Numbers- Session 2- Facing Rebellion

Session 2 – Facing Rebellion

Numbers 14:5-19

Numbers Session 2

Numbers Session 2 Handout

Subject: Rebellion

Central Theme: Responding to Rebellion

Objective Statement: We can respond to rebellion in others honorably by imitating Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb in three ways.

Keyword: Ways



  • Discussion Question: Do any of you like to scare people?
  • How many of you have ever seen people doing the “scarecam” videos online?
  • People record themselves scaring friends and family.
  • Some even take it to the next level.
  • There are people who put on some kind of disguise and go to a public place. When people come over to look at them they jump out and scare them.
  • Most of the responses that people have is immediate fear and then laughter.
  • But some people who get scared get
  • Fear can be a powerful emotion. It can lead us to making wrong decisions.  Fear can make us irrational, and cause us to doubt God.
  • This was definitely the case for the children of Israel as they were preparing to go into the promised land.
  • They had sent in 12 spies to check out Canaan and to come back and report on what they had seen.
  • 10 of the spies came back and said that although it was a great land, there were dangers, like giants in the land, that would make it dangerous to go in.
  • Of course this was a normal fear, but also irrational. Why?  God had brought them out of Egypt by doing the miraculous.  He had allowed plagues to come on their enemies and masters.  He had brought them through the Red Sea on dry land.  Even if there were giants God could sustain them.
  • 2 of the 12 spies, Caleb and Joshua, trusted God. They came back and spoke the truth that God had given this land to them.  God had commanded them to go in and take the land.
  • But the fearfulness of the children of Israel lead to rebellion.
  • They rebelled against God.
  • And thus they rebelled against God’s leaders- Moses and Aaron.
  • And they rebelled against God’s messengers- Joshua and Caleb.
  • Today we will learn some important leadership principles through this narrative.
  • How do you lead people when they don’t want to be lead?
  • How do you lead people to do the right thing when they are being rebellious?
  • And also, are we leading how God desires, or are we part of the fearful, angry, rebellious people who don’t obey?

We can respond to rebellion in others honorably by imitating Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb in three ways.

1.  Believing in God.  (V.5-8)

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:

  • In verses 5-6 Moses and Aaron went face down in response to the rebellion of the people.
  • Joshua and Caleb, two of the twelve spies that entered in to the land, ripped their clothes off- a sign of passion and distress.

7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.8 If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

  • Joshua and Caleb had a completely different outlook than the rest.
  • They said that the children of Israel were blessed to have the opportunity of the good land that they had spied out.
  • They pleaded with their fellow Israelites to believe that God would give them the land.
  • Joshua and Caleb believed God!
  • God was bigger to them than the giants and other challenges in the promised land.
  • God was bigger to them than this rebellious crowd.

2. Challenging the Rebellious. (v.7-9)

7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.8 If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.9 Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.

  • Notice what else they said to the people.
  • They pleaded with the people not to rebel against God because of fear.
  • The rebellion of the people at this point was motivated by fear. They recognized that.
  • They pleaded with the people not to fear the people of the land, for they are “bread”, or God’s provision, for them in this new land.
  • What the people saw as obstacles, they saw as opportunities.
  • Joshua and Caleb’s faith in God and desire to obey lead them to courageously and articulately stand up to this crowd of people.
  • Ultimately this crowds decision lead to dire consequences, but Joshua and Caleb were brought through these consequences. God used them despite the decision of the majority.
  • Whether or not we can win the argument that God wants us to make is not a factor in standing up for what is right.
  • The potential that others may not listen to us should not keep us from making that argument.
  • Just because it is God’s will or desire doesn’t ensure that the people will buy in. Yet, if it is what God wants us to say, we should say it clearly and passionately.
    • We should passionately pursue discovering what God desires.
    • We should passionately obey what God desires.
    • We should passionately proclaim what God desires.
    • What scares you or keeps you from standing up for what is right?
    • Are you a Joshua and Caleb, or are you a scared spy?
    • Are you passionately pursuing, obeying and proclaiming God’s desires for your life?

3. Interceding in prayer. (v.10-18)

10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.

