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Numbers 17

Aaron’s Rod Buds

17 [a]Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, and get from them a rod for each father’s household: twelve rods, from all their leaders according to their fathers’ households. You shall write each name on his rod, and write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi; for there is one rod for the head of each of their fathers’ households. You shall then deposit them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony, where I meet with you. It will come about that the rod of the man whom I choose will sprout. Thus I will lessen from upon Myself the grumblings of the sons of Israel, who are grumbling against you.” Moses therefore spoke to the sons of Israel, and all their leaders gave him a rod apiece, for each leader according to their fathers’ households, twelve rods, with the rod of Aaron among their rods. So Moses deposited the rods before the Lord in the tent of the testimony.

Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Moses then brought out all the rods from the presence of the Lord to all the sons of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod. 10 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony [b]to be kept as a sign against the [c]rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die.” 11 Thus Moses did; just as the Lord had commanded him, so he did.

12 Then the sons of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, we perish, we are dying, we are all dying! 13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, must die. Are we to perish completely?”

So this is almost ex-scriptural, but after the last verses, it would seem only natural that Moses would tell them what God had told him just before. It doesn’t say that anywhere, but this was the whole point. Was God really wearied by their grumbling?

He doesn’t ever get tired, so probably not. But he did want to protect the Israelites from themselves. They had just gotten around 15,000 people killed because of their murmuring and complaining against Aaron. So the whole point of this exercise wasn’t just to prove that Aaron and the Levites were chosen for God’s service.

It was to protect the people from their natural tendency. We always think the grass is greener on the other side, and so it was here. Folks thought Aaron and his family had it easy, but they had to depend completely on others for their daily meal. No doubt they had the same thoughts too, “if only we could go out and get a day job like everyone else!” So God put it right in front of them, once and for all, that Aaron was the chosen one for the priesthood, and everyone should be thankful for their occupation and the blessings of God.

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Numbers 16

Korah’s Rebellion

16 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took actionand they rose up before Moses, [a]together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, [b]chosen in the assembly, men of renown. They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “[c]You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

When Moses heard this, he fell on his face; and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His, and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself. Do this: take censers for yourselves, Korah and all [d]your company, and put fire in them, and lay incense upon them in the presence of the Lord tomorrow; and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the one who is holy. [e]You have gone far enough, you sons of Levi!”

Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi, is it [f]not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them; 10 and that He has brought you near, Korah, and all your brothers, sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking for the priesthood also? 11 Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord; but as for Aaron, [g]who is he that you grumble against him?”

12 Then Moses sent [h]a summons to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; but they said, “We will not come up. 13 Is it [i]not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us? 14 Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you [j]put out the eyes of [k]these men? We will not come up!”

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not regard their offering! I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them.” 16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your company be present before the Lord tomorrow, both you and they along with Aaron. 17 Each of you take his firepan and put incense on [l]it, and each of you bring his censer before the Lord, two hundred and fifty firepans; also you and Aaron shall each bring his firepan.” 18 So they each took his own censer and put fire on [m]it, and laid incense on [n]it; and they stood at the doorway of the tent of meeting, with Moses and Aaron. 19 Thus Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the doorway of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.

20 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.” 22 But they fell on their faces and said, “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, when one man sins, will You be angry with the entire congregation?”

23 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”

25 Then Moses arose and went to Dathan and Abiram, with the elders of Israel following him, 26 and he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing that belongs to them, or you will be swept away in all their sin.” 27 So they got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the doorway of their tents, along with their wives and their sons and their little ones. 28 Moses said, “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not [o]my doing. 29 If these men die [p]the death of all men or [q]if they suffer the fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord [r]brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into [s]Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord.”

31 As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to [t]Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 All Israel who werearound them fled at their [u]outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us up!”35 Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.

36 [v]Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 37 “Say to Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, that he shall take up the censers out of the midst of the [w]blaze, for they are holy; and you scatter the [x]burning coals abroad. 38 As for the censers of these [y]men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, let them be made into hammered sheets for a plating of the altar, since they did present them before the Lord and they are holy; and they shall be for a sign to the sons of Israel.” 39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers which the men who were burned had offered, and they hammered them out as a plating for the altar, 40 as a [z]reminder to the sons of Israel that no [aa]layman who is not of the [ab]descendants of Aaron should come near to burn incense before the Lord; so that he will not become like Korah and his company—just as the Lord had spoken to him [ac]through Moses.

