Numbers 14-16; Psalm 44
The people display their utter lack of trust in God. Rather than believe that he can lead them into victory over the land and it’s people they ask why he has brought them to die and begin to choose a new leader among themselves to take them back to Egypt.
This is one step too far and God decides to destroy them. Fortunately Moses steps in, once again reminding God of his character and appealing to God’s mercy. He chooses not to destroy them but to lay out the punishment that these people won’t enter the promised land.
They will travel the wilderness till they die and then their children will enter the promised land. At this they weep for what they have done and try to go out now and fight the people of the land. But obviously God is no longer with them.
This is a story of lack of faith and disobedience. The people didn’t believe God would do what he said he would do, and so chose not to do what he told them to do. If we genuinely feel like God has spoken to us about something, we need to trust him and take him at his word, even if it seems impossible or difficult.
We then get a list of new rules that are to be followed “when they come to inhabit the land” (Numbers 15:2). This may seem strange here, but they do serve a simple purpose.
As far as God’s concerned the Israelites will enter the promise land. It may not be these specific people, but eventually their children will. And to reassure the people of that God gives them some new commandments exclusively for when they do enter in.
But then we get another rebellion from the people. This time led by Korah, the Levites begin to rebel against Aaron. Just like people challenged Moses’ leadership, these guys not began to challenge Aaron’s priesthood.
God brings swift punishment. To the key leaders of this rebellion, he opens up the ground and swallows them. To some of the lesser people involved, Moses gets them to bring their incense burners and come before the Lord.
God then consumes them all in fire and then tells Moses to take the incense burners, melt them down, and create a cover for the altar. This way every time the people come to bring a sacrifice, they are reminded of the consequences of rebelling against God.
This is a low moment for the people of Israel. Two major rebellions that end up having a lasting impact on the future of this people.
This psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah and falls into the category of lament psalm. Specifically, this psalm was recited after the nation had faced a loss in battle.
The psalm alternates between the people and their king as they work through their lament before God. On top of that the psalm is split into three sections; declarations of trust (Psalm 44:1-8), bringing their complaint before God (Psalm 44:9-22), and asking God to intervene (Psalm 44:23-26).
Psalm 44:1-3 - The people remember what God has done
Psalm 44:4 - The king declares God is the ultimate king
Psalm 44:5 - The people declare that it is God they trust
Psalm 44:6 - The king acknowledges he cannot trust in his own might
Psalm 44:7-8 - The people boast in God and give thanks
Psalm 44:9-14 - The people lament their loss
Psalm 44:15-16 - The king declares his shame
Psalm 44:17-22 - The people declare their innocence and commitment to God
Psalm 44:23-26 - Both the people and the king ask God to help them
The people have just lost a battle, but before they bring their complaint before God, they decide to ground themselves in his past faithfulness.
They remind themselves of the stories their ancestors passed down, of when God drove their enemies from the land so they could occupy it, and how it was God’s might not the strength of their swords that won that battle. The king then acknowledges that it is God who is truly the king that leads them out to battle.
The people place their trust in God. Just as it was God that won the battles of their ancestors, it will be God that helps them defeat their enemies now. The king accepts the fact that he cannot trust in his own might to win battles.
The people then remind themselves of times in their own lives where God has rescued them and defeated their enemies. Because of this, they will boast in God and give thanks to him.
Now that the people are grounded in their confidence in God, they move to their complaint. For whatever reason, God has rejected them by allowing their enemies to defeat them this time. Their enemies have looted their wealth and killed their people.
Israel has become a laughing stock amongst the nations, who now mock them. The king speaks from a personal point of view. There is such a sense of shame and disgrace on him, because he was the one that led the people out to battle, only to be defeated.
The people then defend their case before God. They have not been faithless or turned their back on God. They ask God to search them and their hearts, because they are confident in their own innocence.
Emboldened by their complaint, both the people and their king now ask God to intervene. They ask him why he seems to be sleeping or hiding himself from them. Why does he now seem to be okay with oppression? The unspoken statement here is that this doesn’t line up with who God is.
They point once more to their suffering and then ask God to save them.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.