  • Notice the reaction of the people. They wanted to stone them.
  • The children of Israel did not buy into the speech that Joshua and Caleb gave.
  • What they said was true, logical, life giving, and to be preferred. Yet fear is a powerful thing.
  • Fear lead to rebellion.
  • Rebellion lead to a desire to judge the messenger.
  • Stoning was the penalty for being a false witness. These people were making a statement about Joshua and Caleb.
  • They were denying that they were speaking God’s will.
  • They had every intention of stoning Joshua and Caleb, but God protected them when the people of Israel saw his glory.

So here’s the progression:

  • Joshua and Caleb spoke up for the Lord and for the people.
  • Joshua and Caleb were judged by the people.
  • Joshua and Caleb were about to be executed by the people.
  • God stepped in for their protection.
  • No matter how logical and right one’s position may be, if fear grips the heart, or someones mind is set against you, they may seek to judge and to fight. God will protect His kids, but it may not always be in the way we want him to or in the timing that we desire. This is a sobering thought.
  • God knows what is best and it is good for us to trust Him. We must be courageous and stand up for what is right no matter the consequences.

11 And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

  • God basically says to Moses- “I’m done. I’m so done I’m going to start over with you.”
  • Now this is anthropomorphic language. God is revealing something about His nature here through His response.
  • But we can see that He is frustrated with rebellion. God hates rebellion.
  • God asked Moses two questions:
    • How long will they provoke me?
    • How long will they not trust me after all I have done for them?
  • What had he done for them?
    • He had freed them from Egypt!
    • He had delivered them from slavery!
    • He had delivered them by taking them through the Red Sea!
    • He had provided for them physically!
    • He had promised to give them a new land and a new future!
  • God promised to judge these rebellious people.
  • Why? Because despite all He had done for them, they were so enraged at Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua that they were picking up stones to stone them.
  • People will be held accountable for their actions. It may not seem like it, but they will. We must be careful on both sides of this issue.
    • We may see ourselves as Joshua and Caleb int he story, willing to speak the truth courageously, and if we are like them we must realize that others may not like us because of it.
    • We may actually be the rebellious jews in the story, forgetting what God has don and defying the people God has given to lead me.
  • But now notice how Moses responds to God. He goes to God in intercessory prayer.
  • And He makes an argument to God by appealing to three things.

A. Appealing to God’s reputation. (V.13-16)

13 And Moses said unto the Lord, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)

14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou Lord art among this people, that thou Lord art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.

15 Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,

16 Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.

  • Moses cares about these rebellious people enough to go to God on their behalf.
    • They want to stone Joshua and Caleb.
    • Moses and Aaron had been face down in fear of avoiding God’s judgement on the people.
    • And yet he is still advocating to God on their behalf.
  • Moses knows God cares about His name among the gentiles.
    • He appeals to God’s reputation as a reason not to kill the people.
  • We should concern ourselves with thinking the way God thinks and then praying according to His will.
  • Moses knew God well enough to appeal to what he knew God valued. We should know God like that.
  • We should concern ourselves with people, interceding to God on their behalf. We ought to pray for ourselves and for others that they would be right with God.


B. Appealing to God’s nature. (V.18)

17 And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, 18 The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

  • Moses is interceding to God on behalf of these people who want to hurt him and disobey God.
  • He appeals to God’s character. He admits that there are consequences to their sin that will impact the people for generations to come. Yet, he also believes, because of God’s track record, that God will be compassionate and forgiving. He desired and asked that God would continue to do what He had been doing- showing mercy and forgiveness.

C. Applealing to God’s history. (V.19)

19 Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.

  • He appeals to God’s History with these people, believing that as He had forgiven before, He will forgive now.
  • This is a good model for intercessory prayer.
  • For Moses to pray this he had to have a heart of forgiveness for his people. He knew God and appealed to God passionately, but with what could be God’s will.
  • We should have a heart for people, and pray for them.


To respond to rebellion in our own hearts, or in the hearts of others we should:

  1. Believe in God.
  2. Challenge the Rebellion.
  3. Intercede in Prayer.

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