Numbers 13:31 – 14:4 – Then the men who had gone up with [Caleb to spy put the land] said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Numbers 14:26-30 – And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
The truth is, we do not tend to guard our speech as much as we should – we let words fly as if we will never be held accountable for them. But this is not the case. Jesus says in Matthew 12:36-37, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” The above episode is a great example of this. Time after time the people complained. In the episode above their complaining reached its zenith as their hearts were filled with unbelief. After all they had saw as the Lord brought about the plagues in Egypt, after being delivered from slavery, receiving the law at Mt. Sinai (with all its thunderings and trumpet calls), seeing bitter water made sweet, water from a rock, daily manna, etc. – they not only refused to enter the land (thus exposing their unbelief in God and his promises) – they wished they could go back to Egypt or die in the wilderness – and God gives them what they ask for. It is sad, really – and it is easy for us to look down on them – but that would be to miss out on the value of God’s word to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness. How often to we let careless words fly, even about the Lord? How often do we complain and curse others. How often do we verbally question the motives of others? Do we really believe we will give an account?
I must admit, I fall short and am guilty of sin in this regard. Thankfully, like the people in our story, I have someone to intercede for me – and thankfully it is one greater than Moses. Moses was able to spare the Israelites as a nation through his intercession, but not able to remove the consequences for the generation of whiners and they did not get to enter the promised land. Jesus, as my great High Priest, will take me all the way to the Promised Land as I trust in him – even though I fail. This does not mean there will not be any temporal consequences for my careless words – but that is a topic for another day.