Exodus Teaching - 19 - Wilderness of Misery

Title: Exodus Teaching - 19 - Wilderness of Misery
Category: Bible Studies
Subject: Exodus Study

Exodus Teaching Series #19

TITLE: Wilderness of Misery

TEXT: Numbers 11-15

[Editor's Note: Please read the special dedication which Dr. Sanders shares at the end of this portion of his sermon study from Exodus. Also, note that the study of the Exodus involves books of the Bible other than Exodus, as this study reveals.]

In many of these teaching sermons I introduce them by going back to the call of Abraham to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees and travel a great distance to the Promised Land, where the Lord told him He was giving to him and to his descendants this land. However, they would not possess it until they had lived in another country for 400 years. It is amazing that we still have a record of how the Lord’s promise played, as a famine drew the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to that foreign country, which we know to be Egypt. At the end of 430 years in Egypt, the Israelites had become, not the free residents they had been during the days of Joseph, the Lord’s servant who made arrangements for his family to settle in the fertile land of Canaan, but victims of a particularly brutal form of slavery. The purpose of this slavery was not only to get work out of the slaves, but also to reduce their numbers through the brutality of it all. They were also having male babies killed in order to reduce the population.

I will not review all the details of the Exodus as I have in earlier messages at this point. Instead, what I would like for us to consider is the overall emphasis. The Lord not only delivered His Chosen People from all the people groups of the world, He crushed the might of the strongest and most advanced nation in the world at the time. The emphasis may be considered in this simple way: (1) Out of, (2) through, and (3) into. Out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into Canaan. Egypt represented slavery and death to the Lord’s purpose for them. The Lord bought them to Sinai where they saw the glory of the Lord revealed in a mighty and miraculous way, the place where they received the Law and the sacrificial system which the Lord gave them to practice, not in the wilderness, but in Canaan’s fair and happy land. It was never in the Lord’s plans for them to be restricted to a vast and miserable wilderness where they would pay the price for refusing to follow the Lord’s plans for the conquest of Canaan, where the Israelites were to go in and possess their possessions.

At this point I would like for us to read about what happened among the people when the twelve sies who were sent to spy out the land returned with reports that the land was indeed a land flowing with milk an honey. But rather than celebrating their assurance of the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to them, they rebelled against the Lord. As we look at this I would like to or you to think with me what happened from Sinai forward. The Lord’s major emphasis in Numbers was not upon a military solution, but upon what the Lord would be doing by His mighty hand.

Think of this: When the Lord was preparing the Israelites for the conquest of Canaan, almost all of the time and effort focused on worship and service to the Lord. Almost none of it focused on military strategy and tactics. The war was won before they started, as long as they obeyed the Lord. That was going to be the challenge. They didn't do too well, did they.


A. That Had Been His Purpose Since the Call of Abraham, Gen. 12.

“The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (2) I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (4) So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.” (Gen 12:1-4, HCSB)

Note the promises the Lord made to Abraham in this covenant:

1. I will make you into a great nation (Gen. 12:2a). The Lord made this promise some 2,000 years ago and Israel, in spite of their centuries of problems, Israel still exists as a nation, and even though it is a small nation, it has, with the support of the United States, held back the biggest Muslim nations on earth for a long time. Israel had gone trough countless trials and tribulations down through the centuries because they refused to honor their part of this covenant.

2. I will bless you (Gen. 12:2b). Israel, in ancient times never realized this blessing long after the reign of Kind David, the king whom the Lord blessed with victories over all his enemies.
We normally date David around 1,000 B. C. Jeremiah wrote, some five hundred years later:

“The word of the Lord came to me: (2) “Go and announce directly to Jerusalem that this is what the Lord says: I remember the loyalty of your youth, your love as a bride—how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. (3) Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of His harvest. All who ate of it found themselves guilty; disaster came on them.” ⌊This is⌋ the Lord’s declaration. (4) Hear the word of the Lord, house of Jacob and all families of the house of Israel. (5) This is what the Lord says: ‘What fault did your fathers find in Me that they went so far from Me, followed worthless idols, and became worthless themselves?

(6) They stopped asking, “Where is the Lord who brought us from the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, through a land of drought and darkness, a land no one traveled through and where no one lived?” (7) I brought you to a fertile land to eat its fruit and bounty, but after you entered, you defiled My land; you made My inheritance detestable. (8) The priests quit asking, “Where is the Lord?” The experts in the law no longer knew Me, and the rulers rebelled against Me. The prophets prophesied by Baal and followed useless idols.” (Jer 2:1-8, HCSB)

That sounds bad, doesn’t it? It gets worse: “ For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer 2:13, HCSB) Is it possible that America is doing that very thing right now? More to the point, is it possible that the church is rejecting Yahweh, “the fountain of living water,” and digging “cracked cisterns that cannot hold water”? I have asked church members, “What is more important to you on the Lord’s Day than the Lord?” Why is it that we cannot get many of those who are more faithful in attendance on Sunday morning never come back Sunday evenings? My wife had taught Sunday School for years - she taught Language Arts in public schools for 41 years and she observed parental attitudes that hindered the growth and development of children in her classes. One day, she told me that when parents take their children to Sunday School with the promise that they will leave after Sunday School to go to the park, mall, movie, or a ball game, they might as well skip Sunday School and go on to the park because the main thing on the child’s mind is what will happen as soon as Sunday School is over. She also told me that when parents take their children out of church for two Sundays, even those who are normally in church will require special attention in order to keep them focused on the Sunday School lesson that day. They want to tell their teacher and friends what they were doing when they were out of church the previous Sundays.

