32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32–33, NKJV).
The children of Israel rebelled against the Lord by refusing to trust Him and enter Canaan (Num. 13-14). Because of Israel’s sin, none of that generation, except Caleb and Joshua, would see the land God promised their fathers (Num. 14:23-24, 29-30). They would die in the wilderness, and their children would enter the land of promise (Num. 14:31-32). A couple of principles of truth rise to the surface for our attention. (1) The sinner is accountable for his sins. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). Children do not bear the guilt of their father’s sin. The doctrine of inherited depravity is itself depraved, corrupt, and false (Rom. 5:12). (2) The innocent often suffer due to the sins of others. The offspring of the wilderness rebels bore the brunt of their parents’ infidelity during forty years of wilderness wandering (Num. 14:33). Untold numbers of innocent souls continue to suffer the consequences of foolish, faithless people. For example, all humanity suffers physical pain, toil, and death as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen. 3:16-19). Do not confuse guilt and accountability for sin with the consequences and effects sin has on others. All have sinned, and Christ is our salvation from sin’s guilt and eternal death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). And, the fact that our sin affects others is a reason to resist evil and not rebel against God.
16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16–19, NKJV).
Read today’s passage again, carefully. The writer has urged Christians to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Israel’s sins and failure to enter the rest of the promised land warns us (Heb. 3:6-15). Now, he summarizes for emphasis; Christians can fall and fail to enter God’s rest like Israel. (1) Israel rebelled after hearing God’s word (v. 16). We must hear God’s word, but that alone does not bring our souls into God’s rest. (2) God’s people do not escape wrath and punishment when they sin and rebel against God (v. 17). Israel’s sin stirred God’s wrath against them, and they died in the wilderness. Even so, Christians who “depart from the living God” will face His wrath (Heb. 3:12-13). (3) Without obedience, God’s people do not enter God’s rest (v. 18). Disobedient, rebellious Israel stands as a stark warning that Christians cannot live in disobedience without forfeiting eternal rest (Heb. 2:1-3; Matt. 10:28). (4) Unbelief is identified by disobedience (v. 19). Far from separating unbelief and disobedience, the Holy Spirit joined the two here. Unbelief produced Israel’s disobedience and God’s punishment (the forfeiture of Canaan’s rest). Even so, belief produces obedience leading to God’s eternal rest in heaven. Let us learn and live the lesson of Israel in the wilderness, lest we fall short of God’s rest like they did (Heb. 4:1, 11).
4 “Yet I am the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me. 5 I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6 When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:4–6, NKJV).
Yahweh saved Israel from Egyptian oppression and He sustained her in the wilderness. But instead of giving God thankful, obedient service, Israel forgot the Lord and turned to idols (Hosea 13:1-2). Worshiping Baal and the golden calves Jeroboam had set up, Israel added sin upon sin. What led to Israel’s apostasy warns us not to fall as she did (1 Cor. 10:6-12). Hosea 13:6 describes the sequence of Israel’s apostasy. (1) Israel became satisfied in her prosperity. They were “at ease” in their abundance and failed to humbly obey God and serve their brethren (Amos 6:1-7). The church of the Laodiceans provides a similar warning against spiritual apathy (Rev. 3:15-17). (2) Israel’s heart was filled with pride. Pride is an insidious enemy that elevates us above God in our minds. Pride is an undeniable step away from God and is abhorrent to God (Amos 6:8). The church in Sardis wrestled with pride’s self-righteous fruit (Rev. 3:1-2). (3) Israel forgot God in her self-sufficiency. Israel forgot that God was their savior and sustainer. Israel’s prosperity led to prideful sufficiency while ignoring God (Deut. 8:1-20; 32:15). The parable of the rich fool warns us not to trust riches but to lay up heavenly treasures (Luke 12:15-21). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2–3, NKJV)
Israel’s wilderness wanderings tested their faith in the Lord God. Would they obey Him? Or would they rebel in disobedience when faced with hardships, setbacks, and uncertainties? God disciplined their hearts through the trial of hunger and by the blessing of daily manna (and other provisions, Deut. 8:4-6). God meant for their trials and blessings to humble them and turn their hearts to Him. God taught Israel by trials and blessings to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God also lovingly teaches and corrects us by trials and blessings, like parents who love their children, Heb. 12:4-11). Life is more than bread. Life is more than comfort. Like Israel, life with God that lasts forever comes from God when we obey Him. Jesus knew this when the devil tempted Him to sin (Matt. 4:3-4). Let us accept God’s training during times of trial and blessing that we may humbly obey the Lord God and live with Him now and forever.
12 “Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:12–14, NKJV)
Like Israel at the Red Sea, sometimes we have trouble waiting on the Lord and trusting His salvation. After witnessing God’s great judgments upon Egypt through the miraculous plagues, just days later Israel complained when the enemy’s army approached (Exodus 14:11-12). Moses told them to replace their fear with faith in the Lord’s power and presence, for He would fight for them. That day they would see the salvation of the Lord – and they did. God told Israel to “go forward,” and He protected them and delivered them as they did (v. 15-22, 29-30). Having been saved from our past sins in Christ, Christians are told to press forward in faith, not draw back in fear (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 10:35-39; 12:1-2). Our enemy, the devil, will tempt us with sin and trials, trying to discourage and defeat us. Keep doing God’s will by trusting Him and the power of His word. Be faithful and go forward, never backwards, “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1–3, NKJV)
John was preaching God’s message of repentance in the wilderness of Judea. People were coming out to hear him, confessing their sins and being baptized by him for the remission of sins (Matthew 3:3-6; Mark 1:4-5). In this way John was preparing the path for the Lord as He soon brought the gospel of the kingdom to Israel, then the nations. Have you ever felt like you were “preaching in the wilderness” while trying to persuade a friend, a companion, or a loved one to repent and follow the word of God? Keep on doing your work, and trust God to do His. Rely on the power of God’s gospel to convict and convert the lost (Romans 1:16-17). Preach it fully and faithfully, and it will accomplish the purpose for which God sent it, just like John’s message did (2 Timothy 4:1-5; Isaiah 55:10-11).