Unification Sermons and Talks

by Reverend Joy Pople

Wilderness Lesson 5: Faith

Numbers 9 - 14

Long months had passed since the Israelites had left Egypt. They had met God at Mount Sinai and learned His commandments. They built the tabernacle and began worshipping God every day. Now God said: "The time has come for you to eat another Passover supper, for I want you to remember how the angel of death passed over your homes in Egypt."

Moses told the people the words of the Lord. Every family prepared a supper like the one they had eaten before leaving Egypt. The Lord told them to eat the Passover with unleavened bread and bitter herbs and not leave any leftovers. And the people obeyed.

Soon after that, the Israelites saw the cloud lift from above the tabernacle and float slowly toward the north. They knew that the Lord wanted them to travel on. As long as the cloud was over the tabernacle, they stayed in camp. At the Lord's command, they packed their things and moved.

The Lord told Moses: "Make two silver trumpets and use them to call the people to meetings and to call them to leave camp. Aaron's sons will blow the trumpets. Once you reach your own land, sound the trumpets when you go to battle against your enemies, and I will come to your rescue. During festivals sound the trumpets in memory of your God."

Moses invited his wife's brother to go with them to Canaan, but he wanted to go back to his own people. "Please do not leave us," Moses said. "You know the good places to camp in the wilderness. If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us."

The people had lived a long time under the shadow of the great mountain. How glad they must have been to start moving towards Canaan!

For three days they followed the cloud across the barren land. Each tribe traveled as a group. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. Resting in their tents, some people complained. When the Lord heard their complaining, He was displeased. Fire fell on the edges of the camp, and some people were killed. The people were afraid when they saw the fire, and they cried to Moses for help. Moses prayed, and God put out the fire.

Then the cloud led the Israelites farther north and brought them to a second stopping place. Here the Israelites complained again. They forgot the many blessings God had given them and thought of only one thing: meat. They wanted meat.

They began talking about all the things they would like to eat. One said, "Do you remember the good fish we had in Egypt?" Another added, "What about the cucumbers and the melons?" "I miss the leeks, onions and garlic," a third said. The more they thought about the food of Egypt, the more hungry and unhappy they became. When they saw the manna on the ground around their camp, they said, "We're tired of this manna. We want meat."

They complained as they gathered the manna. Some people cooked it in pots and others ground it up and made it into cakes. Everyone grumbled while they ate it. Finally, like cranky children, they stood in front of their tents and cried because they had no meat.

Moses heard them crying. God became angry, and Moses was upset. Time after time they had complained, and time after time he had prayed for them. This time he did not feel like praying for them. Moses asked the Lord: "Why do I have to lead these people? Did I conceive them and give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries a baby, to the land You promised to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? I cannot carry these people by myself; the burden is too heavy." Moses was so discouraged that he wished he were dead.

"Choose 70 men to lead the people," God told Moses. "Take them to the tabernacle with you, and I will come down and talk with you there. I will give My Spirit to the 70 men so they can help you lead the people. Then you will not have to carry all the responsibility by yourself."

About the people, God said, "Tell them they will have meat. Not one day or two days, not five days or ten days, not even 20 days, but for a whole month. They will have so much meat it will come out of their noses."

Moses replied, "Here I am with 600,000 men and You say You will give them meat to eat for a month! If a whole herd of animals were killed, would that be enough for them? If all the fish in the sea were caught, would that satisfy them?"

The Lord answered Moses, "Is the Lord's arm too short? You will see whether or not My words come true."

Moses told the people what the Lord had said. He selected 70 elders to come to the tabernacle. Then the spirit of the Lord rested on them and they prophesied. Two of the group who did not go to the tabernacle received God's spirit also and began to prophesy. People told Moses that these two men were prophesying but Moses was not jealous. Instead, he said: "I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His spirit on them."

In a wind from the sea came quail. Great flocks of migrating birds flew through the camp. All day and all night and all the next day, the people caught the little birds. Those who gathered the least had more than 60 bushels of them. It was enough meat for a month. The people ate and ate and ate. Many became sick, so sick that they died.

The cloud moved on and the people followed until it stopped again. Here Miriam and Aaron found fault with their brother. They complained that his wife was not an Israelite and they challenged his leadership. "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't He also spoken through us?" They were jealous of Moses because Moses was great in the eyes of the people, but Moses himself was humble and stayed silent.

