Scripture Reading: Numbers 13 - 16 ...
There is a “promised land” for those who believe, and God has revealed the way to enter it. Our reading today reveals a choice that must be made. How can sinful people like you and me enter into God’s “promised land?” God told Moses to send out spies into the land of Canaan, the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants. The spies went out and explored the land for forty days, then reported that the land was indeed a beautiful land that flowed “with milk and honey!" (13:27). Then, in what is often the biggest mistake people make after they say what is right and good, they added the word, "BUT ..." (13:28). Ten of the twelve spies declared that the people of the land were too strong and could not be defeated. Only Joshua and Caleb believed God and encouraged the people to enter the land: "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it" (13:30).
Joshua and Caleb knew GOD ... the God who had already displayed His power and glory in bringing these people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and in countless other miracles. These people SAW, with their own eyes, amazing miracles! Yet their stubbornness and rebellion reveals the reality of the spiritual death that plagues all of mankind apart from the work of God's Spirit. Sin makes people blind to the things of God, and leaves them in bondage to SELF. Sin leads to death and separation from God.
When the people believed the report of the ten spies, Joshua and Caleb testified again, saying, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. ... Do not be afraid of the people of the land. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them" (14:7-9). What a powerful testimony - but the people did not listen. Then God told Moses that He was going to destroy all the people and make a new nation from Moses. This is where Moses, and later his brother, Aaron, become pictures of Christ, interceding for the people. Moses said to the LORD, "In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now" (14:19).
God let them live, but declared that not one of those who had seen His glory ... all those twenty years old or more, would enter the promised land. They would die in the desert. Only Joshua and Caleb, of that generation, would enter the land. All those who had grumbled against God would die in the desert. What a picture of the plague of sin upon mankind today! We worry about viruses and other diseases, about war and all sorts of things that have brought physical death to millions around the world throughout the centuries, but the plague of sin causes eternal death because it leaves people in their rebellion against God and finally judgment comes.
The role of the "High Priest" is now revealed in Aaron. God had appointed Aaron and his sons as the only ones who could bring the atonement offering into the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant rested. God said, "The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven ..." (15:25). All this pointed to Jesus, our great High Priest, who offered Himself as the perfect "atonement" for sin on the cross.
Through Jesus Christ all who believe WILL enter the promised land of eternity. But those who continue to grumble and to rebel against God and His Anointed One will face the same fate as those in the days of Moses. Korah, Dathan and Abiram and 250 others challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron. THEY wanted to offer the offerings themselves. God’s judgment came quickly and powerfully: The earth opened up and swallowed them and their families and their possessions. Then God sent fire to consume the 250 men who had followed them and who were offering incense before the Lord.
Why such a violent judgment from God? What was the big deal? Let's ask the question in another way? How can anyone approach God? God had appointed Aaron and his descendants as priests. No one else could come and burn incense before the LORD. Grumbling, complaining, rebelling against the authority that God had appointed resulted in severe judgment because it revealed hearts turned away from God ... proud hearts that did not take sin seriously and that rejected GOD's authority. The same is true for those who reject the One whom God has appointed to be OUR Great High Priest ... His Son, Jesus Christ. He not only gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin, but He intercedes for believers before the throne of the Father. No one else can do what Jesus has done and is doing.
Would you attempt to come to God yourself, apart from Jesus? Only we who by faith confess Jesus as Savior and Lord and who come to God through Him will avoid God's judgment and enter the final promised land. These real life events picture the reality of the present and the future. God will not put up with the grumbling and rebellion of mankind for much longer. As certainly as those who refused to believe God's promise and enter the promised land died in the desert, so all those who refuse to believe in Jesus will never enter the promised land. And as those who attempted to enter God's presence in a different way, without a Mediator, were killed by fire, all who do the same without Jesus will face the fire of God's judgment forever.
We who believe, like Joshua and Caleb, will enter into the promised land and through the offering of our Great High Priest, we will stand in the presence of the LORD, our God, without fear, for He has promised! Praise God for His gift of salvation and for a future that will be lived out in a new heaven and a new earth ... a land flowing with milk and honey ... and MORE! A land where God will live WITH His people - FOREVER!!!
"O Father, how can we thank You for all You have given us?! You have opened the way into the promised land of eternity with You and have given us access to Your very throne through the blood of Jesus. Help me to believe ALL Your promises and to know that I have nothing to fear from the enemies who may come against me, for You, my God, are with me. I will enter Your perfect presence and live with You forever, in a new world of Your making. As Your judgment falls upon the world around me, I humbly thank You for Your grace and forgiveness. In Jesus' name, Amen"