1 Samuel 12:14–25
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #046
March 29, 2016
“Father, we are very grateful that we have You to come to—that we have You to flee to in times of difficulty—that You are an ever present help in time of need. Father, we especially remember some folks who are in need. We pray for Miriam, and the fact that her brother is now face to face with You. But that still leaves sorrow in times of grief and mourning. I pray that you would strengthen her, that this would be a good time for her to be a witness to those around her.
Father, we also pray for others in the congregation. Many represented here who are facing health problems, as well as health problems in their immediate family. We pray that You would give them wisdom in the decisions they have to make, that You would strengthen them in their illness, and that they would be a good testimony to those around them as they face these challenges in life.
Father, we are thankful for Your grace. It is always faithful. No matter how faithless we may be, You are always faithful and true to Your Word. You will always love us. We are secure in that love forever and ever. Father, as we continue in our study in Samuel this evening, help us to understand these principles, be reminded of Your grace and Your faithfulness—that we might understand Your workings in history and in our own lives. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are in 1 Samuel 12, and working through Samuel’s great speech here at Gilgal. The focus in this one section, where we stopped last time, especially coming out of 1 Samuel 12:13–15, focuses on Israel’s rebelliousness. In those verses they are told positively that they are to fear the Lord, to serve Him, and to obey His voice.
Negatively they are told not to rebel against the commandment of the Lord. They are warned that if they do not obey, which is parallel to being rebellious, then certain negative consequences are going to take place, and the hand of the Lord will be against them.
I am taking the time to go back through some of these historical situations that are consistently referred back to, especially if you are going to understand the book of Hebrews.
If you were here for the Chafer Conference, Dr. Andy Woods gave a great paper on Kadesh Barnea, the background to understanding Hebrews 6—the warning to believers not to fall away, because that is the pattern that we see. It is that Israel, most of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, most of the Exodus generation, and most of the conquest generation, were believers.
I have gone through this before. They believed God. They believed God over and over again. But there were many times when they did not believe God, some critical times when they did not believe God. And there were negative consequences.
That is what we are looking at here. Israel is rebellious, and they are faithless. But God is faithful. He is true to His Covenant, even though they are false to the Covenant.
Here is the map. Gilgal was located in the Jordan River valley between Jericho and somewhere close to the Jordan River, where Israel had gathered together after crossing the Jordan. Inside the land they reaffirmed the Mosaic Covenant.
We look at 1 Samuel 12:14–15, the positive statement and the negative statement about rebelling against the hand of the Lord. At the end of verse 15 we read that phrase, “if you do not obey,” “if you rebel,” “then the hand of the Lord,” which is an idiom for His power and His authority, “the hand of the Lord will be against you as it was against your fathers.”
What happened to the fathers? This is going back many generations. What took place? With that phrase I began to examine the history of God’s faithfulness to His Covenant and their lack of faithfulness.
To understand it, I broke it down into several sections. The first section we have is from the crossing of the Red Sea down to Mt. Sinai. The second section deals with Mt. Sinai to Kadesh Barnea.
If you look at this map you will see a lot of yellow triangles with a black dot in the middle. Those are alternative sites for Mt. Sinai. The traditional site is Jebel Musa, down in the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Most conservative biblical archeological scholars believe that is the least likely option.
It was more likely one of the sites up in the middle of the Sinai Peninsula, maybe even as far south as one of the other locations.
There are various ways that you can evaluate this because the text tells you how long it took them to travel from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. We know that they moved at about the rate of a caravan, if that fast.
Caravans at that time only went about 10 miles a day. You can apply a basic mathematical formula to it and discover that Sinai has to be within a certain distance. That pretty much excludes Jebel Musa as an option.
Then we have from Sinai up to Kadesh Barnea. Then their massive failure at Kadesh Barnea. What happens there?
The last part is from Kadesh Barnea up to the crossing of the Jordan River into the land.
Now just by way of review, there were three things from Egypt to Sinai:
- Massah and Meribah
If you can remember that: Mariah, Manna, and Massah and Meribah. That is it.
- There was the complaining of the bitter water at Marah.
- There was the complaining about the lack of bread. They did not like their diet. They wanted more meat. They lacked bread and lacked meat. The solution was manna in the morning and quail meat in the evening in Exodus 16:2–3.