God summoned Aaron and Miriam to the entrance of the tabernacle and spoke:

"When a prophet of the Lord is among you,
I reveal myself to him in visions,
I speak to him in dreams.
But this is not true of My servant Moses;
he is faithful in all My house.
With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord."

God left them in anger. When the cloud lifted from the tabernacle, Miriam's skin was white like snow. She had leprosy, a terrible disease that eats away a person's skin. When Aaron saw what had happened, he was sorry that they had sinned against Moses and against God. Aaron begged Moses: "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a baby that is born dead with its flesh half eaten away." Moses cried to the Lord: "Oh God, please heal her." The Lord replied to Moses: "If her father had spit in her face, she would be disgraced for a week. Keep her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can come back." Miriam stayed outside the camp for a week, and the people did not move on until she was brought back.

When the cloud lifted again, it led them to Kadesh, just outside of Canaan. The Israelites were almost at the beautiful land which God had promised them.

God told Moses: "Send one leader from each tribe into the land of Canaan to explore it."

Moses chose twelve men and told them: "Cross over the plain and go up into the hills. See what the land is like and whether the people are strong or weak, and whether they are many or few. See whether the land is good or bad. See whether the towns have walls around them. See whether the soil is fertile or poor. See whether there are trees. Bring back fruit from the land."

For 40 days the spies went here and there throughout the land. They saw strong cities and small towns. They saw fields of grain and large vineyards of grapes. The land was beautiful and full of all kinds of food. In this land they would not become hungry for meat, fruit or vegetables.

When the spies returned, they brought samples of the pomegranates and figs that grew in Canaan. Two men carried a large cluster of grapes on a pole between them. Never before had the people seen such wonderful fruit.

The people gathered to hear the explorers give their report: "We went into the land and it does flow with milk and honey. Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are large and are protected with strong walls. The Amalekites live in the desert; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan River." The people began talking among themselves about the report.

Then Caleb asked the people to be silent, and he told them: "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

But the men who had gone with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are. The land devours those who live in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

The people were so disappointed that they cried all night. When morning came, they complained against Moses and Aaron: "If only we had died in Egypt, or in the desert. Why did the Lord bring us to this land only to let us be killed by the sword? They will take our wives and children away from us. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" The people even planned to choose a captain and return to Egypt.

When Moses and Aaron heard about the plan, they fell on their faces and begged the people to obey God. How could these people doubt God's great power after He had brought them out of Egypt, led them through the Red Sea on dry land, given them water from a solid rock, rained food from heaven, and protected them from their enemies?

Two of the spies had faith in God. They were Caleb, from the tribe of Judah, and Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim [Joseph's second son]. They tore their clothes in distress and spoke to all the people: "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land which flows with milk and honey, and He will give it to us. Do not rebel against the Lord and do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us."

The people wanted to kill Caleb and Joshua. Then the glory of the Lord come down upon the tabernacle, and the Lord said to Moses: "How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me, in spite of all the signs I did? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, and I will make a greater and stronger nation out of your descendants."

Moses prayed earnestly for his people, as he had done many times before. He reminded the Lord, "If our people die in the wilderness, the Egyptians will hear about it. The people living in this land have already heard that You are with these people, that You have been seen face to face, and that Your cloud stays with them and goes before them. If You put these people to death all at one time, the nations will say that You were not able to bring them to the land You promised to them. Remember what You said, 'The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.' Because of Your great love, forgive the sin of these people once again."

For Moses' sake God forgave the Israelites, but He said, "Not one of the men who saw My glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert will ever see the land I promised to their forefathers. Tomorrow you will all turn back toward the desert, and the people will wander around until their bodies fall in the desert. No one who is over 20 years old now will enter this land. Your children will be shepherds here for 40 years, suffering for your lack of faith until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. But Caleb has a different spirit, and he follows me wholeheartedly. I will bring him and Joshua into the land they explored."

The ten faithless spies who had caused the people to complain were struck by a plague and they died.

When Moses told the people that they would have to go back into the wilderness, they wept bitterly. The next morning they got up very early and said, "We will go forward as the Lord first commanded us."

Moses called after them, "Don't go! The Lord is not with you. You will be defeated because you have turned away from the Lord."

The men paid no attention to Moses. They went out to fight, but the battle did not last long, for the men of Canaan easily drove the Israelites out of the land.

 Joy Pople (pople@servtech.com) wrote this Bible story from the standpoint of the Divine Principle.

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