- Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
- God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
- Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
- Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
- God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.
What is the grand purpose of all history and existence? Many people would point to the salvation of the lost, but this is actually only one piece of the total pie that YHWH will accomplish in history. The grand purpose for all of history and existence is God’s glory! The salvation of men and women is one of many things that contribute unto this end. Ryrie explains, writing, “Scripture is not man-centered as though salvation were the main theme, but it is God-centered because His glory is the center. The Bible itself clearly teaches that salvation, important and wonderful as it is, is not an end in itself but is rather a means to the end of glorifying God (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).” That being said, the establishment of a literal, earthly, political theocracy in which Christ Jesus reigns supreme is the pinnacle of glory unto God, “when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor 15:24b-25). If this is God’s mission in history, and if He has communicated this fact to us in the Scriptures, it should be our driving mission as well, for no purpose is greater than God receiving maximum glory all of the time for eternity!
In Daniel 7:13-14 the thesis statement of the Bible is recorded. The goal of all history and existence is that Jesus Christ would be glorified in establishing His kingdom on Earth, exercising an “everlasting dominion.”
God’s desire is that men and women would have a ruling capacity upon the Earth alongside Christ in this future time. This is first found in Genesis 1:26-28. We are told that God made man and woman in His image, after His likeness, as rulers over the fish, birds, cattle, and
creeping things, being fruitful and filling the earth, subduing it, and ruling over it. Some translations use the term “have dominion” (ESV, KJV, NKJV, Darby). The idea is that man was to dominate the creation in alignment with His Creator. McClain notes, “In the Genesis account of the creation of man, the very first of the divine injunctions laid upon him was regal in character… Thus among other important likenesses to his Creator, man was given a limited sovereignty in relation to the earth.”
Only man and woman were created in His image and likeness. This cannot be said about any other creature that the Lord has made. This creative act was before the Fall of man, making it a pure and holy calling. YHWH was operating with man in a sinless, unmodified environment. Also, this establishes human beings as superior to all other forms of life in creation. Thus, from the very first chapter in Genesis we have YHWH sharing His ruling responsibilities with men and women, establishing a kingdom of rule on Earth.
With the introduction of sin into the human race (Gen 3:1-7), the right to rule was forfeited by Adam and Eve and the mantle was taken up by Satan and his demonic forces (Psa 82:2-7; John 14:30; 2 Cor 4:4). The “kingdom on earth” became a playground for sinful exploits and satanic deceptions as the human rulers of this world were swayed into flesh-patterns of decision-making that satisfied the wisdom of man rather than being in alignment with the holy council of the Creator God by His Word (Gen 6:1-4; Rom 1:18-32). The propensity is toward godlessness.
In Genesis 9:1b, YHWH commands Noah and his descendants to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth. What is noticeably missing from this command is that the call to “have dominion” is absent, showing that this right was forfeited in the Fall.
YHWH is serious about real estate. Every kingdom needs a place in which to reside. For the Jews, this land is in the Middle East, between Egypt and Iraq. With the call of Abraham and the promises that were made to him, we see that “land” is guaranteed to him and his descendants (Gen 12:1d, 7). This is restated again and again (Gen 15:7-21; 17:8) also being communicated to Isaac (Gen 26:3) and Jacob (Gen 28:13). Even by going
into Egypt, Jacob is told that YHWH would “make you a great nation there” (Gen 46:3).
YHWH’s affection for Israel is seen in the Exodus time, calling them His people (Exod 3:10), His son, and His firstborn (Exod 4:22). All of these are terms of personal possession, as well as terms used for those who would be heirs of what was to come.
It is clear that the revelation of Scripture thus far (and throughout the rest of the Old and New Testaments) points to the Lord’s fulfillment of the dominion command with progressive revelation working toward the future coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
The greatest way that YHWH is glorified through people is when they trust His Word and walk forward in obedience. Such obedience causes them to inherit a place of regal responsibility in the coming Kingdom of Christ. In the history of Israel, who are looking forward to the Messiah who will “restore the Kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6), inheritance is conditioned upon obedience. This historical event sets up a perfect picture for the Church Age saint in what it is to “trust YHWH fully” so that he or she will receive an inheritance.
