Disobedience has consequences. Raising our four children I often think of the hymn, “Trust and Obey.” The refrain says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” Our 4-year-old knows these lyrics well, as he’s often reminded, “If you disobey then there will be a consequence. We’re always happier when we choose to obey.” Sometimes the consequences of disobedience can be painful. A friend tells of a family vacation to Florida. Her daughter wanted to come back home with a perfect bronze tan, but the vacation was only a few days long. Against her mom’s clear advice, the girl decided to skip the sunscreen and spent the entire first day on the beach under a cloudless sky. Of course, that’s all it took for her to get a sunburn that kept her in agony for days. “I tried to tell her,” my friend said to me, “but sometimes you just have to learn the hard way.”
Consequences for Complaining
During the Israelites’ trek through the wilderness, they went through repeated cycles of disobedience, followed by God’s anger being stirred and Moses intervening on behalf of the people. Over and over again God was merciful, withholding the punishment they clearly deserved. But when we come to Numbers 14, God has had enough and declares judgment. “But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it” (Numbers 14:21-23).
The Lord is angered by the Israelites’ constant grumbling against him, along with their refusal to recognize the many miracles he has done for them. Their persistent disobedience and ingratitude have now brought about extremely serious consequences. Among those who left Egypt in the exodus, only Caleb and Joshua will enter the Promised Land; every other person will perish before their wilderness trek has ended.
But God speaks of his “servant Caleb, [who] has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring [him] into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it” (Numbers 14:24). So both Caleb and his offspring will be rewarded for his personal obedience to the Lord. In the same way, the judgment upon the Israelites of the exodus will also affect their children. “And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness” (Numbers 14:33). For each of the forty days Caleb and Joshua spied out the land, the Israelites and their children will spend a year wandering in the wilderness.
And so it was. For forty years, the Israelites received the consequence of their persistent disobedience and ingratitude to the Lord. If some two million Israelites had left Egypt, then on average, over the course of 40 years, about 130 of them died every single day. And every day their children watched it happen. Our choice to sin not only hurts us, but inevitably those who are closest to us. The Israelites’ disobedience affected their descendants, directly and painfully.
God keeps his promises. Near the beginning of their wilderness journey, when the Israelites were building the tabernacle, Moses took a census of the people (Exodus 30:11–12; 38:26). In Numbers 26, toward the end of their journey, a second census was taken. Verses 63-65 tell us that not one person from the first census appeared in the second . . . except for Joshua and Caleb. As God said, all the grumbling Israelites from the exodus had died in the wilderness.
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Source: Church Leaders