- Then they complained at Rephidim because there was no water. They called the place Massah, meaning tempted, and Meribah, meaning contention in Exodus 17. This is where Moses was told to “strike the rock.”
A similar situation happens later on, also called Meribah for contention, but that is where Moses is going to fail because he is told to “speak to the rock” instead of “strike the rock.” And because he disobeys God and struck the rock there, he was prevented from going into the Promised Land. That was the first situation.
The second rebelliousness is at Sinai, where we have the operation of the golden calf, where Moses is up on Mt. Sinai being given the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God. He is up there for 40 days and 40 nights.
How many of you got a chance to watch the Ten Commandments on Saturday night? We watched part of it. That is always kind of fun. You think about what that was like in the mid-50s, when that came out. That was just a tremendous thing. We look at it now and it is a little over acted and hyper dramatized, and things like that, but it communicated.
I remember seeing that movie when I was a little kid. That was truly impressive! It made you want to go read Exodus, read about what actually happened. The moviemakers actually inflate some things as they go through.
So the Israelites convinced Aaron to build a golden calf. The people worshipped it. Then 3,000 of those who were disobedient were executed by the Levites.
That happened at Mt. Sinai. This is brought up again in Deuteronomy. I want to flip around and take you around to a couple of passages in Deuteronomy and Numbers.
Deuteronomy 9 is another rehearsal of these rebellions. One of the reasons I am going through this in 1 Samuel 12. I noted that the vocabulary is the same vocabulary that we find throughout much of Deuteronomy—to obey, to fear, to serve.
This vocabulary shows what Samuel is doing is presenting a legal case against Israel. He is building that foundation. It is not quite a Covenant renewal ceremony—it is more a Covenant reminder. He is reminding them of what their Covenant obligations are and what God promised them—that if they would obey, God would bless them. But if they disobeyed, then God would bring judgment upon them and curse them.
That is the idea of “curse.” It is not juju black magic. It is bringing God’s judgment upon the people in time.
You have passages like in Deuteronomy 9:7–8. In Deuteronomy 9:6 Moses is speaking. He says, “Therefore understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
In other words, you guys are failures. You are not righteous at all. You have been disobedient again and again and again. I am reminding you of all that. “You are not getting the land because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
You are arrogant and you are rebellious. He did not read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. I like Moses’ school of leadership. He says, “Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness.”
We are going to be talking about these events.
“From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place.”
They are in the plains of Moab, about to cross the Jordan River and enter into Israel. Moses says, “From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord.”
What does Samuel say? He says do not rebel against God. We read in Deuteronomy 9:8, “Also in Horeb (another name for Sinai) you provoked the Lord to wrath.”
That is God’s discipline. That is God’s judgment in time. All of this is a backdrop. You ought to go home, (a little assignment), go home and read through Hebrews 3-4, because the whole backdrop to Hebrews, as the writer is telling his audience, is - don’t be like the Israelites in the wilderness:
- Because they were disobedient, they sacrificed the entry into the Promised Land. That was their reward.
- Because they disobeyed God, they could not enter into God’s rest, which is entering into the Promised Land.
- Therefore, they experienced the wrath of God.
That becomes the paradigm for understanding rewards and judgment in the Christian life. It is true also in the Old Testament in the spiritual life of the Old Testament believers. Moses reminds them that.
Deuteronomy 9:7–8 says, “Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. Also in Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, so that the Lord was angry enough with you to have destroyed you.”
I am not going to take you through the rest of Deuteronomy 9, but that is what Moses reminded them of when he came down from Mt. Sinai:
- That the Israelites were worshipping the golden calf.
- That God was so fed-up with them that He was ready to destroy all of them and start all over again with just Moses.
- Moses pleaded with the Lord. He interceded for the people. He convinced the Lord that this was the right thing for God’s reputation. It was to continue to be faithful to His Covenant.
That was a test for Moses to see if he would stand in the gap for his people. If you look down to Deuteronomy 9:22–23 Moses says, “Also at Taberah, and Massah, and at Kibroth Hattaavah, you provoked the Lord to wrath. Likewise, when the Lord sent you from Kadesh Barnea …”
These are places we are looking at in this brief survey of Israel’s rebelliousness.