The chosen people, the people of the covenant had (1) abandoned the Lord, “the fountain of living water” and (2)“dug for themselves cracked cisterns that could hold no water. Yahweh was not finished with them: “I planted you, a choice vine from the very best seed. How then could you turn into a degenerate, foreign vine?” (Jer 2:21) Still, the Lord was not through with Judah: “ In the days of King Josiah the Lord asked me, “Have you seen what unfaithful Israel has done? She has ascended every high hill and gone under every green tree to prostitute herself there... Nevertheless, her treacherous sister Judah was not afraid but also went and prostituted herself. (10) Yet in spite of all this, her treacherous sister Judah didn’t return to Me with all her heart —only in pretense.” (Jer 3:6-10, HCSB) Here, Israel denotes the Northern Ten Tribes who pulled away from Judah and Benjamin under Jeroboam I to form the new nation of Israel. The two remaining trives, Judah and Benjamin were known as Judah.

Does that sound like anyone you know? How about those who walk down the aisle during a revival, professing faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, but six months later you cannot tell them from their lost neighbors. The are drinking, gambling, using profanity, telling dirty jokes, and some have drifted back into immorality. You know what the problem is here? Those people are deceiving themselves. They think they are living in Canaan but spiritually speaking they are still in the wilderness we will call the flesh. We will have more to say about that later.

3. I will make your name great (12:2c). The Lord wanted to make the name of Israel great, but Israel has repeatedly brought the wrath of God down on herself by rebelling against Him. Over a period of years I often spoke with a Jewish friend, who like to joke with me about my faith in Jesus. He told me that he would say to a friend of mine who was a pastor every Friday, “Give ‘em hell, Jim.” He added that after Jim died he was going to have to say that to me. I assured him that Heaven is a gift, hell is not a gift, one deserves it. Then one day, my friend was agitated because he had been to a funeral in a local church and the minister kept talking about Jesus. Then he told me he had gone to his daughter’s home for Christmas and they kept talking about Jesus. “Why,” he asked, “Do they always have to talk about Jesus. Don’t they know Jews hate ...!” He cut it off, but there was no mistaking what he meant. One day, he told me that his rabbi was retiring and moving back to New York and he wanted to know if I would like to take his place at the poker table. Just a group of friends... I told him I had never played poker so he never brought it up again.

The history of Israel is filled with horror stories, and most of them are related to what the Lord commanded Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, to write. We have only read a small amount of that message, but I think we get the point. The Lord desired to bless them, but they continually rebelled against Him and turned to pagan gods.

4. I will curse those who treat you with contempt (12:2d). It would be interesting to be able to document proof of this. We can look back into her history and see that those who hated and tried to destroy Israel often ended up in decline or even destroyed themselves. How many Assyrians do you know? How many Edomites to you know? How many Amalakites to you know? How many Philistines do you know? How many Nazis to you know?

5. All the people on earth will be blessed through you (12:2e). Now, we come to the good part. No doubt the Israelites could trot out the many Nobel Peach Prizes and other prizes earned by Israelis. Someone sent me a list of Nobel prizes won by Aabs and a list of those earned by Israelis. The Global Islamic population is approximately 1, 200,000,000 - that is ONE BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world's population. Do you know how many Nobel Prizes they have one? Seven! That is right, Seven.

Now, how many Nobel prizes to you think Jews have one, with their world population set at approximately 14, 000,000 (fourteen million). That is one about .02% of the world’s population. They have won 129 (ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE)! [This according to an old article circulated by E-mail]

B. The Final Promise in the Abrahamic Covenant is Messianic.

1. There is a progressive revelation of the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament. We begin in Genesis 3 where we find that the Messiah would be a descendant of Eve, the first woman created. The Savior would be the Seed of the woman Eve. Prophecy of the coming Messiah is progressively revealed in Scripture. When the Lord gave Moses the sacrificial system it is obvious that the Lord was looking to Jesus as the fulfillment of the sacrificial system. Both the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets reveal that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham and David. Isaiah becomes very clear when it comes to the Messiah.

2. Jesus is the Messiah. If we could take the entire sacrificial system given to the people through Moses in the wilderness and burn it onto a DVD and then play that DVD, do you know what you would see? You would see Jesus Christ, coming into the world, being baptized, preaching and teaching the Word of God. Finally, we would see Him on a cruel cross at Calvary, pouring out His life’s blood for you and for me. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, “Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, since you are unleavened. “For Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5:7, HCSB) In Hebrews, Chapter 10, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, and we may add that He was perfectly sacrificed! He gave His life for you and me, no one took it from Him.

