- The Explore the Bible lesson for Dec. 8 focuses on Numbers 14:5-19.
Being a parent is not an easy task. When I was a kid, I thought my parents didn’t love me. I speculated the only thing a parent did was to give orders and forbid everything.
Living in Mexico, I remember one time when my mom sent me to buy tortillas at the tortilla factory. She pulled a 10 pesos bill out of her wallet and gave me precise instructions before sending me out: “Son, go buy two kilos of tortillas. Make sure you come back as soon as possible, and don’t spend the money playing video games.” I’m not sure why she mentioned this last phrase, but I figured she knew me better than anyone else.
I left our house and headed out to buy tortillas. There were only two ways to get there. One way was surrounded by dogs, and the other had a beautiful yellow building jam-packed with arcade games. I’ve always been afraid of dogs. So, I decided to take the path that led to my destruction. I remember someone screaming, “Jaime, here comes your mom!” In a fraction of a second, I was able to grab the tortilla bag and leave the building before my mom arrived.
For a moment, I thought I had escaped unharmed from this event, but I was wrong. When my mom arrived home, I was sweeping the floor. I assumed, if she sees me cleaning she might forget that I have spent the money playing arcades. She didn’t. She was furious. She gave me a good spanking and then she sent me off to my room, grounded.
I paid the consequences of rebellion against my mom’s command. Even though she gave detailed instructions, I failed to obey them.
Challenge Issued (Numbers 14:5-9)
Moses and Aaron went through a serious challenge. To fall upon one’s face was an act to express humility, submission and—to some extent—vulnerability. When Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly, it showed the severity of the situation, but it also demonstrated true dependence in God. They knew that turning to God in such a difficult moment was the only way to solve the situation.
Moses and Aaron were not the only ones that sought God in this event. Caleb and Joshua, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes. The tearing of one’s clothes typically was associated with grief as in Genesis 37:29, 34. When Joshua and Caleb saw the distress of Moses and Aaron, they took the challenge upon themselves. They encouraged the congregation to remain faithful and pleaded with the people not to rebel against the Lord. They reassured the Israelites God would lead them into the land and that the Israelites would conquer the people of the land.
Accountability Comes (Numbers 14:10-12)
The whole assembly talked about stoning them. God’s presence came at the right moment to save his servants from being stoned. In the Old Testament, there are a few instances where people were stoned to death. In Leviticus 20:2, God commanded that anyone who sacrificed children to Molech to be stoned to death. In Leviticus 20:27, the people were commanded to stone to death any medium or spiritist. Sabbath-breakers (Numbers 15:36) and people drawing other people away from the Lord (Deuteronomy 13:10) were supposed to be put to death [stoned to death].
God saw the people’s sin was so severe, he needed to appear at the tent of meeting. When he appeared, he asked Moses a genuinely harsh question: How long will these people treat me with contempt?
It is critical to stop here for a moment and take a close look at God’s speech. God rebuked the people for two reasons—contempt and refusal. They treated God with contempt and refused to believe in spite of all the signs. Then, God told Moses the fate of the people, saying he would strike them down and destroy them. The Israelites were about to face the wrath of God. They were being held accountable for their disobedience and disloyalty.
Grace Sought (Numbers 14:13-19)
About an hour after my mother confronted me about my trip to the arcade, my mother came to the room and told me she loved me, but what I had done had to be punished. Although she told me she loved me, I had to pay the consequence of my action.
In this situation, Moses appealed to God on behalf of the people. He pointed out God’s character: “If you put all these people to death… the nations who have heard this report will say, the Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them” (15,16). Moses also appealed to God based on his grace: “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion… forgive the sin of these people” (17, 19).
Jaime Cortez is the discipleship pastor at First Baptist Church in Athens, Texas.