Deuteronomy 9:23 says, “Likewise, when the Lord sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you;’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and you did not believe Him, nor obey His voice.”
I want you to notice the contrast there, because there is a comparison and contrast. Rebelling against the commandment of the Lord is what? It is not believing Him. There is a correlation between those two:
- If you do not believe you do not obey.
- If you do not believe you rebel against Him.
Then the conclusion that Moses has is in Deuteronomy 9:24, “You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.”
This is their history.
Rebelliousness at Sinai:
- There is Operation Golden Calf, Exodus 32.
- There is the rebellion of Nadab and Abihu, Leviticus 10:1–3.
These are two of the four sons of Aaron. They are disobedient. Ithamar and Eleazar are the two that are obedient to God.
With this rebellion of Nadab and Abihu (this is where we ended last time), they offered unauthorized incense. They wanted to approach God the way they wanted to do it, instead of the way that God had decreed that it would be done.
This is the trouble with a lot of the people of today, whether they are unbelievers or even believers. They think that they can approach God on the basis of their own terms, their own understanding, and their own criterion. They say that they worship God like this:
- I went to church this morning.
- We sang these great choruses.
- We feel so upbeat because of the beat of the drums and the music.
- We cried and wept because of the way the worship leader orchestrated, manipulated our emotions, so that we “feel” like we worshiped.
But it does not have anything to do with biblical truth. It does not have anything to do with walking by the Spirit. They are not taught anything.
That is the paradigm today. It is that people do what is right in their own eyes, especially when it comes to worship.
Nadab and Abihu were the ones who were doing that in Moses’ generation. They said that they were going to worship God “our” way. God said, okay, and they died. God has quick and efficient punishment for those who are disobedient.
Rebelliousness: From Sinai to Kadesh Barnea
We are going to talk about what goes on from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea.
This is Taberah. Taberah is mentioned in Deuteronomy 9:22. It is described in Numbers 11. We are going to be in Numbers 11 for a couple of things. Let’s flip back to Numbers 11 and look at a couple of the episodes that took place there.
Once again we read that well-repeated phrase, when it comes to the Exodus generation, “Now the people complained.” This is what happened again and again. That is the backdrop for—what did Paul say over in Philippians 2? “Do all things without murmuring or complaining (disputing),” Philippians 2:14.
What is the illustration of murmuring and complaining? It is the Exodus generation:
- We do not have enough food.
- We do not like the way the food is seasoned.
- We do not like the way the food is prepared.
- We do not like the fact that we have to walk a long distance.
- We do not like the fact that we come to places and there does not seem to be enough water.
Everything was something that they complained about. I know nobody here ever does anything like that, so we can move on. But they complained.
Numbers 11:1, “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord.”
You could preach a whole sermon on that. There is a whole doctrine on that. When people complain, it displeases the Lord because complaining is saying “God, I do not like what you structured into my life right now. Your plan sucks!” That is basically what people are saying.
“… it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.”
Now I have said this for years that people often think that God is emotional. But these terms for God’s anger and God’s wrath are not emotional terms. They are actually terms that are used that are anthropomorphic.
In fact, the phrase that is often used in the Hebrew for God’s anger literally means, “His nose burned.” When somebody gets really mad, their face turns red, and their nose turns red. So the Hebrew idiom was “God’s nose burned.”
But God does not have a nose. That is a figure of speech. It is called an anthropomorphism—ascribing to God a human form that God does not actually possess, in order to communicate something about God’s plan, purposes, or character.
It is an anthropomorphism that is expressing an anthropropathism. An anthropopathism relates to something ascribing an emotion to God—that, just like His form, is ascribing an emotion that He does not actually possess in order to communicate something to somebody.
We often use these terms in our own language. When somebody goes to court and they receive a harsh penalty, we say “The judge threw the book at him.”
Did the judge get angry and throw a tantrum and pick up a law book and heave it across the courtroom? No. Not at all. In fact, the judge probably was very dispassionate when he expressed the verdict and the penalty.