Let me confess something here: I have a very narrow view of God, and that applies to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit as well. In the Prologue to the Gospel According to John we read that Jesus was the Agent of Creation, which presents a problem for those who reject the Trinity in favor of unitary view of God. Those who adopt such a theory believe there is one Person in the godhead, and that one Person plays the role of the Father in the Old Testament, the Son in during the earthly ministry of Christ, and the Holy Spirit after Pentecost. Do I know anyone who holds that theory? The late Dr. H. Leo Eddleman told me that someone came to him and told him he has heard two well known professors talking, just around a corner from where he was standing in a classroom building and discussed their plans for taking over that seminary for their cause. They held a unitary view of God and totally rejected the concept of the Trinity.

According to various passages in the New Testament it is obvious that Jesus, the Agent of Creation, was with the Israelites in the wilderness.

“ Now I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, (2) and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (3) They all ate the same spiritual food, (4) and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Cor 10:1-4, HCSB)

I spent some time with Dr. Ed Blum, the General Editor of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, when he met with the Broadman and Holman Committee to answer questions about the proposed translation. While I am on the subject, I am not amused by those who say HCSB stands for Hard Core Southern Baptist. Dr. Blum seemed like a genuine, God love, Bible believing hard core Presbyterian! He was quiet, serious, humble, and committed. Dr. Blum agrees with many conservative Bible scholars in believing that many times in the Old Testament when we see the words, “The Angel of the Lord” we are reading about the pre-incarnate Son of God. If the Scripture is right about Creation and about the “spiritual rock” in the wilderness, we should have no problem with the Trinity - even though a friend quoted one of my favorite professors as saying he wished we would stop using the word Trinity: “after all, you don’t find the word in the Bible. I have never read about an automobile, a cell-phone, and I-Pad, or computer in the Bible, but I know they exist because I am sitting at my computer right now, and I frequently receive e-mail messages from people who sent them from their I-Pad of I-Phone. I believe they exist, and they were created by human beings.


A. One Spy Was Sent From Each Tribe to Spy out the Promised Land.

1. The time had come. Finally, after all those years, the time had come. After 430 years in Egypt, and after the Ten Plagues, after the Israelites had suffered a vicious and deadly slavery at the hands of the Egyptians, the Lord had finally delivered them through the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai in Arabia (Gal. 4:25). After giving them specifics for the construction of the Tabernacle, the priestly system, and the sacrificial system, the time had come for the Chosen People to move toward the Chosen Land, the Land of Promise, the land flowing with milk and honey. The only problem was that the land was occupied by nations that had been established there for ages. These nations were aware of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and many if not all knew that they had been delivered by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They also knew that the time was coming when these Israelites would begin their move toward Canaan. Edom and other nations would seek to prevent their march toward Canaan, but that did not deter Moses in the least.

2. The Lord chose the spies. “The Lord spoke to Moses: (2) “Send men to scout out the land of Canaan I am giving to the Israelites. Send one man who is a leader among them from each of their ancestral tribes.” (3) Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran at the Lord’s command. All the men were leaders in Israel.” (Num 13:1-3) There was nothing haphazard about the way the twelve spies were chosen, nor was there any question as to where they would go, what they would look for, or what they would bring back with them. The Lord, Yahweh, spoke to Moses and Moses hand picked the spies and sent them to spy out the land of Canaan.

There is yet another point that should be made about the twelve spies. These were, from all accounts, men respected within their own tribe. They were leaders, men of integrity. According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, “At last the tribes of Israel reached the Desert of Paran where they camped for a long time, probably in the great oasis of Kadesh (v. 26). Kadesh, though technically in the Desert of Zin, is here located in the Desert of Paran because Zin was a subdivision of the great Paran wilderness (cf. 27:14; Deut. 32:51, bold in original) [BKC]. Another point I noticed in one commentary is that some of the names in this list are a bit unusual. There are two names, however that have been remembered down through the centuries: Caleb and Joshua, whose name was changed by Yahweh from Hoshea to Joshua. According to the New Commentary on the Whole Bible, Old Testament:

“Hoshea (so recent translations), which means “salvation.” Moses renamed him Jehoshua or Joshua, although not necessarily at this point in the story (so Keil; contra, JB). This theophonic name means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation,” and is the same name as “Jesus.” His name was so given because “he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21. Bold added) [NCWB].

The name Hoshea means “salvation” whereas the name Joshua means Yahweh is salvation, o the salvation of Yahweh.

3. The spies were given specific instructions. Moses instructed the spies:

“See what the land is like, and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. (19) Is the land they live in good or bad? Are the cities they live in encampments or fortifications? (20) Is the land fertile or unproductive? Are there trees in it or not? Be courageous. Bring back some fruit from the land.” It was the season for the first ripe grapes.” (Num 13:18-20)

This was a recognizance mission, but it is not purely military. Moses wanted to know if the cities were encampments or fortifications, critical information for the Israelite military leaders when the time of the conquest came. However, a key element of concern was the land itself. Was it really a land flowing with milk and honey, a land suited for domesticated animals and was it a land they could count on for the produce to meet the needs of the people? “Is the land fertile or unproductive?” The presence of trees in the land of Canaan would tell Moses whether or not the land was suitable for growing trees, or would it be a land like the Wilderness of Zin, a land filled with sand and rocks?

