from the Bible (NIV). Italics denote summaries of the Bible.
From Egypt to the Promised
The history recorded in the book of Numbers begins 12 to13 months
after the exodus from Egypt (Numbers 1:1; 9:1; Exodus 40:2). The Israelites
had spent most of the year in the region of Mount Sinai, where they
received the Law. Numbers records the history of Israel during the
next 39 years (Numbers 33:38), prior to their entrance into the "promised
1. Read "Why did Israel Wander in the Wilderness?" Why did
the Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years rather than entering
the "promised land?"
2. God promised
the land to the Israelites, yet an entire generation did not see the
promise fulfilled. What does this teach us about God's promises?
3. Read "New Testament
Perspective." The "promised land" symbolizes the
place of ultimate blessing in the presence of God. In what way does
the Christian enter into the "promised land" or "God's
rest?" In other words, how is "God's rest" realized?
Is it realized in the present, future, or both?
God told the Israelites that they would not enter the promised land,
they still attempted to enter (Numbers 14:40-44). However, they were
soundly defeated (Numbers 14:45). What principle is taught by Israel's
example, and how does it apply to the Christian's life? What is your
Why did Israel Wander in the Wilderness?
After 11 months in the region of Mount Sinai, the Israelites set
out for the "promised land" (Numbers 10:11-12). They soon
began to complain about their hardships (11:1). They complained about
the food, saying, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember
the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost - also the cucumbers, melons,
leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never
see anything but this manna!" (11:4b-6, NIV) Their complaining
angered God and frustrated Moses (11:1, 10). Moses prayed (11:2, 11-15).
God showed both judgment and grace (11:1b, 33; 11:2, 16-17, 31-32).
After arriving at Kadesh
Barnea (along the southernmost part of the promised land), the
Lord said to Moses, "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan,
which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe, send
one of its leaders (Numbers 13:1-2, NIV). So they went up and explored
the land (13:21). After coming back, they confirmed that the land
was good, saying, "it does flow with milk and honey!" (13:27).
However, they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land
they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those
living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size (13:32).
"We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the
same to them" (13:33b).
That night all the people
of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites
grumbled against Moses and Aaron (14:1-2b). And they said to each
other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt"
(14:4). But [Joshua and Caleb], who were among those who had explored
"If the Lord is pleased with us,
he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey,
and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do
not be afraid of the people of the land
Their protection is
gone, but the Lord is with us" (Num 14:6-9b). But the whole assembly
talked about stoning (killing) them (Num 14:10a).
The Lord said to Moses,
"How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long
will they refuse to believe in me?" I will strike them down"
(14:11a, 12a). But Moses interceded for Israel and asked God for
forgiveness (14:13-19). God replied, "I have forgiven them,
as you asked. Nevertheless,
not one of them will ever see the
land I promised on oath to their forefathers" (14:20, 23a). The
Lord said to Moses, "[Tell them], 'In this desert your bodies
will fall - every one of you twenty years old or more
grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land
and Joshua (14:29-30). Your children will be shepherds
here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the
last of your bodies lies in the desert" (14:33).
The next day, the Israelites decided to enter the land anyway (14:40).
But Moses said to them, "Why are you disobeying the Lord's command?
This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with
you. You will be defeated by your enemies" (14:41-42). Nevertheless,
in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country
Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country
came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah
New Testament Perspective
Referring to Israel's wilderness experience, the apostle Paul wrote,
"These things happened to them as examples and were written down
as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come"
(1 Corinthians10:11). Hebrews 3:7-4:13 is one of the New Testament
passages that applies Israel's wilderness experience to Christians
today. Read the following Bible excerpts:
were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses
led out of Egypt?
And to whom did God swear that they would
never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that
they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief" (Hebrews
3:16, 18-19, NIV).
since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful
that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also
have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message
they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did
not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest."
(Hebrews 4:1-3a, NIV).
us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no
one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Hebrews
Like the Israelites in the wilderness, the Christian is
between promise and fulfillment (in the ultimate sense). Like the
Israelites in the wilderness, we have been delivered from slavery,
but we have not reached our final destination and resting place. As
a Christian, how are you handling "the wilderness?" Are
you just wandering in wilderness? Or are you entering God's rest?
Are you trusting and obeying God? Are you experiencing His "rest?"
Perhaps you are still "enslaved in Egypt." You
cannot enter the "promised land" (God's rest) without leaving
"Egypt!" The Bible says that only Jesus Christ can set you
The Israelites "turned back" when the road ahead looked
difficult. They failed to obey God's instructions and trust in his
promises. Is there something in your life that you know God wants
you to do, but you have not proceeded because of fear, or lack of
faith. Humble yourself before the Lord, seek His help, and "make
every effort to enter that rest."