Murmuring and Plague

41 But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the Lord’s people.” 42 It came about, however, when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,45 [ad]Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.” Then they fell on their faces. 46 Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the Lord, the plague has begun!” 47 Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, and ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put onthe incense and made atonement for the people. 48 He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked. 49 But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the tent of meeting, for the plague had been checked.

This is a solemn reminder of what happens when we let our pride get out of control. When we forget who God is, and try to put ourselves on a pedestal. It did not end well for Korah, his followers, or those who tried to rebel against the commands of God.

When we draw near to God, we realize how incredible he really is, but how much more so that he loves us as his own. Give him glory alone, and seek none for yourself.

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Numbers 15:32-41

Sabbath-breaking Punished

32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; 34 and they put him in [p]custody because it had not been [q]declared what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him [r]to death with stones, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

37 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39 It shall be a tassel for you [s]to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not [t]follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God.”

We don’t know how long it was between God giving the law and this man’s sin, but this ties in with the previous passage a bit. It’s pretty hard to go out and gather wood on the sabbath day accidentally, when everyone else is resting and observing the sabbath.

This was a big deal to God, not just because it was supposed to be holy, but because God set it apart for man to rest. He knows we need it, and if we don’t get rest, we die. This became a very real reminder of the consequences of not resting and following God’s law.

However, God knew this wouldn’t be enough. Sure, they might talk about it for a while, and no one who saw it would forget the man who was executed for gathering wood, but we have a tendency to forget important things far too easily.

So God gave them instruction for a permanent visible reminder, all their days. They were to wear tassels on their garments, with a single cord of blue to remind them to whom they belonged. Which makes me think it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we did something similar. We forget too easily that we belong to God, that when we lay our life down at His feet, we are not to take it back up again. Remember.

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Number 15:1-31

Laws for Canaan

15 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land [a]where you are to live, which I am giving you,then make an offering by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering or a sacrifice to [b]fulfill a special vow, or as a freewill offering or in your appointed times, to make a soothing aroma to the Lord, from the herd or from the flock. The one who presents his offering shall present to the Lord a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a [c]hin of oil, and you shall prepare wine for the drink offering, one-fourth of a hin, with the burnt offering or for the sacrifice, for each lamb. Or for a ram you shall prepare as a grain offering two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-third of a hin of oil; and for the drink offering you shall offer one-third of a hin of wine as a soothing aroma to the Lord. When you prepare a bull as a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to [d]fulfill a special vow, or for peace offerings to the Lord, then you shall offer with the bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-half a hin of oil; 10 and you shall offer as the drink offering one-half a hin of wine as an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the Lord.

11 ‘Thus it shall be done for each ox, or for each ram, or for each of the male lambs, or of the goats. 12 According to the number that you prepare, so you shall do for everyone according to their number. 13 All who are native shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the Lord.

Law of the Sojourner

14 If an alien sojourns with you, or one who may be among you throughout your generations, and he wishes to make an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the Lord, just as you do so he shall do. 15 As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord.16 There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.’”

17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land where I bring you, 19 then it shall be, that when you eat of the [e]food of the land, you shall lift up [f]an offering to the Lord. 20 Of the first of your [g]dough you shall lift up a cake as an [h]offering; as the [i]offering of the threshing floor, so you shall lift it up. 21 From the first of your [j]dough you shall give to the Lord an [k]offering throughout your generations.

22 ‘But when you unwittingly fail and do not observe all these commandments, which the Lord has spoken to Moses, 23 even all that the Lord has commanded you [l]through Moses, from the day when the Lord gave commandment and onward throughout your generations, 24 then it shall be, if it is done unintentionally, [m]without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one bull for a burnt offering, as a soothing aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one male goat for a sin offering. 25 Then the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and they will be forgiven; for it was an error, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their error. 26 So all the congregation of the sons of Israel will be forgiven, with the alien who sojourns among them, for it happened to all the people through error.

27 ‘Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering. 28 The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him [n]that he may be forgiven. 29 You shall have one law for him who does anythingunintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30 But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his [o]guilt will be on him.’”

There are a few interesting things here, and one is regarding “aliens” or foreigners. What I think is notable is the fact that God says there is one law for both native and alien. While there is obviously something distinguishable that would show who is a foreigner, all are welcome to offer sacrifices to God and worship Him.