Interestingly, Moses ordered them to bring back some of the fruit of the land. They obeyed Moses and brought back the information he requested. So far, so good.

B. The Spies Returned and Reported to Moses.

1. Canaan truly was a land flowing with milk and honey. It was everything the Lord promised, a fertile, productive land. There was nothing lacking in the land as far as productivity was concerned. The gigantic grape cluster verified that. They found a giant cluster of grapes and broght it back to the people between two of the spies In other words, it was gigantic (13:23).

2. The military part of the report was sadly lacking. Ten of the twelve spies were in a state of panic, and their fear spread throughout the camp. To them, the inhabitants of the land were giants, too powerful to defeat of overrun. This is what ten of the twelve spies reported. They reported that the men of some of the regions were giants and that the citizens were like giants. They saw the people and fear overcame them.

3. Their report was not well received by the Lord (13:26-33). The question we should consider is, Why was the Lord so angry with the ten spies? We must remember that Caleb tried with his whole heart to convince the people that God would give them the victory. Joshua would stand for the Lord, and stand with Caleb. After all, Joshua would be the commander in chief when the time came for the Conquest. Sadly, he would have a long wait.

Why would the Lord be angry with the report? I ask that question again for the simple reason that we must not miss the answer to it.

Caleb immediately tried to calm the fears of the other spies and of the people, but the damage had already been done:

(30) “Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!”

(31) But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are!” (32) So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: “The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size. (33) We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak ⌊come⌋ from the Nephilim! To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.” (Num 13:30-33, bold added)

“And it is probable the Anakim were a distinguished family, or perhaps a select body of warriors, chosen for their extraordinary size. we were in our own sight as grasshoppers—hyperbole by which the spies gave an exaggerated report of the physical strength of the people of Canaan”. [NCWB]

The question we may ask is why the Lord responded so strongly to the negative report of the ten spies? If one reads only these few verses we may excuse the question, but let us back up just a little - okay, a lot. God had called Abraham somewhere around 2000 B. C., told him to go to the Land of Canaan, where He promised the entire land to Moses and to his descendants, but only after they had lived in a foreign country for 400 years. A famine came to the whole region during the days of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and the Lord had a man named Joseph in a place of responsibility and authority in Egypt so he could made arrangements for Jacob and sons and their families to settel in the fertile Land of Goshen where they prospered for some time.

A new Pharaoh came to power who did not recognize the arrangement an earlier Pharaoh had mde with Joseph for the settlement of the Israelites. Jacob’s family had grown from seventy in number to around two million. An intensely cruel form of slavery, designed to control and reduce the population of the Israelites caused them to call on the name of the Lord and ask Him to deliver them. His answer was to send Moses to deliver the Children of Israel. Only after ten earthshaking plagues
did the Lord, who had revealed His covenant name, Yahweh, to Moses lead them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, where the Lord had parted the waters and permitted them to cross on dry land.

They had, over a period of time, angered the Lord through their disobedience. At Sinai, the Israelites had promised to obey the Lord, but when things didn’t happen as they expected them to happen they demanded that Aaron mold them a golden calf like they had worshiped in Egypt. There were other time when the people rebelled against the Lord, even after they had promised to obey him. This time there would be no reprieve. For forty days, the twelve spies had carefully looked over the Promised Land, only to come back to Moses where ten of them insisted that they could not conquer this land because the inhabitants of the land looked like giants to them.

Yahweh is not One who plays games. His judgment was that all the Israelites who were twentieth years old and older would die in the wilderness over the next forty years. Only Joshua and Caleb of all those twenty years of age and older would ever set foot in the Holy Land. All those twenty years of age and older would waste away in the wilderness. No joy, no peace, no fulfillment, no hope. It is a solemn thing to question God. It can lead to a lifetime in the wilderness of sin and rebellion.

C. The People Rebelled against the Lord.

Here is a point we should remember: The Lord did not send twelve spies through Canaan to see if they could determine whether or not Israel could conquer the land. There was never a question in the mind of God, of Joshua, Caleb, or Moses as to the outcome of the campaign against the nations they were going into combat against. That issue was settled in the mind of God, Who had promised victory to His people. The victory was assured, the land was theirs. God promised them the land and no force on earth, no force in the history of the world could prevent their taking the land of Canaan. They, after over 430 years, were ready to possess their possessions. Looking victory in the face, they chose to rebel and to rebel against Yahweh was not like rebelling against some pagan idol. The consequences would be beyond anything they could have imagined. They were sinning against the one and only God who could do something about it.

These ten spies and the great multitude of the people who has been delivered from slavery in Egypt had seen the mighty hand of God use the ten plagues to slap the idolatry of Egypt in the face. They had seen Him crush the mightiest army in the world at the time, part the waters of the Red Sea and deliver Israel, and then destroy the chariots and calvary of Egypt. They had seen Yahweh provide water from a rock, defeat the Amalekites, and provide manna for them to eat. They had seen the glory of God manifested on Mt. Sinai. And still, they look Him in the face and say, we will not go forward!

