Friday, November 21, 2014

Rebellion During the Forty Years in the Wilderness

It has been nearly seven years since I published my first book, Joshua's Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua. It has been my most popular book – a look at the chiastic structure within the book of Joshua and also a look at the spiritual warfare that Joshua had to contend with as he led his people into the Promised Land – but I had not looked at it for a while.

Recently I started a slow walk through the history books of the Old Testament and am currently studying the book of Numbers. As I was reading, I was reminded of the rebellion that was identified in my Joshua book. I was impressed enough with it that I decided to post the following excerpt from pages 76-79. My hope is that someone might benefit from this teaching.

Disobedience During the Forty Years

Let us look back over the previous forty years in the desert. During those forty years, they stumbled and fell many, many times:
The whole Israelite community grumbled about the lack of food, so the Lord provided manna (Ex 16:1-4). In time, the manna became very distasteful because of repetition.
Some of the Israelites disobeyed Moses by keeping the manna for the following morning, but the manna bred worms and stank (Ex 16:20).
The people quarreled with Moses about the lack of water at Massah, so the Lord had Moses strike his staff on the rock (which was Christ) causing water to come out (Ex 17:1-7).
Aaron and the Israelites rebelled against Moses and the Lord by casting a golden idol, causing the Lord to bring a plague against the rebels (Ex 32:1-6, 25-35; Deut 9:15-17).
Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu, upon seeing the glory of the Lord in the form of a fire, boldly offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, so they died before the Lord (Lev 9:23 - 10:2).
The son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the Lord's name and cursed, so the Lord had him stoned to death (Lev 24:10-14).
Some Israelites complained about their hardships, which aroused the Lord's anger and caused Him to burn and consume some of them (Num 11:1-3).
The people coveted meat and complained about the manna, so the Lord provided quail which turned into a plague (Num 11:4-33).
Miriam and Aaron, the sister and brother of Moses, questioned the authority of Moses, so the Lord gave Miriam leprosy for seven days (Num 12:1-10).
The ten spies lacked the faith that the Lord would be with them in conquering the land. The Lord struck them down and they died of a plague (Num 13:26-33, 14:36,37).
When the Israelites disbelieved the two spies and then treated the Lord with contempt by grumbling against Moses and Aaron, the Lord condemned all men twenty years old or older to death (that is 601,730 men) over a forty year period so they would not enter the Promise Land (Num 14:1-29).
Against the advice of Moses, some people attempted to conquer a part of the Promised Land using just their own strength (self reliant). The Lord was not with their effort and they were defeated by the Amalekites and Canaanites (Num 14:39-45).
A man disobeyed one of God's laws by gathering wood on the Sabbath day, so the Lord had him stoned to death (Num 15:32-35).
Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled and disrespected Moses and the Lord, so the Lord judged the rebellious people by opening the earth and swallowing them (Num 16:1-33).
Two-hundred and fifty people followed Korah's example, so they were consumed with fire from the Lord (Num 16:2,35).
In the same disobedience, 14,700 people died by a plague from the Lord because they too had picked up this same rebellious attitude (Num 16:41-49).
Moses and Aaron, after being instructed by the Lord to speak to the rock, instead struck the rock. Even though water came out, this disobedience failed to honor the Lord as holy, so the Lord prevented them from entering the new land (Num 20:1-12).
The Israelites became impatient about having to go around Edom and spoke against the Lord and Moses, so the Lord sent snakes that bit and killed many of the people (Num 21:4-6).
Israelite men indulged in sexual immorality with the Moabite women, so the Lord brought a plague which killed twenty-four thousand people (Num 25:1-9).
When the Israelites passed through the land of the Amorites, the Lord gave king Sihon a stubborn spirit and an obstinate heart, so the Lord delivered the Amorites into their hands, killing them all (Deut 2:24-34).

It may be easy, when reviewing a list as long and challenging as this, to dwell in our minds on the judgments from the Lord. But look again at this list: could some of these examples be from an evil force pulling these people away from the Lord? Today we see or experience rebellion, deception, criticism, individualism, lust, selfishness, etc., and the list goes on and on. It was the same way during the time of Moses – the disobedience was often prompted by demonic forces, pulling a person down and pulling them away from God. That was the devil's purpose then and it is his purpose today.

Two of the above examples questioned the authority of Moses:
Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled and disrespected Moses and the Lord, so the Lord judged the rebellious people by opening the earth and swallowing them (Num 16:1-33).
Miriam and Aaron, the sister and brother of Moses, questioned the authority of Moses, so the Lord gave Miriam leprosy for seven days (Num 12:1-10).
While both questioned the authority of Moses, Korah was put to death but Miriam and Aaron were disciplined. Why? May I suggest that the difference is spiritual motivation? Korah had a spirit of rebellion, while the poor choice of Miriam and Aaron was followed by a heart of confession and repentance.

The story of Korah in chapter 16 of Numbers is particularly instructive of how a spirit of rebellion can attempt to defeat us. Korah, as leader of the rebellion, first got Dathan and Abiram to go against Moses. Pretty soon they were joined by another 250, and ultimately another 14,700 were caught in this spirit of rebellion. This exponential increase shows how quickly the problem can spread, just like a virus can spread in our places of work. If the problem had not been addressed with the 14,700, the entire camp would have been infected.

The Israelites had lived four-hundred years in Egypt. Even though they had lived separately from the Egyptians, they had been in bondage to them. But the most serious problem was the rebellious spirits that they had picked up while in Egypt. These spirits caused them to sin and to move further away from purity. For forty years, the Lord had to deal with the rebellion and disobedience of the people because they were not ready to enter into the Promised Land. Their wickedness, caused by bad personal choices and by demonic spirits, needed to be purged. The battle for their minds was clearly illustrated by their frequently stated desire to return to Egypt.

Years later, Samuel the prophet reminded the people of Israel what the Lord said: "I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you" (1 Sam 10:18). Egypt had a power of oppression. Truly, that forty year period was a time of intense spiritual warfare.

Notice how quickly the Lord dealt with the many issues above. Spirits of rebellion, complaining, deceit, coveting, etc. must have been at work attempting to defeat the Israelites. But the Lord had to quickly take action because He knew how quickly the damaging fire can spread. Let this be our motto, whether the problems are in our homes, our workplaces or our churches: do not let the problems fester!

Conclusion: Issues of spiritual warfare should be dealt with quickly.

Copyright © 2008, 2014 Bible Discernments, Thomas B. Clarke
Joshua's Spiritual Warfare is available at for $14.99.