Death in the desert, because they didn’t choose God

A million people with a dream — a million graves in the desert. That’s what became of them.

This is a famous event. One you’ll easily recognize.

Roughly 3,500 years ago, give or take a few centuries, Moses led God’s people out of Egypt. It’s what’s commonly known as “The Exodus.” Scripture tells us 600,000 able-bodied men are in that group. So, including their wives and the less able-bodied men, over a million adults. (Exodus 12:37)

They’re bound for their dream — the Promised Land. But that’s not how the story ends. Only two adults make that journey; the rest die in the desert.

What happened?

Killed by a plague like the coronavirus — is that possible?

Christians know plagues will come before Jesus returns; they’re part of the End Times. (Luke 21:11)

But do plagues actually occur in Scripture?

They do. They’re mentioned over 100 times. In fact, God does decide to destroy the adults of the Exodus with a plague.

Here’s that story.

The Hebrews initially arrive at the Promised Land early on, and Moses sends a leader from each of the 12 tribes to investigate Canaan.

“See what the land is like,” he says.

The men are gone 40 days. When they return, 10 of the 12 scare the people with talk of giants in the land. “All the people are men of great size…we became like grasshoppers…”

But two of the 12, Caleb and Joshua, insist that the Hebrews can take Canaan.

The congregation weeps all night, certain they’ll be murdered by the Canaanites, and their wives and children taken as slaves. Returning to Egypt would be better, and they decide they need a new leader.

In other words, God gave them their hearts’ desire and they threw it in His face.

“Do not rebel against the Lord,” Caleb and Joshua say. “And do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us.”

But the angry Hebrews viciously decide to murder Moses and Aaron. Faced with this violent mob, how do they survive?

Scripture says God’s glory, the cloud leading them in the wilderness, suddenly appears in their midst!

God says to Moses: “I will strike them down with a plague…” (Numbers 14:12 NIV)

See what I mean.

But Moses is an extraordinary man — he begs God for mercy.

The Lord listens and agrees in part. The people are spared the plague, but they are punished — their dream is lost:

“You shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you,” God says. “Except Caleb…and Joshua… [and] your children . . . I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year…” (Numbers 14:20-24)

Thus, the adults of the Exodus die in the desert during 40 years of wandering.

God still sends the plague. Yes, but it only falls on the 10 leaders who caused the rebellion. (Numbers 14:36,37)

Caleb believed the Lord was with them, the enemy was already defeated, the future was certain.

That’s a powerful message. Look at it again: With God, your enemy is defeated and your future is certain.

But you have to believe or you’ll make the wrong decision!

A million graves in the Sinai Desert because they wanted to turn back.

We’re stocking our homes with food and supplies, looking to Europe and seeing hundreds dying daily. For weeks, only grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations have been open there, and now that’s happening here. Like Europe, soon we won’t be able to leave our homes except for work or essentials.

Yesterday, a friend told me she’s afraid for her future. “Your struggle is everyone’s struggle,” I said.

But God points to the answer in this story: “How long will they refuse to believe in me,” He says, “despite all the signs I have performed … ” (Numbers 14:11)

Remember the miracles of the Bible. Remember the miracles of your life — we have a magnificent God.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you,” the Lord says. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Believe and choose wisely.

Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply