THIS BIBLE STUDY ARTICLE IS MOSTLY BASED ON THE EVENTS IN NUMBERS CHAPTER 13 & 14
Numbers 14:11 NKJV
Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?”
The story of how the Israelites initially failed to enter the Promised Land but were instead cursed for 40 years by God in the wilderness is a tragic one. The fact that an entire generation were so close to the promise but because of their rebellion, rejection & unbelief of God’s word, the Lord prohibited & cursed an entire generation of people from obtaining the promise.
As Christians, when we walk with God, do we sometimes behave like the ungrateful & unbelieving Israelites? Do we sometimes complain & walk in unbelief before God who has given us His promises or do we walk by faith in Him and not according to sight?
Through studying the Israelites until the point when God sent them into the wilderness for 40 years, this article is about revealing some of the ways in which we as individuals can sometimes behave as these Israelites did towards God. Instead of walking by faith, they walked in unbelief & rebellion towards the plans and promises of God.
- God promises the children of Israel that He is going to give to them the land of Canaan which is the Promised Land. (Numbers 1:1).
- God however wants them to spy out the land & discover for themselves the nature & quality of the land before they all enter into the land and possess it as promised (Numbers 13:2-21).
- People from each of the 12 tribes are assigned & sent out to spy out the land including Caleb & Joshua. Then 40 days later they return from spying the land & the spies give a report to Moses, Aaron & all the congregation of the Israelites (Numbers 13:22-26).
- The majority of the spies (more than 98% of them) give a very bad report & reasons about why it would be impossible for them to possess the land. The negative & unbelieving spies spoke of giants who resided in the land who were too large and too strong in stature to defeat (Numbers 13:31-33)
- Out of all the spies who went to spy on the land, only Caleb & Joshua believed in the promises of God and that despite the giants that lived in the land, Caleb & Joshua believed that God will give the Israelites victory to overcome the giants so that they may possess the Promised Land (Numbers 13:30; Numbers 14:6-8)
- However the children of Israel complain & reflect their unbelief not only towards Moses, Aaron, Caleb & Joshua – but they also reflected their lack of belief towards God Himself who on many occasions had shown them His presence & power (Numbers 14:1-4,9,10)
- God eventually decides to punish the Israelites for 40 years into the wilderness & by not allowing the older generation to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:21-45)
So How Are We Like The Israelites In Our Personal Lives?
It’s easy as a reader to judge the children of Israel for failing to trust God even after the many miracles & signs that God showed them like parting the Red Sea & the fact that they constantly had a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Therefore the presence & power of the Lord was always with them, yet the Israelites still had unbelief in their hearts.
Why did they have unbelief? Why were they rebellious? Why did they reject the promise of God? Do we as individuals sometimes behave like the children of Israel?
6 WAYS PEOPLE SHOW UNBELIEF TOWARDS GOD
- We Can Show Unbelief By Allowing Our Circumstances & Challenges to Negatively Affect Our Faith in God & in His Promises.
The Israelites Complained & Focused More on their External Circumstances
The Israelites had a habitual characteristic of sulking, murmuring & complaining. They always wrongly believed their external circumstances & problems were bigger than God who had brought them out of Egypt.
Numbers 11:1 NKJV – Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.
In Your Personal Life: – Do you only focus on your problems & circumstances instead of putting all your attention and meditation on God who is bigger than your problems & is able to deal with your situation? Do you mediate on your problems instead of meditating on God’s promises?
- We Can Show Unbelief By Leaning On Our Own Logic & Reasoning Instead of Thinking According to God’s Word & Promises.
The Israelites Leaned On Their Own Understanding
Numbers 13:30-33 NKJV – Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to 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 stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
The negative spies used their own limited understanding and convinced themselves & the Israelites that they would not be able to defeat the giants who currently occupied the land. By leaning on their own understanding, the Israelites focused more on their own personal & limited abilities and not on the limitless abilities and almighty power of God to defeat the giants.
The negative spies clearly forgot that God was on their side & that God was able to defeat the giants in Canaan just as He had defeated the Egyptians.
In Your Personal Life: – Do you lean on your own logic & understanding instead of having the mind of Christ. Do you trust your own reasoning & knowledge rather than trusting in the infallible word of God? Do you think with God or do you think outside God’s plans.
- We Can Show Unbelief By Not Trusting in God’s Motives. God’s Motives Are Always Good.
The Israelites Didn’t Trust God’s Motives
Numbers 14:3,4 NKJV – Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”
The Israelites presumed that after escaping Egypt that their life would become smooth-sailing and somehow free from problems and challenges.
Therefore whenever they faced various trials they assumed God delighted in their suffering or that He didn’t care that they were suffering. However, facing problems in life does not indicate that God has forsaken us or that God is delighting in our suffering.
God sometimes uses trials to test our faith and if we respond correctly tests or trials can produce a good character within us.
In Your Personal Life : – Do you question God’s motives whenever you face challenges in your life?
James 1:2-5 NKJV – My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Romans 8:28 NKJV – And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
- We Can Show Unbelief By Being Rebellious Towards God’s Word & Teachings
The Israelites Were Rebellious & Unteachable
Numbers 14:6-10 NKJV – But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.” 10 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.