But when we express that in terms of the harshness of the penalty, we will use these kinds of emotive terms—that the judge was angry with you. Yet the judge may not have been angry at all. He was just giving the most extreme legal penalty possible because of the severity of the crime.
So the people have complained and complained and complained. And now God is going to operate on His justice because His righteousness has been violated. We read: “So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”
Apparently, where this revolt was taking place was on the fringes of the camp. Somehow God sent this fire. It burned up some of them—we are told that they were consumed. They were incinerated. They were consumed right there on the outskirts of the camp.
Then we read in Numbers 1:2, “Then the people cried out to Moses; and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched.” Moses stands as their intercessor to plead their case before God. And God halted the judgment.
Numbers 1:3, “So he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord had burned among them.”
The word Taberah in Hebrew means “the place of the burning.” That is pretty much all we know about that except that this is another incident of the people being unfaithful and rebellious toward God, and God judging them.
Then the story goes on in Numbers 11:4, “Then, the mixed multitude among them ...” That is talking about the fact that there were Gentiles. There were Egyptians that came with them on the trip to the Promised Land. Of course, in the movie you have Moses’ mother coming along, and all of her Nubian slaves, and several other people that were related. They joined the Israelites when they left. That is just literary license.
We do not know that that actually happened and it probably did not. It is talking about his adoptive Egyptian mother, the daughter of Pharaoh. I doubt if the daughter of Pharaoh went with him. But we are told that this mixed multitude, that is the Gentiles among the Israelites, yielded to intense cravings.
“… so the children of Israel also wept again, and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat?’ ”
God had put them all on a very healthy diet, and now they are complaining about it. If any of you have been on a diet, you know that you can get kind of testy at some point, when you do not get to have your comfort food, especially when you get those cravings for sugar or flour or whatever it is you like, ice cream or Magnum bars.
They remember what? Numbers 11:5–6 ,“We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” They are tired of it!
This is the second thing that comes along. Now God is going to answer them, and He is really going to let them have it. The people are called out by Moses. He says tomorrow you are going to eat meat because God has heard you.
Numbers 11:18, “Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat.
Numbers 11:19, “ ‘You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days …
Numbers 11:20, “ ‘… 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?” ’ ”
- It is coming out of your nose!
- You are going to be throwing it up!
- You are going to be so sick! You wanted it!
The Lord is going to answer your prayer in an abundance, until it makes you sick because He is teaching you to trust Him. The story goes on and emphasizes how Moses is going to respond to all of this.
Numbers 11:31, “Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground.”
The quail died all around the camp. They were stacked up two cubits high and out to about a day’s journey, which should be about 10 miles surrounding the entire camp.
Numbers 1:32, “And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.”
This is finally described in Numbers 1:33, “But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague.”
That does not mean a disease. He just killed them. They died.
Numbers 11:34, “So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.”
Kibroth Hattaavah is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 9, the graves of the greedy—the graves of greediness, because they yielded to their cravings. That is the second example of what happened on the way to Kadesh Barnea.
The complaining of Miriam and Aaron against the authority of Moses and his leadership:
Miriam was punished by becoming leprous over her whole body, but Moses pleaded with the Lord. And again, we see how Moses is acting like a type of Christ—a picture of Christ constantly standing in the gap as an intercessor for the people.
He pleaded with God to heal her. God healed her, but He said that she is going to have a little time out. She is going to be put out in the desert for seven days by herself to see if she has learned her lesson. As a result of this, Miriam would not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land. That is an important picture, because neither Miriam, nor Aaron, nor Moses were allowed to enter into the Promised Land.
Were they believers? Yes, they were. Are they going to have eternal life and be justified before God? Certainly they will. However, they missed out on temporal blessing because of disobedience to God.
The same thing happens to us. That is the warning that we find in Hebrews—not to be like them, because if we are disobedient, then we are not only going to experience divine discipline, but we will not realize the blessings that God would have otherwise given us if we had simply been obedient.
That story is in Numbers 12, the rebellion of Aaron and Miriam. This covers the area from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. Then we come to Kadesh Barnea, which is the significant turning point in the Old Testament.
It is at Kadesh Barnea that we see one of the most significant events in Israel’s history take place.