When the ten spies and the masses within the twelve tribes rebelled against he invasion of Canaan, they were rebelling against Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord had done everything He had promised to do, and still, they wouldn’t believe in Him. The Lord gave Jeremiah a message for the descendants of these very people hundreds of years later:

“Has a nation ⌊ever⌋ exchanged its gods? (But they were not gods! ) Yet My people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols. (12) Be horrified at this, heavens; be shocked and utterly appalled.” (Jer 2:11-12, HCSB)

After the people realized God’s Judgement was final there can be no doubt they were horrified at what they had done. They had seen the hand of God raised against the Egyptians and the Amalekites, but now it has been raised against them.

D. God Judged Those Who Rebelled.

1. The people chose the wilderness over Canaan. If you had asked them if that had made that choice there is no doubt in my mind that most of them would have denied it. There is also no doubt in my mind that even in our day liberal sociologists, psychologists, and even liberal theologians would have rationalized their way around their guilt and rejected any idea that they were deserving of their punishment - that is, if they would admit that it was God’s judgment against them. There are too many excuses and explanations the rebellious person can use to avoid saying, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Have you ever heard anyone say he began drinking socially because of he to become an alcoholic? An attorney once told me that he avoided social meeting with many lawyer friends because all they talked about among themselves when not dealing with business was where they would go to get something to drink, or what they were going to drink at the party.

Helen Talley told me that her son Jerry Ball traveled for a major insurance company and attended a lot of meetings and banquets. When they had a dinner and the waiters took their orders for drinks, Jerry said, “I want a Coke, and I want it in a bottle.” Another man’s mother told me that her son realized that he could tell a host or hostess to serve him a Coke in a glass like those being used by those who were drinking alcoholic beverages, “and no one knew the difference.” I told her about Jerry. He wanted them to know he was different, yet he had a gift for cultivating a friendship with other people. Bob Moore had served a tour with the Marines and then worked for a major oil refinery in a supervisory position. He had never taken a drink of any alcoholic beverage. A group of friend were on their way to see their professional baseball team play and they stopped at a fellow worker’s home to pick him up. His wife asked them if they would like something to drink while they waited a few minutes for her husband to get ready. Others chose an alcoholic beverage but Bob said, “Just bring me a Coke.” When he tasted it he was shocked and asked what that was. She thought he mean “just put it in Coke” for him.

I was still in my late twenties and relatively new to the church I served as pastor when I received a call telling me that “Reba” was in a local hospital. I went to see her and she told me that she had tried to commit suicide and her son found her and got her to the hospital in time to save her. When I leaned that this was her third attempt at suicide my first thought was that either she was not serous about it, or she was doing something wrong. Then, I learned that she has shot herself through the chest one time, taken poison one time, and tried gas another time. Her older son found her twice and got her to the hospital where they saved her life. She told me that she had taken her first drink when she was eighteen years old and that she had been an alcoholic ever since. I dedicated this Teaching Sermon to the late Lt. General Dutch Shoffner and I reminded him that his “Big brother”, John, had mentioned him to me many times. I will never forget what John Shoffner said to me about this lady: “She may have been an alcoholic when she was eighteen, but she didn’t wait until she was eighteen to start drinking.” He knew her and her many brothers and sisters well. I can assure you, she never set out to become an alcoholic or a suicide victim.

Those Israelites did not revolt against Moses and against the Lord because they wanted to flounder in the wilderness for forty years. Sadly, they reacted to the report of the ten cowardly spies and rejected to two godly spies, Joshua and Caleb. The land was theirs, all they had to do was to move forward, toward the land “flowing with milk and honey.” They refused. The shouts of fear, doubt, and rebellion spread across the vase sea of Israelites, who had seen the hand of Almighty God strike the mightiest army in the world. They had seen the bodies of countless Egyptians washing ashore on the east side of the right arm of the Red Sea. How could they have forgotten that? But they did. Let’s face it, Satan can spread panic across a nation just as easily as he spreads fear in the heart of an individual.

2. Joshua and Caleb pleaded with the people to obey the Lord. The Scripture tells us that “Then Moses and Aaron fell down with their faces ⌊to the ground⌋ in front of the whole assembly of the Israelite community.” We can only imagine the shock and horror that penetrated the hearts and minds of Moses and his bother Aaron. It is possible that their very act of falling down on their faces before the whole community of Israelites emboldened, or motivated the two faithful spies to speak for the Lord.

(6) Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes (7) and said to the entire Israelite community: “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. (8) If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. (9) Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” (Num. 14:5-9)

The man who was chosen by the Lord to be their commanding general during the Conquest said, “We will devour them.” Over and over, he pleaded, “Don’t be afraid of them.” If there is one thing that stand out here it is that the Lord had chosen the right man to lead in the Conquest of Canaan. Joshua reasoned that “Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us.” What more could they ask. Their prayers had been answered! Thee was no way they could lose if Yahweh had already given them the land and would make it happen, just as He gave them the incredible victory at Jericho. But did the people listen to Joshua and Caleb? No more than they listened to Moses and Aaron. What did the people do? “While the whole community threatened to stone them, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the tent of meeting.” (Num 14:10)

3. Now, it is the Lord’s time to speak. Shockingly, His speech is not directed at the pagan Canaanites, it is directed against the faithless rebels who made up the majority of the people He had miraculously delivered from a most cruiel form of terrorism:

“The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people despise Me? How long will they not trust in Me despite all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with a plague and destroy them. Then I will make you into a greater and mightier nation than they are.”

