Pastor James J. Barker

Text: NUMBERS 14:1-16


  1. Between the last chapter of Exodus and the first chapter of Numbers, a month elapses and the book of Leviticus intervenes.
  2. The events covered in Numbers occupy a period of about 38 years.
  3. The book gets its name from the two numberings recorded in the book.
  4. As one reads through Numbers, one realizes that the only reason that the Israelites wandered through the wilderness was their disobedience. They should have moved into the Promised Land in a few weeks, but it took them 40 years because of their disobedience.
  5. Today, as we look into Num. 14, I would like to draw out seven dangers of disobedience.



    1. Concerning 14:1, a great Bible teacher from the 19th century, C.H. Mackintosh, wrote these words: "Need we wonder? What else could be expected from a people who had nothing before their eyes but mighty giants, lofty walls, and great cities? What but tears and sighs could emanate from a congregation who saw themselves as grasshoppers in the presence of such insuperable difficulties, and having no sense of the divine power that could carry them victoriously through all? The whole assembly was abandoned to the absolute dominion of infidelity. They were surrounded by the dark and chilling clouds of unbelief. God was shut out. There was not so much as a single ray of light to illumine the darkness with which they had surrounded themselves. They were occupied with themselves and their difficulties, instead of with God and His resources. What else, therefore, could they do but lift up the voice of weeping and lamentation?"
    2. Every year in every church, there is always a new bumper crop of cry-babies. Their feelings are easily hurt; they do not like certain things in the church; they want things done their way, etc.
    3. They are very sensitive about their feelings being hurt, but they are not overly concerned about other peoples’ feelings being hurt.
    4. For example, these cry-baby Israelites were crying for themselves but they did not care very much about Moses and Aaron (14:2).
    5. Yet Moses was a humble man. God was so upset with these trouble-makers that He was going to smite them and raise up "a greater nation" from Moses’ descendants, but Moses asked God not to do it (14:12,17-20).



    1. Murmuring is the key word in the book of Numbers and the key word in this chapter (cf. Ps.106:24-27).
    2. The apostle Paul refers to the sin of murmuring and warns us not to do it (I Cor.10:1-11).



    1. Complaining never helps anything. Even unsaved people recognize this. You ask them how they are doing and they respond, "Not too well – but no use complaining!"
    2. But we Christians often forget and we complain. I like the old hymn that goes like this:

Oft-times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear
We’re tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God’s eternal day.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ
— Esther Kerr Rusthoi.

    1. Let me stop now and ask this question – what is behind all of this disobeying, and murmuring, and complaining?
    2. The answer – unbelief (cf. Heb.3:7-19).



    1. 14:3,4 demonstrate the folly of disobedience and unbelief. These Israelites who had just been delivered from bondage in Egypt now wanted to return – to a land that God devastated by plagues, to a land that they had plundered on the eve of their exodus. The thought of going back through the Red Sea would be funny if their disobedience was not so serious.
    2. What kind of welcome did they expect from Pharaoh? And what kind of respect do worldly Christians expect to receive from the unsaved?
    3. In the Bible, Egypt always represents the world. For the Christian, the choice is clear – either he must go forward (13:30) or go back to the world (14:4). There can be no neutrality, no middle ground, no standing still.
    4. All of the warnings in the book of Hebrews are directed to believers who want to go back to the world (cf. 2:1-4; 3:7-19; 5:11—6:12; 10:19-39; 12:25-29).
    5. There are many people out in the world today who used to attend prayer meeting, who used to pray, who used to like to read the Bible – but they went back to the world.
    6. Even some church members who have not gone back to the world, still have the world in their hearts. They keep one foot in church and the other in the world. That is why they skip church so much, do not tithe, do not read the Bible, do not win souls, etc.



    1. Rebellion is a big problem in the world and in the church (cf. I Sam.15:23).
    2. Here in Num.14, we see that the disobedient backsliders turned against Joshua and Caleb – even wanting to stone them (14:10).
    3. This act of wickedness exhausted God’s patience and caused His glory to appear in the tabernacle of the congregation (14:10).
    4. They wanted to kill Joshua and Caleb for telling the truth. IT IS THE SAME TODAY – TRUTH IS NEVER POPULAR.
    5. Lies are gladly received but the truth is rejected.


VI. DISOBEDIENCE PROVOKES GOD TO ANGER (14:11; cf. Ps. 78:21,22,49,58).

    1. While it is certainly true that God is longsuffering and patient and merciful and gracious – it is also true that’s God’s mercy and longsuffering has a limit.
    2. God was ready to smite these disobedient Israelites but Moses interceded (14:12-21).



    1. Moses was concerned about the Lord’s glory, the Lord’s honor, and the Lord’s reputation (14:13-19).
    2. Moses did not want the Lord’s good name to be tarnished by the disobedience of the people. Nathan had the same concern (II Sam.12:14).
    3. Disobedience hinders the work of God.


  1. The people were disobedient, they were wrong, they were rebellious, etc. What did Moses and Aaron do?
  2. They "fell on their faces before all the assembly" (14:5). This is the only thing that can work – let us pray.

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