Here is our map. The Israelites came up the Sinai Peninsula to Kadesh Barnea, which is located about 15 miles to the west of Mizpah Ramon, where we started last year on our Israel trip. You have the huge craters there. The map shows the whole area in the Wilderness of Zin—this whole area going across to the Arabah, the area south of the Dead Sea, down to Ezion Geber.
This is the area where the Israelites basically camped out for the next 40 years, because God was not going to allow them to go into the land. To understand this, we need to look at Numbers 13. This is another one of those extremely significant passages in the Old Testament.
The Lord gives instructions to Moses. He said to send men to spy out the land of Canaan. The focus here is doing a recon mission, not to see if they can take the land, but to see what the land has to offer so that they can come back and give the people a very good understanding of what the objective is. They are going to begin with the end in mind.
They sent twelve spies, one from each tribe. And when the men came back, ten of them said, “We cannot do it. They have walled cities. The people are so numerous they outnumber us. They will defeat us. There are giants among them.” Those three things: walled cities, too many people, and giants. “We cannot defeat them.”
I have taught this for years. This is one of the classic cases of a misinterpretation of God’s Word. This is what happens when God says to do one thing, and you think He said to do something else. If you do not understand what God has said, He did not say, “go into the land and see if they could take it.”
He said, “go spy out the land that I have given you.” But that is not what they heard because of their carnality and their lack of belief in the fact that they are always complaining against God.
When they came back, ten of them said that they were not going to be able to do this. Everybody moaned and everybody groaned, and everybody got mad when Joshua and Caleb said, “we can do it.”
In fact, they wanted to kill Joshua and Caleb. That is a point of application there— that anybody that is standing up for the Word of God over against a rebellious culture and telling them that they are wrong is putting himself in the path of destruction.
This is what happens to the hardened heart. A person who is rebellious to God will look at you as a believer and say you are the enemy, and define you as the enemy. We are seeing that in this country. We are seeing more and more that Christians are blamed for everything. This is just going to get worse. It is not going to get any better. We have to come to understand how to handle that kind of opposition.
So Kadesh Barnea becomes the classic paradigm of Israel’s disobedience. It changes the whole destiny of that generation. They will not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land.
And that becomes a paradigm for what happens in the life of a Church Age believer if they rebel against God, if they are not obedient to God. They will stand to lose the inheritance that God has given them. They are not going to lose their salvation, but they risk their inheritance, their rewards, for the kingdom.
Here’s an example of a couple of verses where this is brought out in Deuteronomy. Moses said in Deuteronomy 1:26 “Nevertheless you would not go up.” That is, they would not go up into the land. They refused. “But you rebelled.”
What does Samuel say? Do not rebel against God as your fathers did. But they “rebelled against the command of the Lord your God.”
Moses is going to come back and say in Deuteronomy 1:43, “So I spoke to you; yet you would not listen, but rebelled against the command of the Lord, and presumptuously went up into the mountain.”
Now wait a minute. In Deuteronomy 1:26, it says they “would not go up.” But in Deuteronomy 1:43 they “went up.” What happened in between?
What happened in between was that God lowered the boom and disciplined them. He said that because they would not trust Me, “you are not going to see the Promised Land. You are not going to go in.”
Then they felt all kinds of remorse. They felt upset. They said, okay, we will do it. We will trust God. God said, “do not do it. If you do it you will be defeated. The Canaanites will destroy you. You will have numerous people killed.”
But they disobeyed God again. They rebelled against the command of the Lord. They went up to attack the Canaanites and were soundly defeated.
This is what Moses is referencing here in Deuteronomy 9:7.
Then they tried to attach the Canaanites in their own power and were driven back, Numbers 14:14–45.
In Numbers 14 we see the result, the consequences of their disobedience.
Numbers 14:29, “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.” Everyone from twenty years and up is going to die in the wilderness.
Numbers 14:32–33 “But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity.” Consequences for sin can go on to the next generation. Not discipline, because God is not going to visit the sins of the father on the sons, but the consequences can be.
Take a rather simple example. If your parents have a certain amount of wealth, and due to foolishness they squander that wealth, when it comes time for them to die and you to inherit, there will not be anything for you to inherit because they have squandered that wealth. You are not being punished for their sin, but you are going to reap the consequences for their sin.