4. Moses interceded for the people of Israel. Moses is remembered as a great intercessor for the people of Israel, and there can be no better example than that given here.

13 But Moses replied to the Lord, “The Egyptians will hear about it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from them. (14) They will tell ⌊it to⌋ the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people, how You, Lord, are seen face to face, how Your cloud stands over them, and how You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. (15) If You kill this people with a single blow, the nations that have heard of Your fame will declare, (16) ‘Since the Lord wasn’t able to bring this people into the land He swore to ⌊give⌋ them, He has slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

(17) “So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: (18) The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave ⌊the guilty⌋ unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children to the third and fourth generation. (19) Please pardon the wrongdoing of this people, in keeping with the greatness of Your faithful love, just as You have forgiven them from Egypt until now.”

The Lord is righteous and holy, but “He will not leave the guilty unpunished.” Yes, God is love, but He is also holy and a holy God cannot leave the guilty unpunished. Centuries later, the Lord ordered Jeremiah not to pray for those whom He had decided to judge. Jeremiah prayed often for his people, the people of Judah, but, he writes, “(1) Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel should stand before Me, My compassions would not ⌊reach out⌋ to these people. Send them from My presence, and let them go. (2) If they ask you, ‘Where will we go?’ you must tell them: This is what the Lord says:

Those ⌊destined⌋ for death, to death;
those ⌊destined⌋ for the sword, to the sword.
Those ⌊destined⌋ for famine, to famine;
those ⌊destined⌋ for captivity, to captivity.

(3) “I will ordain four kinds ⌊of judgment⌋ for them”—⌊this is⌋ the Lord’s declaration—“the sword to kill, the dogs to drag away, and the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land to devour and destroy. 4 I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of Manasseh son of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.” (Jer 15:1-4, HCSB)

Moses and Samuel were great intercessors, but even they would not be heard when the judgment the Lord announced to Jeremiah came to pass.

5. The Lord heard Moses and Responded to him. He did not destroy the people and start over with Moses, but He did not take their disobedience lightly.

a) He pardoned the people, as Moses requested (v. 20).
b) The earth was filled with His glory (v. 21).
c) None of those who tested Him would see Canaan (vv 22-23).
d) Caleb and Joshua would see it (vv. 24, 38 ).
e) He told them to turn back and head for the wilderness toward the Red Sea (v.25).

6. The Lord made His purpose known (Num. 14: 26-35).

(26) Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: (27) “How long ⌊must I endure⌋ this evil community that keeps complaining about Me? I have heard the Israelites’ complaints that they make against Me. (28) Tell them: As surely as I live,” ⌊this is⌋ the Lord’s declaration, “I will do to you exactly as I heard you say. (29) Your corpses will fall in this wilderness—all of you who were registered ⌊in the census⌋, the entire number of you 20 years old or more —because you have complained about Me. (30) I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. (31) I will bring your children whom you said would become plunder into the land you rejected, and they will enjoy it. (32) But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. (33) Your children will be shepherds in the wilderness for 40 years and bear the penalty for your acts of unfaithfulness until all your corpses lie ⌊scattered⌋ in the wilderness. (34) You will bear the consequences of your sins 40 years based on the number of the 40 days that you scouted the land, a year for each day. You will know My displeasure. (35) I, the Lord, have spoken. I swear that I will do this to the entire evil community that has conspired against Me. They will come to an end in the wilderness, and there they will die.”

The final result was that of all those twenty years of age and older, “Only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh remained alive of those men who went to scout out the land” (Num. 14:38).

E. The Rebellious Sinners Decided to Take Matters into Their Own Hands.

Here we have human nature at its best - well, maybe at its worst. They went into panic mode when they heard the report from the ten spies who returned in a state of panic. These people revolted at the though of beginning the Conquest of Canaan after hearing the reports of the ten spies. Nothing Joshua and Caleb said could persuade them. But just as soon as the Lord announced His judgment against them they were ready to go into battle on their own - meaning without the Lord. This would be a subject for jokes if it were not so serious. Let us see what the Scripture has to say on this subject:

(39) When Moses reported these words to all the Israelites, the people were overcome with grief. (40) They got up early the next morning and went up the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Let’s go to the place the Lord promised, for we were wrong.”

(41) But Moses responded, “Why are you going against the Lord’s command? It won’t succeed. (42) Don’t go, because the Lord is not among you and you will be defeated by your enemies. (43) The Amalekites and Canaanites are right in front of you, and you will fall by the sword. The Lord won’t be with you, since you have turned from following Him.”

