Today we see three different instances of people complaining and then the failure of the ten spies.
First, people complain about the hardship of the wilderness journey. “So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.” Then Moses intercedes for the people and “the fire was quenched.”
Second, the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt are tired of eating manna and desire meat. Their complaining provokes the Israelites to complain about the lack of meat. The people begin longing for the days when they ate “freely in Egypt.” The cravings of the flesh leads the Israelites to romanticize an Egypt that does not and did not exist. They were slaves in Egypt, and their baby boys were being killed. Plus the Lord pretty much annihilated Egypt with the ten plagues, so there is nothing for them to go back to in Egypt. As a result of all the drama, Moses is now asking the Lord to “please kill me here and now.” However, God doesn’t kill Moses. Instead He provides him with seventy men to share the burden of the people. Then the Lord says to the people that He will give them meat and “You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?’” The Lord is training the people to stop longing for what was in Egypt, the lesser things. The Lord wants His people to move forward with Him, trusting and obeying Him.
Third, Miriam and Aaron question Moses about his Ethiopian wife. It isn’t clear if this is Zipporah or if Moses took a second wife, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is their questioning of the Lord’s appointed leader, Moses, which angers the Lord. As a result, the Lord strikes Miriam with leprosy and she is sent out of the camp. Miriam’s and Aaron’s disobedience impact all those around them as the Israelites have to wait seven days until the Lord heals Miriam from her leprosy before they can journey further.
Lastly, we read about the twelve spies, one from each tribe, who spied out the land of Canaan. Ten out of twelve come back with a bad report and put fear in the hearts and minds of the people. Caleb steps forward telling the people they can overcome and take the land. But the other men who spied out the promised land respond saying, “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
Lack of faith leads to complaining and despair. Lack of faith exposes our pride, arrogance, and selfishness. Lack of faith impacts those around us. And lack of faith displeases the Lord – “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Tomorrow Joshua will step forward with Caleb to implore the people to trust the Lord and take the land. Will the people respond in faith and obey? Keep reading to find out. (Numbers 11:1-13:33)