Have you ever found yourself rebelling against somebody who was actually trying to help you, correct you and encourage you?
Or have you ever tried to help somebody & tried to correct them & encourage them in the Lord only to receive a rebellious reaction from the person you’re trying to help? This is what Joshua & Caleb encountered when they attempted to correct & encourage the Israelite congregation. Joshua & Caleb were almost stoned.
In Your Personal Life: – How good are you at listening to godly or Biblical advice? Do you delight in obeying the word of God? Are you a teachable person or are you rebellious towards anyone who tries to correct you?
- We Can Show Unbelief By Rejecting The Goodness & Perfect Nature of God
The Israelites Rejected God’s Perfect Nature
Numbers 23:19 NKJV – “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
It seems that no matter what good things God did for the Israelites, they were never satisfied. At every sign of a problem, they would murmur, complain & rebel against Moses & God.
God had administered the 10 plagues in Egypt as a sign to the Egyptians that He was more powerful than the Egyptian gods. God gave them manna daily to prove that they need to trust Him daily and that He will supply their daily needs. God used the pillar of cloud by day & the pillar of fire by night to remind them of His direction and presence in their life and that He would never leave them or forsake them.
Yet despite these many signs, the children of Israel did not learn or appreciate God’s blessings and goodness in their lives. Instead the Israelites only focused on what they did not have rather than on what God was currently doing & the promises He had planned in their lives.
Numbers 14:11 NKJV – Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?
In Your Personal Life:– Do you doubt the faithfulness & goodness of God?
- We Can Show Unbelief By Allowing Fear to Control Our Choices & Decisions
The Israelites Were Fearful; They Seemed Fear Man More Than God
Numbers 14:9 NKJV – “Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”
In Numbers 13:32-33 most of the spies gave a bad report that the giants in the Promised Land were so huge that they made the spies look like mere grasshoppers. When they heard the bad report, the Israelites responded with fear and weeping (Numbers 14:1). Their fear & weeping eventually turned into complaining & bitterness against Moses & God to the point that they wished they could digress and go back to Egypt – the very nation that enslaved them (Numbers 14:2-4).
Fear can cause people to make bad decisions.
In Your Personal Life:- Do you make decisions based on fear or based on faith in God’s word?
Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
As we walk with God, let us be reminded that God is not a man according to Numbers 23:19.
Unlike man, God is good, God is faithful; God will never leave us or forsake us; God has our best interests at heart; God is to be fully trusted for without faith it is impossible to please God.
InspiredWalk.com, "6 Ways People Show Unbelief Towards God", http://www.inspiredwalk.com/2067/6-ways-people-show-unbelief-towards-god
rebellion is as the sin of divination [or witchcraft] (1 Samuel 15:23 ESV)
An evil man seeks only rebellion, and a cruel messenger will be sent against him. (Proverbs 17:11 ESV)
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:12-1 ESV)
Ok, so we understand why God hates rebellion but why would He compare it to witchcraft? The word used here in the original Hebrew was “qecem” and can mean either witchcraft or divination. Either would apply because what God is really trying to say here is that, at it’s root, rebellion is nothing more then willfully choosing to be led of an other spirit. It’s choosing the do the will and the work of the enemy in direct opposition to that of God’s. This point is ever further clarified as it goes on to say that stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. What is stubbornness, but refusing correction and repentance, what is iniquity, but sin and wickedness, and what is idolatry, but choosing to give your service, obedience, and allegiance to an other god? Is it starting to make since now? Looking at it from a spiritual point of view, which is God’s point of view, we can begin to see the severity of the sin of rebellion the way God sees it.
Marandia Wright, "Why Is Rebellion The Same As Witchcraft To God?", July 20, 2015, https://heartofworshipchurch.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/why-is-rebellion-the-same-as-witchcraft-to-god/
Unbelief is not a lesser kind of sin than, say, adultery. Unbelief is not a passive position whereby the doubter is simply waiting for belief in God to become a more reasonable choice. The Bible is clear. Unbelief is deliberate and damnable sin. It is the fruit of a hard heart. Don't misunderstand. All of us have times of uncertainty. All of us, in the frailty of our incomplete sanctification, will be met with dismay as we struggle to believe as a part of the creation that is still groaning. But resilient disbelief that refuses to heed the witness God has written across creation and within His Word is nothing less than conscious rebellion.
Todd Pruitt, "The Rebellion of Unbelief", November 3, 2010, http://www.alliancenet.org/mos/1517/the-rebellion-of-unbelief#.WWQzsFGQxtR
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16 ESV)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 ESV)
Therefor we need to present ourselves as obedient bondslaves to God which leads to righteousness. We need to believe God's word which says that we must believe that He exists and that He will reward those who seek Him. And we must have an attitude of submission towards our God by obeying His commands and instructions (all designed by a loving God to give us, His children, life). These are all choices we can make in Christ.
Characteristics of Being Free from Rebellion
Submission to Authority
James 4:6-7 ESV
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.