Numbers 13–14 records Israel’s failure to initially take the promised land. Concerning this story and others, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor 10:11; cf. 10:5, 10). Here are a handful of instructive points that we can learn from Numbers 13–14.
Our God is a God of the impossible. Though Israel’s enemies were numerous, physically imposing, and dwelt in fortified cities in the midst of a difficult terrain (Num 13:28–29, 31–33), God could have easily removed their protection (Num 14:9) and eventually did so when Joshua led Israel to conquer Canaan.
We follow God by faith so that He can do the impossible through us. This generation of Israelites despised God and refused to believe in Him (Num 14:11). They were exhorted to overcome the enemy, and if they had believed, God would have delighted to grant them victory (Num 13:30; 14:6–8). Caleb and Joshua would see this lesson come true in time.
If the leadership languishes, the congregation will crumble. The twelve spies were chiefs of Israel’s tribes (Num 13:1–14). In bringing back a bad report, ten of the spies incited chaos and a rejection of Moses and Aaron (Num 14:1–4; cf. 13:25–33). Israel even wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua who opposed this bad report (Num 14:10). If only these ten had believed with Caleb and Joshua and led their fellow Israelites to do the same.
God holds leaders to a higher standard. As to those ten who disbelieved and gave a bad report, God killed them immediately (Num 14:36–38), a different punishment than simply letting a generation die away over the next forty years (Num 14:26–35).
The prayer of a righteous man avails much. God was initially ready to strike the whole nation down with the pestilence, disinherit them, and make a new nation from Moses (Num 14:11–12). As Moses did before (cf. Exod 32:7–14), he interceded for Israel, and God pardoned Israel from such a fate (Num 14:13–20).
Watch your mouth—you might just get what you wish for. Fearing their foes, Israel wished that they might have died instead in the wilderness (Num 14:2). God granted them this wish as a punishment for their unbelief (Num 14:28).
Unbelief can delay the blessing of God and bring disaster at worst. Israel would receive the Promised Land sooner or later because God always makes good on His promises. For this generation of Israelites, they did not believe and follow God, so He changed His plans for them, giving them forty years and death in the wilderness instead of receiving the land (Num 14:25, 32–35). Yet worse, they then chose to go contrary to this new plan and tried to take the land without His help, resulting in defeat, death, and disaster (Num 14:39–45).
Genesis 3:21 states, “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (ESV).
The Picture of the Son of God: While it is not all that clear on the surface, in comparing Scripture to Scripture, I believe Genesis 3:21 records the first animal sacrifice by man as guided by God. Notice that Adam and Eve were promised death for their sin (Gen 2:17) but nonetheless lived on at the mercy of God. The removal of an animal’s skin would have coincided with its death, and once clothed, Adam and Eve lived and were not slain themselves. These animals died in the place of Adam and Eve, and the justice and wrath of God were satisfied in that death was administered in response to sin.
In dying and giving their skins, the animals shed their blood and thus yielded their lives. In so doing, these animals were sacrificed on behalf of Adam and Eve. While “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4), Adam and Eve had real forgiveness from God through offering the animals’ blood and lives on their behalf (cf. Lev 4:20; 17:11), a “credit” payment for sin, so to speak, until Christ “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:26).
However much Adam and Eve understood this imagery, we can only know one day in heaven. Who knows whether, in viewing this very first sacrifice, that they knew that the seed of the woman would have His heel bitten by the serpent through His sacrificial death on a cross, which would be the means whereby He would conquer death and crush the serpent’s head? They certainly believed that Satan would be crushed and their death was put off by sacrifice. As the history of salvation continued, God would fill in the blanks with new revelation to man over time, and we certainly know these truths today.
The Presence of the Son of God: The Lord God who here made the garments of skins is the same Lord God who was “walking in the garden” (Gen 3:8), “called to the man” (Gen 3:9), “said to the woman” (Gen 3:13), and “said to the serpent” (Gen 3:14). If the Lord God here is audibly, physically, and personally identifiable in some way, He must be the preincarnate Son of God, for, speaking of the Father, John claims, “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18; cf. 1 John 4:12, 20).
This being the case, what a marvel it is to see the Son of God carefully walking Adam and Eve through something that pictured what would be His role in time to come—to be the Lamb who was willingly slain for us and our sins, shedding His precious blood, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.