The Wilderness

Read: Numbers 14:1-38

The beginning of the wilderness era is an interesting story because it shows a unique side of God as well as shows the part we, as followers of God, can have in our relationship with him, especially in regard to our future. What we read in Numbers 14 is when the Lord had brought the people of Israel to the Promised Land after rescuing them from Egypt. So, they sent twelve spies into the land, and all but two came back and said that the inhabitants were giants, their cities were fortified, and that there was no way that they could have victory. But two of them, Caleb and Joshua, were confident in the promise of God, saying that since the Lord is with them, they would have victory.

It was at the report of the ten other spies that be people of Israel started to grumble, complain, and begin to devise a plan to go back to Egypt! Because of this we get this incredible conversation between Moses and God discussing the contempt of the people and what should happen to them. We witness Moses truly being a priestly intercessor for the people, advocating for mercy and forgiveness. What the people ultimately receive is what they had been grumbling about and what they had said God has led them there to do: die in the desert. This is a theme that we will often see in how God responds to the incessant desires of his people: he will give them what they want, even if it is not always what is best for them, but this also shows that God will not coerce us into doing what He is asking. Additionally, God is continually concerned about the formation of His people. Would it really produce a grateful and humble people if they grumbled and complained about being saved out of slavery and then received a prosperous land and yet could not even be trusted to follow God? This long work that God has been doing to form His people in ancient times was also so that the people would form to the place they needed to be to accept Him when Jesus came in the flesh. God seems more than comfortable to lead us in the wilderness if it means that we are formed in the way we need. God also will give us what we want even if it isn’t the best route for us because he doesn’t have a desire to manipulate or coerce. God is not a God of dictatorship but one of relationship. He is not a God of conformation but one of transformation. God is concerned and seeks to be involved in our formation… even if it involves a wilderness.


  1. What’s one thing that stood out to you in this passage?
  2. When the odds against us seem overwhelming, are we more likely to be discouraged with our circumstances and complain or trust in the faithfulness of God’s promises?
  3. Have you ever asked for something that you didn’t receive, and later realized it wouldn’t have been what was best for you? What happened?
  4. Formation and growth in our faith is a process, and can sometimes feel a bit like wandering in the wilderness. Have you grown significantly in your faith since 5 days ago? What about in the last 5 years?
  5. What does it say about God that relationship with him is a process and journey? Wouldn’t it just be easier if we were automatically formed overnight into faithful children of God?

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