Numbers 14

* The people murmur at the account of the spies. (1-4) Joshua

and Caleb labour to still the people. (5-10) The Divine

threatenings, The intercession of Moses. (11-19) The murmurers

forbidden to enter the promised land. (20-35) Death of the evil

spies. (36-39) Defeat of the people, who now would invade the

land. (40-45)

1-4 Those who do not trust God, continually vex themselves. The

sorrow of the world worketh death. The Israelites murmured

against Moses and Aaron, and in them reproached the Lord. They

look back with causeless discontent. See the madness of

unbridled passions, which makes men prodigal of what nature

accounts most dear, life itself. They wish rather to die

criminals under God's justice, than to live conquerors in his

favour. At last they resolve, that, instead of going forward to

Canaan, they would go back to Egypt. Those who walk not in God's

counsels, seek their own ruin. Could they expect that God's

cloud would lead them, or his manna attend them? Suppose the

difficulties of conquering Canaan were as they imagined, those

of returning to Egypt were much greater. We complain of our

place and lot, and we would change; but is there any place or

condition in this world, that has not something in it to make us

uneasy, if we are disposed to be so? The way to better our

condition, is to get our spirits in a better frame. See the

folly of turning from the ways of God. But men run on the

certain fatal consequences of a sinful course.
5-10 Moses and Aaron were astonished to see a people throw away

their own mercies. Caleb and Joshua assured the people of the

goodness of the land. They made nothing of the difficulties in

the way of their gaining it. If men were convinced of the

desirableness of the gains of religion, they would not stick at

the services of it. Though the Canaanites dwell in walled

cities, their defence was departed from them. The other spies

took notice of their strength, but these of their wickedness. No

people can be safe, when they have provoked God to leave them.

Though Israel dwell in tents, they are fortified. While we have

the presence of God with us, we need not fear the most powerful

force against us. Sinners are ruined by their own rebellion. But

those who, like Caleb and Joshua, faithfully expose themselves

for God, are sure to be taken under his special protection, and

shall be hid from the rage of men, either under heaven or in

11-19 Moses made humble intercession for Israel. Herein he was

a type of Christ, who prayed for those that despitefully used

him. The pardon of a nation's sin, is the turning away the

nation's punishment; and for that Moses is here so earnest.

Moses argued that, consistently with God's character, in his

abundant mercies, he could forgive them.
20-35 The Lord granted the prayer of Moses so far as not at

once to destroy the congregation. But disbelief of the promise

forbids the benefit. Those who despise the pleasant land shall

be shut out of it. The promise of God should be fulfilled to

their children. They wished to die in the wilderness; God made

their sin their ruin, took them at their word, and their

carcases fell in the wilderness. They were made to groan under

the burden of their own sin, which was too heavy for them to

bear. Ye shall know my breach of promise, both the causes of it,

that it is procured by your sin, for God never leaves any till

they first leave him; and the consequences of it, that will

produce your ruin. But your little ones, now under twenty years

old, which ye, in your unbelief, said should be a prey, them

will I bring in. God will let them know that he can put a

difference between the guilty and the innocent, and cut them off

without touching their children. Thus God would not utterly take

away his loving kindness.
36-39 Here is the sudden death of the ten evil spies. They

sinned in bringing a slander upon the land of promise. Those

greatly provoke God, who misrepresent religion, raise dislike in

men's minds toward it, or give opportunity to those to do so,

who seek occasion. Justly are murmurers made mourners. If they

had mourned for the sin, when they were faithfully reproved, the

sentence had been prevented; but as they mourned for the

judgment only, it did them no service. There is in hell such

mourning as this; but tears will not quench the flames, nor cool

the tongue.
40-45 Some of the Israelites were now earnest to go forward

toward Canaan. But it came too late. If men would but be as

earnest for heaven while their day of grace lasts, as they will

be when it is over, how well would it be for them! That which

has been duty in its season, when mistimed, may be turned into

sin. Those who are out of the way of their duty, are not under

God's protection, and go at their peril. God bade them go, and

they would not; he forbade them, and they would go. Thus is the

carnal mind enmity against God. They had distrusted God's

strength; they now presume upon their own without his. And the

expedition fails accordingly; now the sentence began to be

executed, that their carcases should fall in the wilderness.

That affair can never end well, which begins with sin. The way

to obtain peace with our friends, and success against our

enemies, is, to have God, as our Friend, and to keep in his

love. Let us take warning from the fate of Israel, lest we

perish after the same example of unbelief. Let us go forth,

depending on God's mercy, power, promise, and truth; he will be

with us, and bring our souls to everlasting rest.
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