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Numbers 13-14 – Prayer for the Rebellious – Part 2

During this series, we are going to be looking at Moses’ prayer for the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness. However, before we get there, we need to look at the people involved and what led to Moses praying for them the way he did. In Part 1, we saw the bad report of the ten spies and the good report from Caleb. In Part 2, we will see how the people responded to these reports in Numbers 14:1-10.

  1. What does it say? (Num. 14:1-10)

    After hearing the bad report from the majority of the spies, the Israelites became very emotional and wept. This led them to complain against Moses and Aaron. Soon the whole congregation was making extreme statements such as wishing they had died in Egypt or in the wilderness. They asked why the Lord had brought them to a land where their families would be killed. As things progressed, they talked about selecting a new leader to take them back to Egypt. This caused Moses and Aaron to fall down in front of the people.

    Joshua and Caleb, who had been sent to spy out the land, tore their clothes with grief. They told the people that the land was very good. They were confident that, if the Lord delighted in them, He would bring them into the land which flowed with milk and honey. They also told the people not to rebel against the Lord or to fear the people of the land because their protection had departed from them and the Lord was with the Israelites. They told them not to fear.

    The congregation of people responded to Joshua and Caleb’s speech by deciding to stone them. But before they could do that, the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting in the sight of the congregation.

  2. What does it mean?

    Those who did not trust God were unwilling to obey.

    As you read the response of the rebellious majority, it is very clear that they did not trust God to give them the land. They eagerly believed the false report of the ten spies despite God’s promise. They responded with out-of-control emotions despite God’s promise (14:1). They responded with ridiculous death wishes despite all that God had done for them (14:2). They suspected that God wanted to kill them despite His kindness to them (14:3a). They looked for new leadership despite all that Moses had done for them (14:3b-5). They wanted to kill the those who trusted God because of their unbelief (14:10).

    Do you see how “unhinged” the unbelievers were? Their responses were very extreme. Why was this? It was because their focus was only on the problems and not the promises. Their fear kept them from believing and receiving what God had already promised them. This led them to rebel against the Lord and to oppose anyone who trusted in Him. What a sad situation they backed themselves into. And it was all because of their unwillingness to trust in the Lord.

    Those who trusted God were ready to obey.

    As you read through the response of Joshua and Caleb, it is clear that that they trusted God and were ready to obey. In the last chapter, Caleb had given a good report (13:30) despite what the other spies said. In this chapter, Joshua and Caleb were overcome by emotion because the others would not believe God (14:6). They saw the goodness of the land promised to them by God and were ready to receive it (14:7-8). They saw that God was with them despite the unbelief and fear of the others (14:9).

    “These two men, Caleb and Joshua, brought the same facts as the other. What is the difference in their report? The difference is in their interpretation of the facts because they included God.”1

    Do you see how strong the faith of Joshua and Caleb was? As they looked at the situation, all they could see was the positive. They knew that God could do as He had promised. And now that they had seen the richness of the land, they were convinced that God delighted in them and was giving them something very special. But they also saw the absurd and dangerous results of those who were rebelling against God. And they tried to convince them to believe God and obey Him.

    It is easy to see the differences between those who trusted and those who did not. But do you see the similarities as well? Both were emotional. One group was moved to tears because they didn’t believe while the other was moved emotionally because the others would not believe. Both groups were focused on something. One group was focused on the impossibility of the situation while the other was focused on the God who could do anything. Both groups had a plan. One group wanted to go back to slavery to escape what they thought was a bad situation while the other wanted to obey God and enjoy His great blessings.

  3. How does it apply?

    Are you allowing your fears to keep you from believing and obeying God?

    While every Christian has placed his or her faith in Jesus, there are occasional times when our faith is tested by events that we face. When we are afraid, we are tempted to stop trusting the Lord to keep His many promises to us. When he said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” did He mean it? Of course He did. But when that fear hits, it is easy to turn our focus from what God has said and begin to see all of the problems.

    Sometimes it takes a story like this to remind us of our failure to trust the Lord. If you are currently full of fear and focused on your problems, you should stop and turn your focus back to God’s promises. It may not take away the problem, but it will take away your fear and replace it with confidence in what God can do.

    In what way can you show your faith in God today?

    It is easy to talk about general principles. We know that God is able to do anything. We know that we should trust Him and not fear. But how do we apply that to our lives today? In what tangible ways can we show that we are trusting and obeying the Lord?

    When we are afraid to talk with someone about the Lord for fear of a bad response, we should trust in the Lord and do it anyway. When we are afraid to confront someone about sin in their life, we should trust in the Lord and do it anyway. When we are afraid of how a health, family, or financial situation will turn out, we should trust the Lord and move ahead. When we feel that God is leading us to do something but are afraid of doing it, we need to trust Him and move forward with that plan.

    Can you think of another way that you can show your faith in God?


Did you notice what happened in verse ten? After the people decided to stone Joshua and Caleb (and perhaps Moses and Aaron), the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle. This indicates to me that God was getting the people’s attention and was finally going to respond to their rebellion against Him. This must have caused all of them to stop and consider what they had been doing. Perhaps that is what we ought to do today—stop and consider how we have been responding to God. Then when we are done, let us choose to believe and obey God no matter how the situation looks.


1 McGee 488.


McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. I, Genesis through Deuteronomy, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981.

Merrill, Eugene H., “Numbers” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989.