of things:
These are all behaviors and conditions flowing from the sinful nature or flesh of humanity. It is no wonder the complaining of God’s people displeased Him.
There are a number of places where this same root word for evil is used in connection with things the Lord will either allow or bring upon His people due to their sinful choices (Deut. 6:22; 28:59; Josh. 23:15). In such cases ra is seen as the just consequence of the sinful choices of people.
Nothing in Numbers 1-10 has prepared us for this development. Up to this point the people have promised obedience to God. And yet we see early on in their journey through the wilderness the people complain against the Lord.
Dissatisfaction is fatal because it questions God’s sovereignty and lordship over our lives. God allows certain circumstances to enter our lives to discipline us (e.g. Heb. 12) and to build our character (James 1). To complain about our circumstances is to question God’s wisdom and authority, His right to do His will I our life. When we complain it’s as though we say, “I know better than You Lord and I don’t like what You’re doing!” (cf. Job 38).
11:1b . . . for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched. 3 So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the Lord had burned among them.
Dissatisfaction brings God’s judgment. It brings the fire of God and a plague (11:1, 3, 33-35). This plague may have been brought on by the people going from a bland manna diet to a quail meat diet.
Other examples of God’s judgment coming on the dissatisfied are:
What Marks the Dissatisfied Person?
4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat?
The dissatisfied person is unsure of who they are (11:4a). They were a “mixed multitude,” those who tagged along for the journey when the Jews left Egypt. (Life in Egypt was tough for everyone who didn’t belong to the upper class. These people tagged along for the ride in hopes that the grass was greener on the other side. They were in this journey for themselves. They weren’t fully committed to the journey.
The dissatisfied person is controlled by their flesh. These people had “intense cravings.” Their natural desires were ruling them. They reached a point where they lost control over their natural desires and it began to consume them and control their behavior.
Scripture tells us we can’t live in our flesh and please God:
For the fleshly person the natural desire of hunger become gluttony. The natural desire for security becomes dependence on and obsession with accumulating material things. Sex becomes adultery or immorality. A desire to be significant leads to abusive relationships and self-absorption.
5 We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!”
7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil. 9 And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it.
The dissatisfied person is someone with selective memory. It says they were saying, “remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt.” They remembered the food they ate but not the hard labor and slavery involved in getting the food. They remembered their boredom with the manna God provided but not the emptiness that the manna had filled.
10 Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!”
Dissatisfaction is fatal because it creates a distracting burden for God’s leaders (11:4-15). Complaining is a hindrance to leadership. Complaining distracts leadership from the task or mission at hand. This is a device of the devil to get ministry and mission off track or bogged down. Complaints usually involve attention to peripheral or secondary issues which takes away from the prime focus and priority mission goal. Complaining hurts everyone in that it delays getting to God’s desired destination while souring the state of affairs.
In Hebrews it states:
This does not mean leadership should be followed with blind unquestioning allegiance. Leaders should be scrutinized through the lens of scripture. That should always be done and then the truth spoken in love (Eph. 4:15; cf. also Gal. 6:1). But fleshly complaining is unchristlike and of the flesh and to be avoided (e.g. Phil. 2:14-16).
16 So the Lord said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.
God’s solution for leaders burdened with the complaints of the people they serve is threefold:
18 Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” ’ ”
Dissatisfaction leads to soiling God’s blessing. God head the complaint of the people and gave them what they wanted but added that what they complainingly asked for would become “loathsome” to them. The word “loathsome” (zârâ˒, zaw-raw’) means disgusting. When we complain against the Lord and He gives us what we want there is a souring mixed into the relationship; we may receive materially, but we miss out spiritually. That requested and received without thanks lacks the blessing that comes from God.
21 And Moses said, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?”
Dissatisfaction drains and stifles faith. Moses was so distracted and caught up in the complaints of the people and how God said He would deal with it that he lost sight of what God as able to do. This, even though God had performed incredible miracles through Moses. Complaining drains our faith and even the faith of those around us.
The Cure for Dissatisfaction
23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.”
The cure for this fatal attraction with dissatisfaction is a faithful attraction to God (11:23). Dissatisfaction is the product of underestimating the reach or ability of God. God’s answer was to call Moses to watch and see what He would do. God will always prove capable and faithful to perform His will. The cure for dissatisfaction is to trust in God like Abraham (Gen. 15:6; 18:14), Jeremiah (Jer. 32:17), Habakkuk (Hab. 1:5; 2:4), and like Jesus said we should (Luke 18:27).
24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.
