The Expository Files

Saved Only By The Glory Of The Lord
(Numbers 14:10)  

Today we count as heroes timeless men of faith like Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. Just think of all the baby boys that have been named in their honor and carry these dignified names. While we venerate them, we often forget how hated they were by the popular mind in their own day.

In Numb. 13:2-16 Moses called for each tribe of Israel to send one of their leaders into the promised land to spy it out. They were to report back what people and resources and defenses were there. (13:17-20) These men surveyed the land for 40 days from top to bottom. (13:21-26) These leaders/spies came back and reported the facts about the land. They all reported the great fertility of the land and the strength of its inhabitants. With these facts there was no dispute, but most of the spies drew the wrong conclusion because they had no faith. They reported that the land was to much to take and the people became quite upset. Here we see an illustration of a truth that is often hard and disheartening to learn: that being a leader of God's people and being faithful to God is not always the same thing.

Then Caleb "quieted the people before Moses, and said, 'We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.'" (13:30) The man of faith took the position that if God promised it to them, they should "BY ALL MEANS GO." For the man of faith the potential opposition of the inhabitants was nothing compared to what God said that He would do. But the other spies thought only from a worldly perspective and contradicted Caleb and misled the people saying that the cities were too big and strong to take.The people were so firmly convinced of the worldly conclusions of faithless men that "the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night." (14:1) How different the the history of this generation would have been had they taken to heart the word of God and the encouragements of faithful men. But they received and meditated on the words of the faithless.

The night of weeping led to a morning of grumbling. (14:2,3) They complained even of their deliverance from slavery because they contended it would only end in their death in the desert. Total lack of faith in God's purposes led them to revolution against God's appointed leaders. "So they said to one another, 'Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.'" (14:4)

At this point the few godly men among them did all they could to stop the rebellion. Even if vastly outnumbered, and that is often the case, godly men must stand firm. Moses and Aaron fell on their face in humility toward God and horror at the people's rebellion. (14:5) Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in great mourning and tried to convince the people to have confidence in the promises of God. "If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us--a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them." (14:8,9) They implored the people saying that they could have all the blessings that God offered if they would continue in His divine favor. 'Don't rebel and live so that they Lord is pleased with you, and all will go well with you,' they preached.

This show of humility, reliance on God and call to faithfully fulfill God's plan was met with even more belligerence. "But all the congregation said to stone them with stones." (14:10a) They were enraged that any would stand in the way of their rebellious plans and moved to carry out all the violence that a revolution brings, in spite of the faithful who entreated them to follow God's way. They were ready to kill. When you reject God's purpose and promises so completely that you are ready to go back to the world instead of pressing on in faith, you will truly hate those who stand in your way by teaching God's word.

The only thing that saved Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb that day was direct divine intervention. In our minds we can see the few faithful standing before the tabernacle facing the menacing crowd led by those with rocks. As they closed in, God showed which side He was on. "Then the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel." (14:10b) The light of God shining before them quieted the crowd that day and humbled them, at least for a time.

On this occasion God made a demonstration to show which side He was on. Everyone should have already known that based on what His word. We will not have miraculous demonstrations to tell us which side God approves and which He does not, but we do have His word. That will have to be enough for us. We must learn our lesson from God's past speaking and appearing and apply it without being shown miraculously on every occasion.

But there are some who are so hardened in worldliness that even a glorious manifestation of God's power will not stop them. In Acts 7 Stephen gave the Jews a recounting of their rebellions even as "all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel." (Acts 6:15) That worldly crew resisted both the word and the miracle and stoned Stephen. If you will reject the word you'll reject a miracle also.

Be careful how you treat God's word and those who faithfully proclaim it. Don't wait for extraordinary evidence before you follow it. If you are not prepared to do what God has clearly said you'd probably reject a divine sign, even if He were inclined to give one. Don't count on God going to extraordinary measures to stop or instruct you. He's already told you. So be saved by the faithful word that you already have.

 By Jay Horsley
From Expository Files 11.3, March, 2004