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NUMBERS: ON SPIRITUAL CASUALTIES AND VICTORS
Part XXII: Blessing By Handling A Trial By Faith Instead Of Complaining
(Numbers 21:1-3 et al.)
Lesson: By handling trouble with TRUSTING GOD instead of the USUAL faithLESS complaint, Israel saw what began as a bad event turn out blessed instead of the usual (going from bad to worse)!
- Every mortal human being faces trouble in his life: Job 5:7 NIV informs us " . . . man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward," meaning trouble is as certain to occur as sparks will fly upward in a troublesome way to injure a party who is near an open fire!
- However, the way we respond to trouble can produce either blessing or more trouble, and Numbers 21:1-3 details the blessed response to trouble versus Israel's often unblessed response (as follows):
- Blessing By Handling A Trial By Faith Instead Of Complaining, Numbers 21:1-3 et al.
- Israel faced trouble at the hands of Arad, the Canaanite living in Southern Palestine: apparently being threatened by Israel's approach, he attacked the nation, taking some of its people captive, Numbers 21:1.
- Now, based on Israel's history, the people of God could readily have complained about this:
- At Kadesh when there was not water, the people had complained about it to Moses, insisting it would have been better for them to have died in the destruction of Korah's uprising, Numbers 20:1-3.
- Earlier, the day after Korah's judgment, 14,700 Hebrews had died by a plague from God for complaining about the death of Korah and his followers at the hand of God, Numbers 16:41, 45-49.
- Still earlier, Korah's followers and 250 top tribal leaders had died with fire from God and with the earth opening up to swallow up Korah's immediate followers, Numbers 16:1-35.
- Again and again, this kind of pattern of trouble-followed-by-faithless-complaining had ended in further trouble with judgment from God or in testing God's patience before things had settled down:
- In Numbers 14, the people were defeated by trying to "right" their former wrong in not heeding the call of Caleb and Joshua against the ten faithless spies' report to enter the land.
- In Numbers 11:4, the mixed multitude of part Hebrews and part Gentiles complained about the diet of God's manna that lacked the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic of Egypt.
- This same pattern occurred in Numbers 11:1 where the mixed multitude had influenced others to complain apparently about the food, leading to the death of many Hebrews.
- In Exodus 32:1-7, the people complained when Moses stayed with God on Mount Sinai for too many days, and so they established a false idol worship. Moses ground up the gold idol, put it into Israel's drinking water and made the people drink of it in discipline, 32:19-20.
- In Exodus 17:1-3, the people complained about no water, testing God to discipline them.
- Then on five other times (Ex, 14:11-12; 15:23-24; 16:2; 16:20 and 16:27), people had resisted trusting and hence obeying God's explicit Word, pressuring Him to desire to judge them, cf. Ryrie Study Bible, KJV, footnote to Numbers 14:22.
- However, the nation Israel chose to TRUST God and seek HIS help in handling Arad, Num. 21:2:
- The people knew God had made provision for vows unto the Lord, cf. Leviticus 7:16.
- They also knew that, on occasion, God willed that the spoil of war be dedicated wholly unto the Lord, a situation known as herem in Hebrew, a word meaning, "to ban, destroy, devote' in the sense of belonging to a god . . . as here, to the true God," Ibid., Ryrie Study Bible, KJV, ftn. to Joshua 6:17.
- Accordingly, they vowed in faith that were God to deliver the Canaanites of Arad into their hand militarily, they would "utterly destroy" their cities, devoting all spoil to God and never rebuilding these cities for their own welfare in dedication to God, Numbers 21:2.
- The result was great blessing for Israel, Numbers 21:3:
- God heard this request of a vow regarding making the battle a holy war in the "herem" dedication, 3a.
- God delivered the Canaanite followers of Arad to Israel, and they permanently destroyed them and devoted the spoil entirely and forever unto the Lord, Numbers 21:3b.
Application: Let us ALWAYS face TROUBLE with FAITH in God rather than COMPLAINING UNBELIEF: The latter only makes things worse where the former only makes them better!