This is what is being described at that particular point. God is provoked to wrath in the wilderness.
We go on from Kadesh Barnea to the Jordan River. As they cross the Arabah, they will go up on the Jordan side, through Moab and Edom, up until they get to Mt. Nebo. They get to the rebellion of Korah and Dathan and Abiram against Aaron.
If you notice in the Cecil B. DeMille film on the Ten Commandments, Edward G. Robinson plays Dathan. I do not know whom it is who plays Abiram. This is literary license, but they create this whole character around Dathan who does not show up in the text of Scripture until you get later on into Leviticus.
Abiram leads this revolt against Aaron and the priests. You have the sons of Korah, who are also Levitical priests. Dathan and Abiram revolt against Aaron.
Initially Moses says, okay, here is what you are doing to do. You are going to meet in the morning and come out and build your case against me. They come out and are going to build their case against him. Moses tells everybody to back away from them except for Dathan and Abiram and Korah and all their families. God opens up the ground.
The special effects in the Ten Commandments were pretty good even though they conflate the events. When Aaron builds the golden calf and Moses comes down from the mountain, he takes the Ten Commandments and throws them and hits the golden calf. It blows up. Then there is an earthquake.
The earthquake is a totally separate event many years later with this rebellion of Dathan and Abiram, but they put it all together in one event in the movie. The earth splits open and swallows them all up. That must have been astounding to feel that earthquake and the shock of it and to see it open. The only people who fall into the crevasse are Dathan and Abiram and their families, 250 in all.
Then the next day after people thought about it a little bit, they thought that was not really very fair to them. They were such wonderful people. They just wanted to serve the Lord.
Now there is another massive revolt. On that second day, 14,700 are killed. This is described in Numbers 16. You have God continuously dealing with the rebellious Israelites.
The fourth thing that happens is another sign of rebellion: Miriam dies outside of the land. That is mentioned at the beginning of Numbers 20.
Numbers 20:1, “Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.”
Miriam is the first of the three siblings—Miriam, Aaron, and Moses—that dies and is not allowed to enter into the land. That is the next judgment experienced by the rebels in the wilderness due to their disobedience to God.
The fifth event that occurs that is a significant event is described in Numbers 20. This is a mistake that is made by Moses. The people are again contending. That means they are griping and complaining with Moses due to a lack of water in Numbers 20:2–3 after the burial of Miriam. Numbers 20:2–3, “Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. And the people contended with Moses.”
Remember that it takes a lot of water to hydrate two and a half million people. If you have ever travelled through the Wilderness of Zin, it is barren. There is nothing there. No water and very few trees. When God is going to bring water out of a rock, it is a gushing river that comes out to have enough water to take care of that many people. The people are complaining and again they blame Moses. “Why have you made us come out of Egypt?”
They have no capacity for freedom. They have no capacity for responsibility. The next generation is learning personal responsibility because they have to do without in the wilderness. They have to deal with all the chores related to taking care of all the animals and all of the other details, packing, moving, and all of those kinds of things.
We are told that Moses and Aaron go to the door of the tabernacle. They go to the Lord. They bring the petition to the people.
Moses is told in Numbers 20:8: “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes.”
We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:1–5 that the “Rock” is the Lord. There is this play on words in this passage. Moses and Aaron are to speak to the rock: “And it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”
What happens is that Moses calls the assembly together and he gets mad at them. He looses his temper. He says in Numbers 20:10–11:
“ ‘Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?’ Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.”
Moses lifted up his hand. He hits the rock twice with the rod that God had told him to take. He did not speak to the rock. That is his act of disobedience. It seems like that is not a big deal, does it not?
But it is a big deal in terms of the Lord’s eyes, because there have been other incidences when Moses has not been completely obedient. This was a significant event. He does not speak to the rock. God is gracious. He provides water anyway.
But because of this disobedience, neither Aaron nor Moses will be allowed to enter into the Promised Land.
We see in Numbers 20:24: “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah.”
This is an interesting little thing, because there is a place (and I keep reading about this every now and then), not too far from Petra, that is an alternate site for Aaron’s tomb. If you are walking out at the upper level of Petra, you can look to the ridge to your left and see that some 600–700 years ago they built a mausoleum and a monument on top of that ridge that is supposedly the burial spot of Aaron.