Numbers 13:1-16. YHWH calls upon Moses to send out spies made up from the leaders of each of the twelve tribes to see what the Promised Land looked like since they were being led to inherit it. By selecting leaders, these men already understood the pressures and responsibilities that came with leadership. Some have equated the sending of spies as an act of unbelief by Israel, but this is proven false in Deut 1:21-23. The Israelites wished to plot out a way to go up to the land and see the cities that were to be taken first (Deut 1:22b). We are told that this request pleased Moses (Deut 1:23).
Verses 4-16 give a detailed account of the men selected for this mission. Of particular note is Caleb in v.6 (whose name means “faithful” and is a derivative of the Hebrew for “dog”), and Hoshea (whose name means “salvation, deliverance”) in v. 8, also called Joshua in v.16 (actually “Jehoshua” meaning “YHWH is salvation”), Moses’ 2nd in command.
Numbers 13:17-25. Repeatedly, we have the Land of Canaan referred to as a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exod 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev
20:24). Was it true? This expedition served in answering many questions about what they were to expect.
o What is the caliber and number of men that they would be fighting?
o What places are best for habitation?
o What is the estimated time of initial survival?
o What battle strategies need to be considered?
o What will be required to overcome the structures that they are living in?
o Is the land abundant or scarce for food and supplies?
This was not haphazard operation. The Israelites sought to be prepared and their surveying the land is in keeping with wisdom.
The journey of the spies is impressive. In the course of 40 days (13:25), the spies journeyed from the Wilderness of Zin, which is the southwestern curve of the Mediterranean Sea, up through the main land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, to the northern point of Rehob located in Lebo-Hamath which is southern Syria (13:21). Just 3 miles north of Hebron, the spies cut down a massive cluster of grapes in the valley of Eshcol to bring back as evidence of the land’s abundance. The length of this journey is roughly 480 miles round trip!
Numbers 13:26-33. When the spies returned, they gave a report to Moses, Aaron, and the congregation of Israel. The land was bursting with abundance just as YHWH had said (13:27)! However, the spies also spoke of the opposition that lay in wait for them. This report was exactly what Moses asked of them (compare the questions of 13:18-20 to the report in 13:27-29). Everything in the spies’ report in 13:27-29 is true. Details are given as to the people and their locations. “The Semitic Amorites and Jebusites lived in the hill country, along with some of the non-Semitic Hittites who had migrated into the region from eastern Anatolia. The term Amorite can refer in general to a number of the inhabitants of the Levant, including those in areas known today as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine.”
Obviously, such a report, no matter how truthful, would cause anxiety among Israel. We must keep in mind that the Israelites are not warriors, or fighters, or generals, but are men and women who had just come out of a slave mentality and who, apart from the Living God, would not be alive at this moment in history. Caleb, who was one of the twelve spies (13:6) brought the people to a hush and immediately called them to walk forward in what YHWH had already told them. YHWH’s promises served as Caleb’s confidence. Caleb demonstrates an excellent leadership principle in v. 30: Clear direction is most needed in a troubled time.
The response from the other spies (being 10 of them because Joshua was siding with Caleb-14:6) showed that they had allowed their present circumstances to overshadow the eternal promises of YHWH. Verse 32 seems to communicate that the 10 spies gave a bad report, seeking to persuade Israel to disobedience. Verses 32-33 also communicates that embellishments were conveyed, telling the people that the land “devours” its inhabitants, that those who live there are overpowering and enormous in size, making the Israelites seem like grasshoppers in their wake. This description is nothing short of elaborate and dramatic for the purpose of stirring up fear in the people.
The mention of the Nephilim in v. 33 has caused some debate. The Nephilim were last mentioned in Genesis 6 as the result of demons cohabitating with human women. While many have written saying that this is impossible, the passages they cite do not serve in giving an explanation of improbability. However, if we simply take God’s Word for what it says and understand that He is telling us the truth about things that we would not otherwise know, we see that this event brought about the great judgment of the Flood!
With the Flood being global, and the Nephilim being mentioned, one would draw the conclusion that the Nephilim perished in the Flood. This is a correct understanding. The reason for their name resurfacing in this situation is because the sons of Anak (13:22, 33) were actual giants that lived in the land (much like Goliath later). The Israelites, knowing their Genesis history, would be further led to not enter the land if the 10 spies used the word “Nephilim” to strike fear in the people. Thus, it is not that the Nephilim survived the flood, but that their name was used for the purpose of persuasion.
