ANOTHER DAY THINKING ABOUT REBELLION — this time the rebellion displayed by the people at Kedesh Barnea, when they forfeited the opportunity to enter the Promised Land because of their sin (Num. 14).
(1) Just as in the previous chapter the ten spies who gave a negative report were responsible for discouraging the people, so the people are responsible to decide to whom they will give heed. They simply go with the majority. If they had adhered to the covenant to which they had pledged themselves, if they had remembered what God had already done for them, they would have sided with Caleb and Joshua. Those who side with the majority voice and not with the word of God are always wrong and are courting disaster.
(2) To doubt the covenantal faithfulness of God, not the least his ability and his will to save his own people and to do what he has said he will do, is to treat God with contempt (14:11, 23). Virtually all perpetual grumbling partakes of such contempt. This is a great evil.
(3) People often hide their own lack of faith, their blatant unbelief, by erecting a pious front. Here they express their concern that their wives and children will be taken as plunder (14:3). Instead of admitting they are scared to death and turning to God for help, implicitly they blame God for being less concerned for their wives and children than they are themselves.
(4) The punishment exacted therefore precisely suits the crime: that adult generation, with a couple of exceptions, dies out in the desert before their children (the very children about whom they profess such concern) inherit the land almost forty years later (14:20-35).
(5) There is a kind of repentance that grieves over past failures but is not resolved to submit to the word of God. The Israelites grieve — and decide to take over the Promised Land, even though God has now told them not to attempt it, since he will no longer be their bulwark and strength. Moses rightly sees that this is nothing other than further disobedience (14:41). Inevitably they are beaten up for their pains (14:44-45).
These five characteristics of this terrible rebellion are not unknown today: a popular adherence to majority religious opinion with very little concern to know and obey the word of God, an indifferent dismissal of God with contempt stemming from rank unbelief, pious excuses that mask fear and unbelief, temporal judgments that kill any possibility of courageous Christian work, and a faulty and superficial “repentance” that leaves a meeting determined to make things right, and yet is still unwilling to listen to the Word of God and obey him. God help us all.