Week 10: Wandering in the Wilderness
Weekly memory verse:
John 3:14–15 – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Be Thou My Vision (free download)
How do you know there is a God?
The light of nature and the works of God plainly declare that there is a God, but only his Word and Spirit effectually reveal him to me for my salvation.
Day 46: Complaints Against the Lord
Reading: Number 11:1–35; 12:1–16
Chapter 11, Verse 3. Taberah. A name that means “burning.”
Verse 4. Rabble. This likely refers to non-Israelites who had accompanied Israel out of Egypt (see Exodus 12:38).
Verse 17. Spirit. This was a special anointing of the Holy Spirit that was given to particular leaders in order to supernaturally equip them to fulfill God’s task for them. It does not refer to a saving indwelling, as this same anointing is sometimes given even to unbelievers, and it can be taken away.
Verse 32. Ten homers. A homer was approximately 6 bushels.
Verse 34. Kibroth-hattaavah. A name that means “graves of craving.”
Chapter 12, Verse 1. Cushite. Cush was the firstborn son of Ham (Genesis 10:6–7), whose descendants became the Ethiopians. This wife of Moses likely refers to his second wife after the death of his first wife, Zipporah.
Verse 8. Mouth to mouth. Unlike with other prophets, God spoke to Moses directly instead of through visions and dreams. This indicated the special mediatorial relationship Moses had with God.
Verse 16. Paran. This was the region between Sinai and the Promised Land, thus this one verse summarizes the journal of Israel to Kadesh, on the northern border of Paran.
God promised that he would provide for his people, yet this did not stop them from complaining. Complaints against God reveal a lack of faith in him, and thus he punished it severely. Yet, in a beautiful display of his mercy and steadfast faithfulness toward his people, God chose to grant their request and provided them with meat in addition to the manna. And to question the special, anointed Mediator between God and his chosen people was a particularly grievous sin.
- What does complaining against God reveal about our hearts?
- Why did God provide the people with meat even though they had complained against him?
- What are some ways you complain against God?
Day 47: Cries of the Faithful
Reading: Psalm 12–13
Psalm 12, Verse 1. Godly one is gone. This is clearly a hyperbolic statement, but it reveals David’s perception that there are no righteous people left and sets the context for the rest of the psalm.
Verse 6. Pure … purified. David poetically contrasts the purity of God’s words with the profanity of the wicked, but that same purity guarantees the purity of what he has promised.
Psalm 13, Verse 1. How long. This lament provides one of the simplest examples of a believer’s appropriate response to turmoil. The psalm moves progressively from despair (vv. 1–2) through desires (vv. 3–4) to delight in the Lord (vv. 5–6).
Verses 4, 5. Rejoice … rejoice. The psalmist poetically contrasts the rejoicing of the wicket with his own confident rejoicing in the salvation of the Lord.
When it appears that no righteous people exist and that God’s enemies are overwhelming, we must nevertheless trust in the steadfast, pure faithfulness of God. It is appropriate to cry out to the Lord in times of distress, but our knowledge of who he is must always lead us to confident trust in his promises.
- Have you ever felt that there were no other righteous people? How did you respond?
- What about God gives us assurance and confidence that he will remain faithful to his people, even when it doesn’t seem like it?
- What should be our appropriate response in times of distress?
Day 48: Spies in Canaan
Reading: Numbers 13:1–14:45
Chapter 13, Verse 1. Send men to spy. Deuteronomy 1 makes clear that it was the people who originally requested that spies be sent into Canaan, but here the Lord affirms their desires.
Verse 16. Hoshea … Joshua. Moses changed the name “desire for salvation” to “the Lord is salvation.”
Verse 20. Season of the first ripe grapes. This would have been mid-summer.
Once again the people display their fundamental distrust in the Lord, despite their knowledge of his character and the fact of what he had already done on their behalf. On ten separate occasions the people had complained and questioned God’s goodness, and now finally God judges the people for their sin, condemning them to die in the wilderness. Yet once again God displays his mercy by promising that their children will indeed enter the promised land.
- Why is the report of the ten spies called “bad” (13:32)?
- Why is complaint against God such a terrible sin?
- What did Joshua and Caleb’s report reveal about them?
Day 49: Korah’s Rebellion
Reading: Numbers 16:1–17:13
Chapter 16, Verse 32. Households. According to Numbers 26:11, the children were not part of those who were swallowed up.
Verse 46. Incense. Incense symbolizes intercessory prayer.
Verse 49. Died. This event is referenced as a warning in 1 Corinthians 10:10.
Chapter 17, Verse 4. The Testimony. This refers to the Ten Commandments written on the stone tablets.
Verse 13. Comes near. This is a picture of drawing near to the presence of God, which permeates all of Scripture. Here the truth that sin prevents anyone from drawing near without a mediator (in this case, Aaron, the High Priest) will die.
All of the complaining against God and his chosen servants comes to a climax in the rebellion of Korah, but God’s swift judgment confirms that while his promises of blessing to those who obey will surely be fulfilled, so will his promises of judgment against those who rebel against him. His judgment is strong, but the people eventually learn the lesson that they must not challenge the mediators that God has chosen for them to be able to approach him.
- Why was rebellion against Moses and Aaron essentially a rebellion against God himself?
- Do you think God was too harsh in his judgment of the rebels? Why or why not?
- Why is a mediator necessary for a sinner to approach the presence of God?
Day 50: The Bronze Serpent
Reading: Numbers 20:1–21:35
Chapter 20, Verse 1. First month. Based on Numbers 33:38, this is now the fortieth year after the Exodus from Egypt. Miriam’s death represents, in a way, the older generation that had all died in the wilderness.
Verse 14. Edom. The Edomites were descendants from Esau, the brother of Jacob (see Genesis 36:10.
Verse 17. The King’s Highway. This was a central trade route that ran north and south and passed through the Edomite city of Sela.
Verse 20. Army. God had forbidden Israel from going to ware with Edom (Deut. 2:4–6), so Israel turned away.
Even though God had condemned the older generation to die in the wilderness, the younger generation apparently did not learn the intended lesson. Instead, they, too, complained against God and were punished. Yet this incident provided a beautiful picture of the redemption that was possible through faith in the one who was lifted up (John 3:14–15).
- Why were Moses and Aaron not allowed to enter the promised land?
- Why do you think God provided the bronze serpent?
- What does this incident tell us about the character of God?