Numbers 14:1-5. The Israelites’ response is one of anguish, letting their emotions run the train right off the tracks. In reading v.2-4, it is evident that their responses are thoughtless and careless, disregarding the goodness that YHWH had showed them in setting them free from slavery and providing for them in the desert. Notice the list:
o It would have been better to have died in Egypt (14:2b)
o It would have been better to have died in the wilderness (14:2b)
o What is God doing? Why has He brought us here to kill us? (14:3a)
o Our wives and children will be taken from us (14:3b)
o Egypt held a better future for us (14:3c)
o Let’s get rid of Moses and go back to slavery (14:4)
It is both astonishing and sad. And, it’s not too far off base from how we respond when the emotions are running high and the eternal character of God is questioned because of our present circumstances. The report of the spies had eclipsed the promises of God. Let it sink in for a moment: the Israelites are crying out that slavery in Egypt is a better future than being with YHWH.
Moses and Aaron’s response to the situation is one that is unexpected, but definitely right: They fell on their faces before the Lord, submitting themselves to YHWH before the people.
Numbers 14:6-10. Joshua and Caleb, the two spies that were trusting in the promises of God to them, tore their clothes in disgust at this incident. They pleaded with the people to not lose sight of what God could do in bringing them into the land. One important point communicated in v.8 is the statement, “if the LORD is pleased with us.” Caleb and Joshua knew that the covenant that they had received in Exodus 19 and 20 was conditional and that YHWH was not obligated to bring that particular generation of Israelites into the Land that He had promised them. They continued pleading with the people, “do not rebel against the LORD” (14:9), noting that the people of the land will be the Israelites’ prey, easily devoured because YHWH fights for them!
It is difficult for 2 men to reason with a million or so disgruntled and discouraged people. The response that they received was carnal, calling for their stoning. This is a very possible response in our lives when one’s
emotions are running the show, the person is not thinking soberly, and truth is asserted to try and bring stability to the situation.
YHWH, in His glory, then appears before the people.
Numbers 14:11-19. YHWH’s response is one of obvious frustration. From v.11, the chief problem in their ranks was unbelief, even though numerous signs had been given to convince them otherwise. YHWH’s anger is understandable, but the response given is in the form of a test for Moses. Does Moses still trust in YHWH? What if YHWH were to wipe out all of the Israelites and start over with Moses? Should this be the way that YHWH deals with unfaithfulness and unbelief? Taking another step that seems unnatural, Moses steps forward. “Moses interceded for Israel to protect the Lord’s reputation with the Egyptians, who would charge the Lord with inability to complete His deliverance of Israel and thus deny His power. Second, the Lord’s loyal love was the basis on which the Lord could forgive His people.”
There are two things that are intriguing in this passage. First, the central point is YHWH keeping His Word, which Moses appeals to in v.16. This is exactly the response that YHWH wants from us every time. God’s Word is paramount and what He has said about a matter, subject, or situation is always right regardless of what the world, politicians, scholars, or fellow Christians may say. Second, this appeal comes to a close with Moses referring to God as Adonai (“Master” v.17). Moses then recites Exodus 20:4-5 to YHWH, praying back His Word to Him and focusing in on His “chesed,” His loyal love for His chosen people Israel.
Numbers 14:20-23. YHWH pardons Israel’s sin. Sin is deserving of death, but YHWH graciously lets them live. The Lord then states clearly that His glory will fill the earth (14:21). This is God’s specific goal for the Israelites, that they would bring great glory to God so as to illuminate the whole planet to His goodness and grace (Deut 4:6-8). YHWH notes that the Israelites had put Him to the test ten times and for so doing, they would not be the ones who inherited the Promised Land. You may say, “but didn’t YHWH forgive their sin and pardon them?” To that, the
Scriptures say, “Yes.” But this pardon resulted in their not dying. This does not mean that there were no consequences for their actions. Because of their unbelief, they would not inherit the Land. YHWH’s seeks to accomplish His promise by bringing the people into the Land to inherit it fully, and He will do so in keeping with His Word (Gen 12:1-3).
