So strong was the evil report of the 10 spies that “all the congregation” complained against Moses and Aaron, and even asked why it was they did not stay in Egypt or even in the wilderness after having arrived there. The complaint was so intense that God’s chosen servant was on the verge of being stoned (14:1-10).
The Lord intervenes and prepares to render judgment against them, but Moses pleads for the nation. The Lord hears Moses and grants his request. Though the petition was granted, the Lord rendered judgment less severe (but plenty severe enough! (14:13-26)). Those that were instrumental in unbelief, those that influenced many others, their judgment was rather quick. Those who were influenced were to wander in the wilderness for another 38 years. The innocent, they had to suffer along with the guilty, but they were promised entry to the Lord’s land of promise (14:27-38).
This punishment given by the Lord was too much for some; in their presumption, they took upon themselves a ready call to action to show they have repented and that they are faithful to the Lord now that He has spoken. However, the Lord was not with them and they suffered defeat (14:39-45).
Application: If the Israelites experienced all the glorious acts of the Lord and many were still plagued with unbelief, we ought not to be surprised by how the many reply with unbelief to the Lord today. That is a reason why the Lord spoke to Thomas as He did (John 20:29). Intellectually, we understand this; practically, it is still quite disappointing. Another point worth mention is on the point of “presumption” (14:44, NKJV). To presume on the Lord’s authority is wrought with physical and eternal consequences; shall we not learn anything from this?
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