26 But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!”
29 Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” 30 And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
The cure for this fatal attraction with dissatisfaction is Spirit-filled living. Here we have the Spirit coming upon the seventy elders appointed by Moses. These elders prophesied when the Spirit came upon them. This was a unique case in the Old Testament. It took Joshua by surprise. The work of the Spirit often takes us by surprise. Joshua was flustered and wanted Moses to forbid the elders from prophesying.
Apparently Joshua felt this manifestation of the Spirit on these elders was a challenge to the leadership of Moses. But Moses had the right response, ““Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” Moses knew Spirit-filled elders are a blessing from the Lord.
Here we have a prophetic word in Moses expressed desire that “all the LORD’s people were prophets” and had “His Spirit upon them!” What is stated as being limited here in the Old Testament (“although they never did so again” v. 26) was poured out on all at Pentecost (Acts 2) in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophecy, . . .” The solution of the Lord in every issue of life is the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Those filled with the Spirit are empowered to deal with the issues of life. This is true because:
31 Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. 32 And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. 34 So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.
35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people moved to Hazeroth, and camped at Hazeroth.
Dissatisfaction leads to death. When we are dissatisfied with God’s handling of us and our life situations it always leads to death. It can lead to physical death as in the person who rebels against God and gets involved in life-threatening sinful activity (e.g. sexual immorality; substance abuse; crime). But more often is simply leads to a deadening desensitizing of our hearts toward the Lord. Dissatisfaction has an atrophying effect on us spiritually.
Dissatisfaction and Self-Deception
12 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 So they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it.
The dissatisfied person is self-deceived and thinks too highly of themselves (12:1-3). Not only does the dissatisfied person have a wrong view of God, they have a wrong view of themselves.
Self-deception is the product of disregarding one’s sinfulness (1 John 1:8). Pride is a core attribute of sin. And pride is closely associated with the evil dissatisfied questioning of Moses here (e.g. Prov. 8:13). Miriam and Aaron (the older siblings of Moses) were self-deceived and became proud and puffed up which led to their opposing the leadership of Moses. They paid the price.
The mentioning of Miriam’s name first and that the word “spoke” is in the feminine grammatical form likely indicates that she was the one leading the objection to Moses as God’s chosen leader. Miriam was a prophetess (Ex. 15). She was evidently a very charismatic figure in the community of Israel. But here she oversteps her bounds.
The initial objection to Moses marrying an Ethiopian woman who wasn’t Jewish may have seemed a legitimate cause for concern but was in reality a smoke screen for their desire to usurp Moses’ position of authority.
In the New Testament we are warned to not think too highly of ourselves:
If God wants a change in leadership He will arrange it. Miriam and Aaron were not only seeking Moses’ position but were in reality expressing dissatisfaction with God’s decision to place Moses in leadership.
There was no scriptural basis for objecting to Moses marrying this Ethiopian woman. Ethiopians were not mentioned amongst those Israelites could not marry (Ex. 34:11, 16). Marriage to non-Israelites was not uncommon (1 Chron. 2:34, 35). And this was not necessarily an issue of color prejudice since Ethiopians exited in the broader area of Arabia during these times. It’s more likely that Miriam felt her position as alpha female was being threatened by this marriage of Moses.
3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.) 4 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out. 5 Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. 6 Then He said,
“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.
7 Not so with My servant Moses;
He is faithful in all My house.
8 I speak with him face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?”
The cure for dissatisfaction is humility (12:3, 4-8). Humility is realizing the truth about yourself (12:3). Humility is trusting God to defend you (12:4-8). God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-6). Moses is an example of all of this.
The LORD describes His relationship with this humble man Moses, “I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings’ and he sees the form of the LORD” v. 8). Moses had a close relationship with the LORD and the LORD defended him.
9 So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. 10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. 11 So Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!”
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!”
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” 15 So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again. 16 And afterward the people moved from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran.
Dissatisfaction is fatal because it is contagious. It spread from the mixed multitude (11:4), to the Israelites (11:10), to Moses (11:11-15), to Miriam and Aaron, the other leaders (12:1-2), and to the entire congregation (14:1).
That God’s judgment is aimed at Miriam is further proof she was the ringleader in this opposition to the leadership of Moses. Moses interceded before the LORD on behalf of Miriam. The LORD heals her, but only after seven days to think about what she has done. God gives time for the sinner to learn from their sin. If we turn to God we can learn from the consequences of our sin.
Dissatisfaction and Weak Faith
13 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”
The LORD instructed Moses to send spies into Canaan. It was God’s plan to have His people see what was involved in bringing about His promise for them. It is good to observe and spy out the objectives of the LORD.