Numbers 14:24-35. The Lord notes that Caleb was different. What set Caleb apart was that 1) he had a “different spirit,” with the word for “different” meaning “another” spirit, being contrasted to the people, and 2) he had “followed Me fully,” showing that faithfulness in God’s promises is what gained Caleb his inheritance in the Land.
Starting in 14:25, new directions are given and the children are to go back into the wilderness. There, they would die over a period of 40 years, one year for each of the days that the spies were in the land receiving validation of all that YHWH had promised them (14:33-34).
A harsh lesson to learn is that Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua were free of guilt in this situation, but because of the disobedience of the people, they still had to lead them through the forty years of wilderness. The unbelief of the Israelites costs these four men and their families dearly, even though they were faithful.
Numbers 14:36-38. The consequences for the instigators of this travesty were not spared. While they were not responsible for the responses of the Israelites, they were the “tempters” that led them into unbelief. These men “died by a plague before the LORD” (14:37), which means that they dropped dead right before the people. The text then re-emphasizes the fact that Joshua and Caleb would inherit the land.
This passage is a real-life, historical event that communicates an important theological truth to the Church Age saint.
- The Israelites were “passed over” by applying the blood, being saved from physical death (Exod 12:13). The Church is saved from spiritual death when they apply the blood of Jesus Christ, which can only be applied by faith (Rom 3:23-26; Eph 2:8-9).
- It is not until after their deliverance (“salvation”) that the Israelites were given instructions on how to live (Exod 20:1-20).
- They were fully accepted before this, demonstrating that their obedience was not contingent on their standing before God (Exod 3:10). The Church is justified before God by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9). It is not until after one is born from above that they are to be discipled (taught) in all that Christ has commanded (Matt 28:19). Any condition of works or obedience beforehand is not in keeping with the Old Testament picture being painted.
- Upon receiving instructions, the expectation was for the Israelites to apply what they had learned, having voluntarily agreed to be in a covenant relationship with YHWH (Exod 19:8). Upon receiving instructions, the Christian is to move forward in applying those instructions, having been given a new capacity, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, in living a new life (Heb 5:11-6:3). Believing and obeying are two separate things, properly represented by the terms “justification” and “sanctification” (Col 2:6).
- Unbelief kept the Israelites from inheriting the Land that they were promised, meaning that YHWH would have to fulfill this promise (for the promise is certain) with another generation of Israelites. This blatant rebellion, despite all of the evidence and provision that had set them up for success, was judged by YHWH ending in the eventual death of all who rebelled against Him (Num 13-14). The Israelites, instead of enjoying the abundance that waited for them in the Promised Land, would wander in the wilderness to the end of their days (Num 14:33-34). The Israelites were never cast out of the family of God, for they were believers in God (Exod 14:31). However, they were disciplined because of their disobedience and rebellion, and did not inherit the Land.
- For the Church, walking with the Lord (Eph 4:1), loving one another (John 13:34-35), and considering another better than ourselves (Phil 2:3) are all applications of the doctrines that we have been taught. Failure to live this new life will result in believers in Christ not inheriting the future coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ on Earth (1 Cor 3:15; 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5).
- The concept of “inheriting the Kingdom” is not the equivalent to Heaven. If one believes in Christ, their eternal destiny is already locked up securely in their permanent relationship with the Father (Eph 1:13). However, one’s fellowship with the Father is a different story. Fellowship is cultivated by obeying what Christ has commanded (John 14-16). In fact, a love for God is evidenced in the obedience of the Christian, and no other way. Inheriting the Kingdom is the same as having a rich entrance into the coming Kingdom of Christ. This would be contingent on the Christian being a co-heir with Christ in the Kingdom, meaning that they were given a favorable reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10). This often entails suffering for His Name’s sake (Matt 5:3, 10-12, 19-20; 6:4, 6, 18 Rom 8:17; 2 Tim 2:12). It is by rebellion, pride, and self-promotion that we lose out on the opportunity to reign with Christ (Matt 6:1-2, 5, 16, 23-24; 7:21-23, 26-27).
- Will you trust the Lord for your daily life, direction, and decisions? There is no greater place, that yields no greater reward and accomplishes no greater glory for God, than being in the center of God’s will all of the time. This end is inseparable from knowing, trusting, and doing His Word.
 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), p. 42-43.