(44) But they dared to go up the ridge of the hill country, even though the ark of the Lord’s covenant and Moses did not leave the camp. (45) Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that ⌊part of the⌋ hill country came down, attacked them, and routed them as far as Hormah. (Num 14:39-45)

They refused to enter the Land of Promise to possess their possessions because they were afraid of the people who live in that land. The Lord refused to let all those 20 years of age and older enter the land, telling them that generation would die in the wilderness. Now, without the Lord’s help or blessings they took it upon themselves to launch an attack anyway. They were soundly defeated.

Let me ask you a question: have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? You haven’t? Then talk with a pastor who had been in the Lord’s work for 20 years. I can assure you he has seen people who were smarter than the pastor, deacons, faithful members, and experienced counselors. Most pastors have seen people launch some program or plan with absolute confidence that they are doing the Lord a service. Sometimes, churches are split over such arrogance.

A lot of pastors can tell horror stories about people who try to change things at their church - change things, naturally to put themselves out front as leaders of the church or a group within the church. The first time I saw anything like that I was maybe twelve years old and my parents, my young brother, and little sister had gone to visit my grandmother, who lived a couple of hours from our home. They left me at home to tend to the livestock and to keep an eye on the farm. I walked about a mile to our church, which was actually a mission of another church. I had no idea anything was happening, or going to happen, until a lady stood up in Sunday School and made a speech about our leaders. She was related to many in the community, even though she did not attend services on a regular basis. I was surprised to hear this lady attack my mother. She was supposed to have been my mother’s friend and her children were supposed to be my friends. Her reason for attacking Mother may have had something to do with her occasional visits to care for her mother.

Before her little session was over she had been elected to take Mother’s place as the teacher of an adult lady’s Sunday School class. One of the lady’s sons challenged me after Sunday School was over. We had our worship service at 9:00 A. M. and Sunday School at 10:00 which meant that the pastor of our sponsoring church left and there was no real leadership there at the time.

When my family got back home I told my mother what had happened, and that her “friend” was now the teacher of her class. Mother said, “Well, if she wants to teach the class I will pray for her and trust that she will do a good job.” After she took over the class, I suppose she learned that preparing to teach an adult Sunday School Class is serious work. Within two weeks she dropped out and Mother was asked to teach the class again. I never saw her show any resentment and if anyone had criticized the other lady I can assure you my mother would have defended her - not to prove she was right, but to avoid the character assassination. It was frustrating to try to share a little gossip about a neighbor with my mother. She would listen without saying a word and they say, “Let me tell you what Sally is doing for the Jones family...” You felt guilty for saying anything about her neighbor.


God brought the Israelites out of Egypt to take them into Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey. We will see before the end of this series of messages from Exodus that the Lord delivers us from spiritual death, not for us to wander in the wilderness called the flesh, but to a close relationship with Him, walking in the Spirit. As He wanted Israel to live in Canaan, He wants us to live in the Spirit. Up to a point, I am following the thoughts of Major Ian Thomas by comparing the lostness of the Israelites in Egypt to the lostness of the person who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ. He cannot deliver himself. Only the Lord can deliver him.

When the lost sinner is delivered from death it is not for him to wander for forty years in the wilderness called the flesh, but to go directly to Canaan where he may possess his possessions. He brought the Israelites out of Egypt in order to take them into Canaan - out of Egypt, into Canaan! He had an appointment set for Israel at Sinai and this was crucial. From there they were supposed to march on to Canaan, conquer the land and really possess their possessions. Failure to obey the Lord caused the Israelites to flounder for 40 years in the wilderness, a land without water, a land without food, a land without beauty, a land without joy. They had to depend upon the Lord for everything for 40 years, and then only those who been under 20 years of age were permitted to enter the Promised Land.

Sadly, countless Christians are delivered from death and slavery, but by their own choice they flounder in the wilderness of the flesh for years. They are powerless and fruitless, but they have convinced themselves that they are doing the best they can do. Those in the wilderness had never seen a land flowing with milk and honey, but they had filtered memories of Egypt that left out the slavery, death, humiliation, and deprivation. They only thought of fish, melons, garlic, and onions.

Canaan was a real place when Yahweh promised Abraham it would belong to his descendants, but only after they had spent 400 years in a foreign country. The Israelites had been in Egypt 430 years, having gone into the land seventy in number, free people settled in the fertile land of Goshen. A new Pharaoh had come to power, become alarmed at the number of Israelites, realizing that if they joined an invading army they could help defeat Egypt. With this in mind he began an especially cruel form of slavery, designed to radically reduce the population. Male babies were ordered killed. It was getting close to the time for the Israelites to go to Canaan to possess their possessions, in the land God had given to Abraham for them. It may have taken this horrible persecution to make the Israelites want to leave Egypt, but when they called on the Lord He delivered from a brutal form of slavery by the mighty hand of God.

Only Yahweh can write history before it happens and He has been doing that since the days of Adam and Eve. There is a progressive revelation of His redemptive plan we will see as we move through the Old Testament, just as there is a progressive plan for those who look to the return of our Lord. Some have come up with some unusual schemes, but if we continue to read the Word of God and prayerfully permit the Holy Spirit to help us understand it we will look forward to an eternity in the presence of out Lord and Savior.