But it is not. For if you carefully read from the beginning of Numbers 11:20, they are in the Wilderness of Zin, which is on the west side of the Arabah. They have not crossed over into Moab yet. Aaron dies there. That is where they buried him, on Mt. Hor, which is on the Israel side, not on the Jordan side, according to a modern map.
But when we get to Numbers 27:14 we are going to read: “For in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah, at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin.)
Again, that makes it clear that where Aaron died and where Miriam died are not on the Jordan side, but on the Israeli side. Neither Moses nor Aaron is allowed to cross into the land.
A sixth event that occurs is when the people spoke against the Lord saying that God brought them into the wilderness to die. This is described in Numbers 21:1–7. This is the incident with the bronze serpent. We are told in Numbers 21:4, “Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way.”
Here is where we are on the map. They have gone through the Wilderness of Zin here, this whole area in the Negev. They cross over toward Ezion Geber, and then they are going to come back up northeast, toward Petra. At this point, as they are across around Edom, somewhere in that area, is where they have the incident with the fiery serpents.
What happens is the people are complaining against God. Once again they are complaining about food and no water, “and our soul loathes this worthless bread;” otherwise known as the “bread of angels.” They are having a little problem with that. Numbers 21:6, “So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.”
This is some sort of highly venomous serpent where the poison would cause a fiery pain. The serpents were not on fire, but these are called fiery serpents because of the type of pain that came from being bitten. And the people would die.
The people went to Moses. They confessed their sin. Notice in Numbers 21:7, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Numbers 21:8, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent (make a depiction of this serpent, a bronze serpent), and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ ”
This is remarkable. There is so much debate that has occurred within the so called “Free Grace” camp about what is necessary in order to be saved, and how much you need to know, and whether or not you need to understand all the different facets of the person and work of Christ, and how far it goes.
It is really simple because in John 3:14–17, when Jesus is still talking, there is a reference back to this event.
John 3:14–16: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
This is the picture of belief. It is to look to the Cross. It is to look at what Jesus did and to trust in that. They did not have to understand how this would work, how looking at this bronze serpent, this image, they would heal them. All they needed to do was say that is what God said to do and I am going to do it. I am going to trust what God said and do it. It is trust and obey.
The people believed Moses. Everyone who looked at the image lived. That is the solution. That becomes a classic example for understanding faith in the Old Testament.
The next event that occurs is described a little bit later in the next few chapters. From Numbers 22–25 we have the episode with Balaam. The problem with Balaam is that he cannot curse Israel, but at the end of his attempts to curse Israel, he tells Balak how he can subvert the Israelites.
Balaam told Balak:
- If you want to subvert them, just take all your women functioning as temple prostitutes and fertility rights and get them to marry off to the Israelite men.
- Entice the Israelite men to get involved with them in the fertility worship and having orgies with them.
- The result of this is that it will destroy the nation Israel.
So they will become enticed by sexual sin, and that will become the dominant motive in the culture. It will destroy the culture. And the result was that God told the priests, once again, to kill all those who had joined with this Baal worship at Baal Peor. All the offenders were to be hung. A total of 24,000 were killed, 23,000 in one day, and 1,000 died later.
Remember, we studied this about a month or so ago as one of those passages where people say there is a contradiction in the Bible.
When you look at 1 Corinthians 10:8–11, Paul said 23,000 were killed in one day. Yet in Numbers, it says 24,000 were killed. The issue is that 23,000 were killed one day, and 1,000 died in the plague. It is an easy explanation. There is not a contradiction.
What we see as we go through this is that in Deuteronomy 31:27 in Moses’ last statement to the Israelites, he says, “you have been rebellious against the Lord” this whole time. And that is what Samuel is going back to the sins of the fathers.
It is not talking about the cycles of discipline during the period of the Judges. It is talking about that Exodus generation and their sins.
This is a description of what it means that the “hand of the Lord” is against them in 1 Samuel 12:15.
There are various places in the Bible. I will give you the references:
- Exodus 9:3
- Joshua 4:24
- Deuteronomy 2:15
- Judges 2:15
These are all places where the phrase “the hand of the Lord” is used. It is simply a metaphor for God’s omnipotence. And it is usually used in a context of divine discipline and judgment.