It was never God’s intent to be just the God of the Jews, but that through them all might be blessed and know who God is.

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Numbers 14

14 Then all the congregation [a]lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept [b]that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 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 will be our [c]prey. Their [d]protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” 10 But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.

Moses Pleads for the People

11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?12 I will smite them with [e]pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.”

13 But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst, 14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O Lord, are in the midst of this people, for You, O Lord, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.15 Now if You slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Your fame will [f]say, 16 ‘Because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have [g]declared, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children [h]to the third and the fourth generations.’ 19 Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

The Lord Pardons and Rebukes

20 So the Lord said, “I have pardoned them according to your word; 21 but indeed, as I live, [i]all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord. 22 Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, 23 shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, [j]I will bring into the land [k]which he entered, and his [l]descendants shall take possession of it. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valleys; turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the [m]Red Sea.”

26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are [n]making against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you;29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your [o]numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. 30 Surely you shall not come into the land in which I [p]swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will [q]suffer for your [r]unfaithfulness, until your corpses [s]lie in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your [t]guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition. 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.’”

36 As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land, 37 even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.

Israel Repulsed

39 When Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly. 40 In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the [u]ridge of the hill country, saying, “Here we are; [v]we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised.” 41 But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the [w]commandment of the Lord, when it will not succeed? 42 Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. 43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the Lord. And the Lord will not be with you.” 44 But they went up heedlessly to the [x]ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses left the camp.45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah.

We can be thankful God doesn’t send us out to the wilderness for forty years as a result of our unbelief. But it is a stark reminder that God is good and God is holy.

We should not take His promises lightly, or take our commitment to Him lightly. While it seems crazy that the Israelites would be so fickle, especially with all the miracles they witnessed, are we better? Are we more faithful? How often do we say “yes Lord!” only to turn around and go our own way?

God is true and faithful, and that is what He asks of us. To be true to what He created, and what He has designed us for. Be true, even when it hurts.

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Numbers 13

Spies View the Land

13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.” So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran at the [a]command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the sons of Israel. These then were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun; from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; 10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi; 11 from the tribe of Joseph, from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi; 12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; 13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael;14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi; 15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. 16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.

17 When Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, he said to them, “Go up [b]there into the [c]Negev; then go up into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many. 19 How is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are they [d]like open camps or with fortifications? 20 How is the land, is it fat or lean? Are there trees in it or not? [e]Make an effort then to get some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.

21 So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob, [f]at Lebo-hamath. 22 When they had gone up into the Negev, [g]they came to Hebron where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the [h]descendants of Anak were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)

23 Then they came to the [i]valley of [j]Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs. 24 That place was called the valley of [k]Eshcol, because of the cluster which the sons of Israel cut down from there.

The Spies’ Reports

25 When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, 26 they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel [l]in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the [m]descendants of Anak there. 29 Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan.”

30 Then Caleb quieted the people [n]before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” 32 So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its [o]inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. 33 There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

It seems that this was a test, though perhaps they didn’t realize it, they soon would find out how badly they failed the test. God was with them, had promised them the land, and surely He was going to help them conquer it.

So God has Moses send in 12 of the leaders of the Israelites, to see whether they will choose to see the blessings and remember that God is with them, or if they will be overwhelmed by their own inadequacy. While two men passed the test, the majority did not, and the results would be disastrous.

God promises to be with us, through good or bad, and we need to learn to trust in Him, no matter what comes our way.

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Numbers 12

The Murmuring of Miriam and Aaron

12 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) Suddenly the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called [a]Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, He said,

“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.
I shall speak with him in a dream.
“Not so, with My servant Moses,
He is faithful in all My household;
With him I speak mouth to mouth,
Even openly, and not in dark sayings,
And he beholds the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant, against Moses?”

So the anger of the Lord burned against them and He departed. 10 But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous. 11 Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!” 13 Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!” 14 But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.” 15 So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.

16 Afterward, however, the people moved out from Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

Whether Moses knew anything about the grumbling that was going on, he had one very important thing going for him. He was humble, and he wasn’t interested in what others thought about him. Moses would defend God all day long, but he knew his faults and shortcomings, and wasn’t about to get defensive about himself.

We see elsewhere that God says “vengeance is mine, I will repay.” It is a reminder to us, that we are not the defenders of our souls. When someone wrongs us, we can trust God to take care of things. That doesn’t mean he is going to strike them dead, or even give them leprosy. But he will take care of us, and he will surely work to bring about repentance in the heart of the offender.