Jesus instructed those who sought to be His disciples to count the cost of what that really meant (Luke 14:25-35). There is great blessing in being a disciple of Jesus, but it will cost you.
3 So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel. 4 Now these were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; 5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; 6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; 7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; 8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun; 9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; 10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi; 11 from the tribe of Joseph, that is, from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi; 12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; 13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael; 14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi; 15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.
16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.
17 Then Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, 18 and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; 19 whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; 20 whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.
Moses instructed them to make a thorough spying out of the Land as well as to bring back samples of what was in the Land. We should always make a thorough investigation and preparation in our God-led ventures of faith.
21 So they went up and spied out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, near the entrance of Hamath. 22 And they went up through the South and came to Hebron; Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs. 24 The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the men of Israel cut down there. 25 And they returned from spying out the land after forty days.
Evidently Canaan was a bountiful and fruitful land. The cluster of grapes the men brought back was impressive enough to name the place where they got them. They returned with evidence of a Land of fruitfulness.
26 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”
The dissatisfied person has weak faith and makes decisions based on perceived limitations (13:26-29). The faith of the ten spies was weak and shortsighted in terms of an awareness and faithful reliance on the LORD. The result was they thought the Land was too dangerous to occupy focused on their own limitations rather than on God’s power and resources.
In Hebrews chapter eleven a definition of faith is given as well as a record of those who were examples of faith. In this chapter it states:
The nature of faith is receiving God’s truth and promise (“the substance of things”) and then even though those things have yet to prove a reality or to have come to pass (“. . . hoped for . . . “), you trust God for them (“. . . the evidence of things not seen”). It’s impossible to please God without faith. It’s impossible to serve Him, be a part of His plans and receive His promised blessings apart from faith in Him. God is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” When you are caught up in dissatisfaction, you lose sight of that.
30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
The cure for dissatisfaction is GOD! We need to factor God into our life equation. Caleb stood up before the people in faith. He exhorted and challenged the people in faith. And because of his faith in God he was willing to be opposed.
Caleb didn’t look at himself as being in the minority. For him: Me + God = a majority. Scripture tells us:
We need to factor God into our life equation. Where God guides God will provide. That may not be an actual scripture, but it is scripturally sound.
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
The dissatisfied have a warped God-less perspective on reality. The dissatisfied and weak in faith always focus on the limitations they see on the journey toward God’s Promised Land destination. The result of fixating on only what they saw was that what little faith they had left was swallowed up in fear. Fear makes you feel little and those that oppose you look big, like “giants.”
Faith in God corrects that and helps us to see things the way we should and the way they really are. Fear is the foe of faith. Faith in God can defeat the foe of fear.
Dissatisfaction and Our View of God
14 So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”
The dissatisfied person is someone with a wrong view of God (14:1-4). Here the people were expressing their complete disappointment and discouragement. They saw themselves in an unfamiliar place, feeling vulnerable and at the mercy of their enemies. They cried and wept and complained. They wished for death. They questioned the wisdom of the LORD. They questioned His provision and in reality His love for them. They spoke of selecting a new leader and turning around and returning to Egypt. All of this because of their weak faith and a worldview that lacked a proper faith in God. Their attitude and view of God led to rebellion against His will. They failed to accept that God was for them and wanted the best for them; even if it would be challenging.
This is the consequence of dissatisfaction: a self-imposed loneliness; a sense of betrayal by the LORD; a complete and utter loss of vision for the promises of God and how He might guide and provide for them; despair.
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. 6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;
Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb appalled by the dissatisfaction, lack of faith and evil behavior of these ten spies and the people who were willing to give up. They were on the precipice of the greatest blessing they could imagine, the Promised Land! Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb felt so close to realizing God’s promise that they could taste it. And now these ten spies and the people were going to give up? It was inexcusable and totally unacceptable to them.
People of faith find the dissatisfaction and weak faith of people difficult to stomach.
7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”
Here is the complete contrast between the ten spies and the dissatisfied complaining people versus Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. These were men of faith who saw a difficult task in front of them but who translated their life circumstance by their faith in God. “If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.” In other words, “Let’s go for it! The LORD is on our side. There’s nothing we can’t do with Him.”
William Carey, the man through whom God ignited a revival of world missions, on May 31st 1792, gave a message from Isaiah 54:2-3:
In his sermon Carey exhorted his listeners, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” That is the attitude of faith and divine conquest that overcomes the despair of dissatisfaction.
10 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones.
Dissatisfaction leads to anger and fighting. Dissatisfaction is a rotten fruit of the flesh and because it is self-centered it leads to anger and fighting and a desire to strike out at those you feel are keeping you from getting what you want.
Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.
11 Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
We need to keep in mind the omniscient foreknowledge of God here. God knew exactly what He was doing. The people rejected God’s plan to take the Promised Land (13:32; 14:2, 31). They rejected and rebelled against Moses (14:4). The last straw was that they rejected and rebelled against God Himself (14:9–11). Later their sin is described as the sin of “infidelity” (14:33 - זְנוּת - zenûwth, zen-ooth’) or idolatry, harlotry, spiritual adultery (cf. Jer. 3:2, 9; 13:27; Ezek. 23:27; 43:7, 9; Hos. 4:11; 6:10). The people were guilty of gross sin against God.
God is creating a situation where Moses can be reminded of God’s promise and also learn to pray with the promises of God in hand. God creates a situation whereby he can learn intercession.
13 And Moses said to the Lord: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, 14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people; that You, Lord, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, 16 ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’ 17 And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”
The cure for dissatisfaction is prayer (11:2; 12:13; 14:11-19). God’s threat of disinheriting His people creates an environment which tests Moses true intent. He is offered by God to have a nation built around him. Moses, the humble man, shows his true and pure motives by not accepting this.
Secondly, God uses this situation to teach Moses the importance and effectiveness of intercessory prayer. God is looking for someone to stand in the gap and give Him an excuse to be merciful. Look what happened to Israel when no one was found to stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30-31 - If God would have found someone to stand in the gap for Israel, would they have been destroyed and sent into exile? Maybe not.)
20 Then the Lord said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; 21 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord— 22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.” 26 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: 29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. 30 Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. 35 I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’ ”
Dissatisfaction leads to life in the wilderness and loss of God’s promises. There was and is a severe consequence for the dissatisfied: a life in the wilderness and lose of God’s promises. The dissatisfied complaining person is destined to life their life perpetually in the wilderness. They are destined to be barred from experiencing the full promises and ideal destination of God for them. The dissatisfied person will not only be weak in faith, frustrated and failing, but will live a wandering existence that never reaches the full blessing of God. It is a terrible consequence.
36 Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, 37 those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord.
Dissatisfied leaders are destined to harsher punishment. Those responsible for misleading people and perpetuating dissatisfaction in the LORD’s plans are plagued before the LORD and held accountable by the LORD.
38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.
God distinguishes between dissatisfied weak faith people and those who trust Him and are faithful to Him. Scripture tells us:
Remember, God rewards those who diligently seek Him and His ways (Heb. 11:6).
39 Then Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly. 40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised, for we have sinned!” 41 And Moses said, “Now why do you transgress the command of the Lord? For this will not succeed. 42 Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. 43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” 44 But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop. Nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.
You can’t correct your sinful acts of dissatisfaction with self-willed presumptive service to God. You can’t come to God on your terms. Anyone who comes to God or serves God must do so on His terms.
The people “mourned greatly,” but their mourning was not because of their offense to God. Their mourning was because they were going to miss out on God’s promises. Like Esau they were weeping over their loss of blessing. Like Esau, they weren’t truly repentant toward God (Heb. 12:16-17). They simply and selfishly were sorry they were now going to lose out on God’s blessing.
In verse 44 it states these people “presumed” (עָפַל ˓âphal, aw-fal’) in their reaction to the LORD’s discipline of them. “Presumed” here means to swell up, be lifted up, and presume. While this may seem to be a heartfelt repentance it is not. The people are finally realizing what they are going to miss out on and now make one final self-willed presumptuous attempt to right their ship. They are only concerned with their loss. They aren’t truly concerned with how they have offended God. God will have none of this.
This presumptuous reaction to God’s discipline, this attempt to make things better by doing something they feel is right, ends in defeat. It is still an act of self-will. Presumption is a self-willed, self-reliant, self-seeking action that disregards for God’s instruction. In other words, the people were only compounding their sin with this self-centered action.
Notice “the ark of the covenant of the LORD” and Moses did not go with them. The symbol of the presence of the LORD did not go with them. They went out, but without the presence of God. That kind of action is never good and always destined for failure.
Moses didn’t accompany them. They went out leaderless. This leads to a dooming disorganization. God is orderly (1 Cor. 14:33, 40). He blesses His people with good Spirit filled leaders. Without the direction and command of good leaders, people are at the mercy of their enemies.
Dissatisfaction leads to an empty (no presence of the LORD) disorganized (no leadership) defeat. That’s no way to approach the wilderness. And that’s no way to get to the Promised Land.
 Believer's Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Nu 14:11