Close But No Promised Land for the Rebellious Israelites (Numbers 14:20–38)
In one of the more tragic episodes in the Bible, and in the history of the Jewish people, a whole generation was lost in the wilderness simply because they couldn';t obey God, which means they couldn';t believe God and couldn';t remember the things He had done for them previously. God had lost his patience with these wayward people, and it was only because Moses pleaded so ardently with Him that they didn';t die on the spot (Numbers 14:13–19). And while God honored Moses';s request and forgave these people their individual sins, there were still consequences for those sins:
Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord';s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they tested me by refusing to listen. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will enter it.” (Numbers 14:20–23)
Later on in this chapter, God tells Moses that no one over the age of twenty — except Caleb and Joshua, who believed God and pleaded with the people to do the same — would ever enter the Promised Land but would instead die in the wilderness. For the next forty years, every man, woman, and child who had left Egypt during the time of the Exodus would wander in the desert around Canaan but would never be allowed to possess it.
While this passages tells us what was to become of all twelve spies — the two who believed and the ten who didn';t, Joshua 14:6–15 tells us what eventually became of Caleb because of his faith. Caleb believed God and acted on what he believed, and for that reason he became an example of the kind of faith God honors.
Other than Joshua and Caleb, no one in that throng of millions — not even Moses and Aaron — would ever see the Promised Land. Even those ten spies who came back with a negative report died as a result of their unbelief (Numbers 14:36, 37). The others were sentenced to spending forty years in the wilderness.
God pardoned the sins of the people of Israel, yet they still suffered the consequences. What does this tell you about the nature of the sin of unbelief and about the vital importance of taking God at His word?
This passage demonstrates the importance of both having faith and putting action behind your faith. What has God challenged you to believe Him for, and what kind of action are you putting behind that faith?