Even in this passage, we see that God was far less interested in punishment than in a repentant heart. Though God knew Miriam needed a lesson, and a harsh one at that, he was ready and waiting to forgive when the lesson had been learned.

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Numbers 11:24-35

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent.25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.

26 But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the [q]other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp. 27 So a young man ran and told Moses and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, “Moses, my lord, restrain them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” 30 Then Moses [r]returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.

The Quail and the Plague

31 Now there went forth a wind from the Lord and it brought quail from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp and [s]about two [t]cubits deep on the surface of the ground. 32 The people [u]spent all day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten [v]homers) and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague. 34 So the name of that place was called [w]Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had been greedy. 35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people set out for Hazeroth, and they [x]remained at Hazeroth.

There is an interesting contrast here. In the first section, we see the continuation of the “ordination” of the elders that were to assist Moses. The Spirit of God came upon them all, and it seems there were two who didn’t make it to the meeting, but were still in camp, and they to had the Spirit come upon them.

It’s easy to look at that and get all upset about these two who couldn’t be bothered to follow instructions. They didn’t bother to come and join the others, they wanted to stay comfortable in their own homes, but God had other plans, and let them all know it. Moses could have been frustrated or jealous, but he shows some true humility here, and says, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!”

Then we see the coming of the meat. The quail just came and fell on the ground, nearly 3 feet deep on both sides of the camp. The people who were so greedy for meat went out and gathered a ton of meat, so much that it says the least gathered 10 homers. For reference, it is believed that a homer is 11 US bushels (measuring by volume). Each homer is then 100 gallons, or 660 pounds. So these folks were gathering 6000 pounds of quail, that’s some serious greed.

It’s no wonder God strikes them with a plague before the food even touches their teeth, they’ve already shown they don’t trust him to provide by even asking for the meat, and now by stockpiling such ludicrous amounts they have insulted God beyond measure.

So which boat do we find ourselves in? Do we look at the blessings of others and thank God with them, or do we get jealous and let our greed kick in? A generous attitude (even when you have little to spare) goes a lot further than greed, no matter what you might think you see in the culture.

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Numbers 11:10-23

The Complaint of Moses

10 Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and [j]Moses was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You [k]been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a [l]nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’?13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ 14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too [m]burdensome for me. 15 So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

Seventy Elders to Assist

16 The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone. 18 Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 [n]but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’” 21 But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, so that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?” 23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s [o]power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will [p]come true for you or not.”

I love the last verse here especially, but before that, there’s a lesson to be had for those in leadership. Don’t try to do it alone, you can’t. You will fail miserably if you try to go it alone. You need God, and you need other people upon whom you can depend. God made us social creatures and knows that we need each other. Ask him for help, and he will provide.

Then, we see Moses humanity showing again. He asks God, how in the world are we going to find enough food for these people. There are 600k of them (that’s just the men)! God’s reply is just fantastic, “is the Lord’s power limited?” Obviously not, and Moses was about to have a front row seat to view God’s power once more. This was the man who had seen God deliver these people from Egypt with the incredible plagues. He had seen God do small miracles, and big ones. Yet he still struggled with doubt, as we all do.

When you are doing what God has told you to do, just keep moving forward, and trust him to provide. He won’t let you down. There are countless examples throughout the Bible, and even in more modern church history. God will provide when we are not enough.

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Numbers 11:1-9

The People Complain

11 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire [a]died out. So the name of that place was called [b]Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.

The rabble who were among them [c]had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us [d]meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our [e]appetite is gone. There is nothing at all [f]to look at except this manna.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.The people would go about and gather it and grind it [g]between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of [h]cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall [i]with it.

It’s amazing how short our memories can be, blessing God one moment, but as soon as life gets unpleasant, we can start to complain. Here we have the Israelites having been delivered from slavery in Egypt, carrying away spoil like a conquering army without ever fighting a battle. Yet they dare to complain against God that he wasn’t feeding them well enough. God was literally dropping food on their doorstep, and they were upset that there was no meat to eat.

We must be careful in our own lives to remember the blessings of God. Everything we have is from Him, and it is foolish to complain when we don’t have this or that. Focus on God and what you DO have, learn to be content, and manage well what He has given you, and you’ll be surprised how your outlook will change.