What a sad sight to see God’s people in such disarray. Here they were at the end of a two-year “Take the Land’ project. At the final meeting to answer questions, and share vision, it all blew up. In this section, we see discord and division, all while the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites looked on.
What was the chief cause of the confusion? Numbers 14:36-37, “So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it – these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land…”
The ten negative spies were responsible for spreading the bad report that made the whole community grumble. There must be room for criticism in the church as long as it is constructive. Conflict is the way we sharpen one another. Speaking the truth isn’t easy, but always helpful when done with love. Complaining is especially useful for a short period, with the right people in the room, focused on finding a solution. But we must never give a place to those intent on spreading a bad report to stir up division. Proverbs 6:19 says God hates those who spread lies and sew discord in the house of God. A house divided against itself can not stand.
Where there are sheep, there will also be wolves in sheep’s clothing. These are people who have a quarrelsome spirit. They enjoy creating a good ruckus. In a spirit of love, we need to ask them to get on board or join a new tribe. Titus 3:10-11 says, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.”
This church in the wilderness reminds us of the church in our day. We too want to go back to Egypt. Egypt is the old, familiar, easy way. It’s the way we’ve always done it. Many struggle to let go of the way it used to be, the good old days. They may have been good, but now they are old. God can’t give us something new until we let go of the old.
In his book Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges writes, “To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old one you have now. Even though it sounds backwards, endings always come first. The first task is to let go.”
Taking new territory for God is as hard today as ever. The church needs leaders like Joshua and Caleb. These are the ones who patiently encourage, lovingly confront, and paint a better tomorrow for the ones clutching to yesterday. Maybe with a few more voices of hope, the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea would have never happened.