To wrap up our study in 1 Samuel 12, let’s go on to the next verse. This is the command that Samuel issues to the people.
1 Samuel 12:16, “Now therefore, stand and see this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes.”
We are going to see a miracle here. I (Samuel) have given you God’s perspective on what is happening. I have stood here as an attorney representing God. I am the Attorney General for God’s kingdom. I am challenging you with what your responsibilities are under the Mosaic Law/Covenant. And to give evidence that this is what will take place, something is going to happen. Samuels says in 1 Samuel 12:17, “Is today not the wheat harvest?”
Now this is in May to June. I have taken a lot of tour groups to Israel in May to June, and I have never seen it rain in May or June. Not once.
It is the time of the wheat harvest. Samuel says, “I will call to the Lord, and He will send thunder and rain, that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking a king for yourselves.”
This is not a judgment. Some people say that God is going to judge them, that He brings this storm, and He destroys the wheat crop. But that is not the point. The point is it is going to be a miraculous meteorological event that is going to give evidence to validate what Samuel has just said.
1 Samuel 12:18: “So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.” Immediately, they realized they had sinned. Now they are going to reap the consequences.
What happens when we all of a sudden become aware that God is going to bring discipline in our life, because we have been sinning? The first thing we do (or should do) is to confess. And that is what they do.
1 Samuel 12:19: “And all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.’ ” They are confessing their sin.
Samuel’s response is to say in 1 Samuel 12:20 “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness.” You have admitted to it. You have sinned again and again and again, but “do not turn aside from following the Lord.”
That is the Hebrew word sur, which means to depart or defect. We might even translate it apostatize. Do not apostatize from the Lord “but serve the Lord with all your heart.”
Serving the Lord, does that not sound familiar with what we have been learning in Matthew? This is the issue. We are called to serve the Lord.
Then Samuel says in 1 Samuel 12:21, “And do not turn aside” (do not defect), “for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver.” Idols of wood, stone, and metal are things. They are tohu.
If you have studied Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form and void.” It was empty and void, tohu wa-bohu. This is just the word tohu. These idols are emptiness. There is nothing there.
And then the promise. God the Lord will not forsake His people. See, no matter how we mess up in life, no matter how disobedient we are, no matter how rebellious we are, no matter how bad we have been, God’s grace does not abandon us. We may forsake Him and defect, but He never forsakes us. He never defects. This is Samuel’s message of comfort.
1 Samuel 12:22, “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake …”
- for His character’s sake
- for His reputation
- He will always be true to His Word
“… because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people”. 1 Samuel 12:23, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you …” Samuel is going to continue to pray for them. He is going to continue to intercede for them and stand in the gap, fulfilling his role as a prophet and a priest.
He says, “but I will teach you the good and the right way.” That was Samuel’s responsibility as a Levitical priest. What is his concluding remark?
1 Samuel 12:24, “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth.” “Serving the Lord” is a synonym for worship.
What did Jesus tell the woman at the well? “A time will come when we will worship God by means of the Spirit and by means of truth”, John 4:21–24. What is added? “by means of the Spirit.”
In the Old Testament, Samuel says we are to serve Him by means of truth. That standard for worship has always been the same. But then the final warning in 1 Samuel 12:25, “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
When Samuel says “king” you can hear the base notes start to play, because in the next chapter, 1 Samuel 13, we are going to see a great sin on the part of Saul that will be the reason that the kingdom is taken from him, because he acts wickedly toward God.
It all goes back to Deuteronomy 27:10: “You shall therefore obey the Lord your God, and do His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.” If not, God is going to bring judgment. That is Samuel’s message.
Next time we will get into 1 Samuel 13 and 14, which is a great episode, tremendous battle, and we are going to see the first rock climber in the Bible. Let’s bow our heads and close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity we have to study Your Word and to come to understand the importance of obeying You, fearing You, and serving You. Father, many times we disobey You. That is rebelliousness, but we had our sins paid for at the Cross. We confess them, and we are able to recover and move forward. We pray that we might continue to walk by the Spirit, focused on the endgame of serving You as true disciples of Jesus Christ. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”