“Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.” Numbers 15:31 KJV.
“Moses went into the tabernacle to converse with God. ‘And the Lord said unto Moses, how long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them? I will smite them with a pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they. And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;) and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land; for they have heard that thou, Lord, art among this people, that thou, Lord, art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by daytime in a pillar of cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now, if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.’
Moses again refuses to have Israel destroyed, and himself made a mightier nation than was Israel. This favored servant of God manifests his love for Israel, and shows his zeal for the glory of his Maker and the honor of his people: As thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now, thou hast been long-suffering and merciful hitherto toward this ungrateful people, however unworthy they may be, thy mercy is the same. He pleads, Wilt thou not, therefore, spare them this once, and add this one more instance of divine patience to the many thou hast already given?
‘And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word. But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it. But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went and his seed shall possess it.’
The Lord bade the Hebrews return, and go into the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea. They were very near the good land; but, by their wicked rebellion, they forfeited the protection of God. Had they received the report of Caleb and Joshua, and gone immediately up, God would have given them the land of Canaan. But they were unbelieving, and showed such an insolent spirit against God, that they brought upon themselves the denunciation, that they should never enter the promised land. It was in pity and mercy that God sent them back by the Red Sea, for the Amalekites and Canaanites, while they were delaying and murmuring, heard of the spies, and prepared themselves to make war with the children of Israel.
‘And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.’ The Lord told Moses and Aaron to say to the people that he would do to them as they had spoken. They had said, ‘Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness.’ Now God will take them at their word. He tells his servants to say to them that they should fall in the wilderness, from twenty years old and upward, because of their rebellion and murmurings against the Lord. Only Caleb and Joshua should go unto the land of Canaan. ‘But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.’
The Lord declared that the children of the Hebrews should wander in the wilderness forty years, reckoning from the time they left Egypt, because of the rebellion of their parents, until their parents should all die. Thus should they bear and suffer the consequence of their iniquity forty years, according to the number of days they were searching the land, a day for a year. ‘And ye shall know my breach of promise.’ They should fully realize that it was the punishment for their idolatry, and rebellious murmurings, which had obliged the Lord to change his purpose concerning them. Caleb and Joshua were promised a reward in preference to all the host of Israel, because the latter had forfeited all claim to God’s favor and protection.
The Lord sent fire from his presence and consumed the men who had brought the evil report, which made all the congregation murmur against Moses and against the Lord. But Caleb and Joshua lived before the Lord, and before the people, which evidenced to them that their report was correct.
When the people learned from Moses the purpose of God concerning them, they mourned greatly. Early the next morning they gathered themselves before Moses, all equipped for war, and said, We be here, and will go unto the place the Lord hath promised; for we have sinned. The Lord had said that they should not possess the land, but should die in the wilderness; and if they should go up to battle, they would not prosper. Moses said, ‘Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies; for the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword; because ye are turned away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be with you.’ But they ventured to go out against their enemies without their appointed leader, and without the ark of the covenant of the Lord; and they were met by their enemies, and smitten, and driven before them. Here the Israelites repented too late; and when God had said they should not go up to possess the land, they were as forward to go, as they had been backward before.” EGW, SOP, Vol 1, 1870, pp. 291-295.
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