The story begins on a positive note. The Israelites have finally reached the borders of Canaan, and 12 spies are sent to explore the land. Their report is extraordinary.
Read the spies’ report in Numbers 13:27-33. At which point are the expectations of the Israelites dashed?
In spite of Caleb’s intervention, the voices of the doubters and skeptics prevail. Israel does not set out to conquer what God had promised them. Restless at heart, they choose weeping and murmuring over marching and shouting for victory.
When we are restless at heart, we struggle to walk by faith. Restlessness, however, affects not only our emotions. Scientists tell us that there is a straight line of cause and effect between too little rest (including lack of sleep) and bad choices, resulting in obesity, addictions, and more restlessness and unhappiness.
Read Numbers 14:1-10. What happened next?
Things move from bad to worse. Caleb’s desperate plea, “only do not rebel against the LORD” (Numbers 14:9), goes unheeded, and the entire assembly prepares to stone their leaders. Restlessness leads to rebellion, and rebellion ultimately leads to death.
“The unfaithful spies were loud in denunciation of Caleb and Joshua, and the cry was raised to stone them. The insane mob seized missiles with which to slay those faithful men. They rushed forward with yells of madness, when suddenly the stones dropped from their hands, a hush fell upon them, and they shook with fear. God had interposed to check their murderous design. The glory of His presence, like a flaming light, illuminated the tabernacle. All the people beheld the signal of the Lord. A mightier one than they had revealed Himself, and none dared continue their resistance. The spies who brought the evil report crouched terror-stricken, and with bated breath sought their tents.” — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prohets, p. 390.
Right then, however, the glory of the Lord manifests itself publicly. When we read the story in Numbers 14, it seems as if the entire scene has been frozen, and we are now privy to listen in on God’s conversation with Moses. God recognizes that even though the stones are meant for Moses and Caleb and Joshua, ultimately the rebellion is directed against God Himself.