The cactus offers beauty and thorns


As a contract worker, I have traveled a great deal lately, I find myself weary of moving.  I can imagine Israel becoming a little cranky as they endure packing their belonging to begin yet another move.  It was hard when we sold our houses after only two years in each.  In the last five years I average two moves every year, often more. 

I have some assurance from God by dreams given to me some years back.  I get songs that seem anointed for encouragement too.  I have drifted away from my former close walk though.  It is not hard to find fault even with the man of God as I remember some great fellowships I left behind.  Moses was challenged by his own family members though.

And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.  Num 12:1

The motive for this attack is racial.  Moses married an African woman, so his brother and sister take issue with him.  They do not attack Moses on these grounds though.  They reason themselves to be prophets of the same gifting as Moses.  Their words were heard by God, if not by others.

And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.  Num 12:2

Since they considered what God revealed to them as important, the Lord clarifies how his revelation to Moses is different.  He called them out.

(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)  And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.  And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.  And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.  With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.  And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.  And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.  Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb.  Num 12:3-12

One bible translation indicates that Miriam got a skin disease.  That could have been acne or cancer.  But leprosy is so contagious that one became a social outcast because of it.  Body parts decay and fall off.  It was a major affliction physically, socially, and spiritually as one was cut off from the gathering of faith.  Moses intercedes for his sister. She needed deliverance from someone more righteous now.  God would not have her go completely un-punished though.  

And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.  And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.  And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.  And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.  Num 12:13-16 (KJV)

The people were not led to move without Miriam.  Our churches will not be led to leave anyone behind either.  If one is fallen, we are encouraged to restore them to fellowship.  One may be turned over to suffer for a season until they are repentant though.  God will expect us all to grow though, and to move on in our walk.  We will be taking new challenges soon, and need to look ahead.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.  Num 13:1-2 (KJV)

So spies are appointed to make a long range reconnaissance patrol.  

And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel.  And these were their names:

  1. Of the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur.
  2. Of the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori.
  3. Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.
  4. Of the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph.
  5. Of the tribe of Ephraim, Oshea the son of Nun.
  6. Of the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu.
  7. Of the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi.
  8. Of the tribe of Joseph, namely, of the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi.
  9. Of the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli.
  10. Of the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael.
  11. Of the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi.
  12. Of the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.

These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua.  Num 13:3-16 (KJV)

What did Moses see in Oshea that moved him to change his name to Joshua?  God gave Abram a new name earlier, did he inspire Moses with some insight? 

And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain:  And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many;

And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds;  And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not.  And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.  Num 13:17-20 (KJV)

Grapes are out of season here now, and priced over $3 per pound.  They may have been eager to see fresh fruit, but grapes are a special treat even today.  They found more than they expected too.

So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath.  And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)  And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs.  The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence.  And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.  Num 13:21-25 (KJV)

The children of Anak were the giants we hear so much about.  The grapes were also growing in giant clusters there though.  Given a choice, will we focus on the bad news or the good news?  Is our glass half empty or half full?  In this case God had already promised to go before Israel and drive these people out before them.  So by faith these giants should be no part of their consideration at all.

And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.  And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.  Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.  The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.  And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.  But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.  And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.  And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.  Num 13:26-33 (KJV)

Perhaps they were in God’s sight as grasshoppers too, as they had no faith in God.  Our words can shape our realities.  We can feed on the despair of the evening news, or we could consider the promises of God instead.  Those who choose the news are sure to sing the blues.

And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.  And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!  And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?  And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.  Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.  And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:  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.  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.  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.  Num 14:1-9 (KJV)

Here are two godly men of faith telling the truth to a nation of faithless cowards.  Yet we can find a nation opposing their president in this age too.  If our president does seek God, he may not find a popular direction to lead us in.  God does not care about our “comfort zone”.  He challenges us to grow by going boldly by faith, not by our sight.  Anyone who will step out in faith like this will be rewarded by the people as Caleb and Joshua were.

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.  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?  I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.  And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)  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.  Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,  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.  And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,  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.  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.  And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:  But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.  Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;  Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:  But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.  (Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwelt in the valley.) To morrow turn you, and get you into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.  Num 14:10-25 (KJV)

God has his own reward system apart from the intentions of man.  If you walk with him you will enter into his rest and his inheritance.  If you stand up to march against God, you will fall in the wilderness.

And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,  How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.  Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:  Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,  Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.  But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.  But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.  And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.  After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.  I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.  Num 14:26-35 (KJV)

The people suffered one year in the wilderness, and eventual death, for each of the forty days they wasted in their faithless discovery of their promised inheritance.  This life is an entrance exam for eternal life.  Don’t waste your exploration and discovery on doubt and fear.  Discover faith while you are here.  The wilderness of eternity is forever.