Sadly, many who profess to be born-again Christians act more like lost people than Christians. They announce at times that they are Christians, otherwise one might not even suspect them of being genuine Christians. The Christian who wastes his life in the wilderness of the flesh is likely to spend more time thinking about the life lived in sin (Egypt) than that which is available to him as a Spirit filled Christian (Canaan). Sadly, many professing Christians know a lot more about Egypt than they do Canaan. They may sing of the Sweet Bye and Bye, but they have a more intimate knowledge of the life of sin than they do a life of holiness. In fact, the person in the wilderness (the flesh) may actually be embarrassed when people talk of Canaan, where one walks with the Lord in faith. Sadly, some people who have been delivered from Egypt have resigned themselves to a life in the wilderness and never catch sight of Canaan where their possessions await them. The late Dr. W. O. Vaught called this the “old sin nature” and Major Ian Thomas referred to it as the flesh.

Let me draw some parallels. The Israelites only had to be delivered from Egypt onetime, just as the person who is dead in sin must only be delivered from death one time (John 10:28; 2 Peter 1:3-5).
Even when the Israelites griped and complained against Moses and Aaron the Lord did not send them back to Egypt. At the same time, the delivered people were a fruitless people. God brought them out of Egypt to take them into Canaan, not to wander in the wilderness. They were as fruitless in the wilderness as a Christian is who persists in walking in the flesh. Those in the wilderness produced no fruit and they could not enter the Canaan. It took the mighty hand of God to get the Israelites out of the wilderness and into Canaan. The Lord brought them out of Egypt to take them into Canaan. Only He could do it. He wants to take the Christian who is wandering in the flesh and move him into Canaan, the spiritual life He intends for all believers.

Dedication of this portion of The Exodus Study

This is more than a normal sermon. The title, The Exodus Teaching Series, was suggested by Dr. Mike Minnix, creator and editor of www.sermoncity.com. A pastor may study this Scripture and these notes and prepare a number of sermons from it.

While working on Sermon Number 18 in this series of Teaching Sermons, I checked my e-mail and discovered a note from my good friend Lt. General Dutch Shoffner, only it wasn’t from Dutch, it was from his son General Al Shoffner. While Dutch was going through some challenging health problems he had stopped sending longer, detailed messages. Instead, he sent one liners, just enough to let me know he had read a message. He said very little about his health issues, but after spending some time in a hospital, he wrote, “Johnny, it looks like I will be spending the rest of my life tied to a pole, but at least it will be at home, not in the hospital.” After that, messages were, in essence, one liners.

We began communicating regularly after I met Dutch and Beverly at his sister-in-law’s funeral. His older brother John and his wife Barbara (Bobbie) Shoffner, and mutual friends from our church, Perry and Helen Talley, often visited in one home or another. At the funeral home that day, I discovered that John was having some serious health problems and the Dutch was watching after him and tending to his business. After Barbara’s funeral I did what I could to help Dutch check on John. I called John often and visited him in a hospital in Alexandria, LA.

When John Shoffner, died Dutch and I worked together on the funeral, and after the funeral we stayed in touch and he began helping me with my commentaries and sermons. As I have stated many times, most of the volumes Dr. Mike Minnix has posted on the SermonCity.Com web site come from what I call my Bible Notebook. The main difference is that in those volumes I use my own method of documenting them, using an abbreviation instead of the traditional number for footnotes and bibliography. I do this so the reader can identify the source on the screen as he reads each volume and he does not have to leave the screen to look up the source.

Dutch loved the Bible, as he loved his weekly men’s Bible study. I was on the Board of Trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources, serving on the Broadman and Holman Publishing Committee where my first vote had been to publish the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I sent him a copy and he loved the translation, and added, “They will have to revise it in 40 years. Language changes ever 40 years.”

After reading a number of the volumes in my Bible Notebook, Dutch offered to get some of them on a website - and pay for them! The Lord, however, had another path for those commentaries. I had nominated Dr. Wayne Hamrick to serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at LifeWay Christian Resources, and Wayne had sent one of my sermons to Dr. Mike Minnix, who had served as the Vice President in Evangelism for the Georgia Baptist Convention. Dr. Minnix asked me to send more sermons. I asked him about the Bible studies I had written and filed under The Bible Notebook and he asked me to send him a sample of one of my commentaries. After reading it he asked me to send him everything I had. Dutch converted my material from WordPerfect to Word and sent the many volumes to Mike, who posted the material on PastorLife.Com and then on SermonCity.Com.

On January 4, 2014, I received another message from General Al Shoffner, informing me that his father had passed away. The previous volume in this sermon teaching series was dedicated to Mrs. Beverly Shoffner. Now, after only a few days, I am dedicating this volume to my friend Dutch. How fitting it is that as many Christians sing the old hymn, On Jordan’s Jordan’s Stormy Banks, they think of Canaan, that “fair and happy land”, as Heaven, or the “sweet bye and bye.” In reality, Canaan was a real place where real people were going to posses their possessions. However, to use the common picture of Canaan for a moment, Dutch and Beverly have gone on to that “fair an happy land” where they have possessed their possessions. I will miss you for a little while, Dutch, but right now you already know more about heaven than I can imagine. I look forward to our next visit. In the meantime, I am praying for Al, Andy, and their families.