Prayer Psalm: 136
Prayer Point: This psalm in retelling Israel’s story gives them many reasons to shout, “God, your love endures forever.” List the things that God has done for which you are thankful. After each one pray, “your love endures forever.”
There was a raging debate among Jewish rabbis about divorce in Jesus’ day. Some rabbis believed that it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife only for infidelity. Others believed that a man could divorce his wife for any reason, even if she burned the soup! The Pharisees bring the question to Jesus because they are trying to pigeonhole him by forcing him to take sides and turn certain factions against him.
Does Jesus fit into either camp, why or why not? Why did God create a divorce law for Israel?
The Law of Moses was concerned with protecting divorced women to ensure that they were not turned out on the street without means of support. The law never encouraged divorce, instead it tried to minimize the impact of divorce.
How much value does Jesus place on marriage? How does Jesus feel about divorce and remarriage?
In what way are Jews and Gentiles, religious and pagans, alike before God? How many are considered righteous or right with God by their own merit? What can’t the law do? What does the law do for us?
Numbers 13:31-14:25 Enter Caleb
Whose was the only dissenting voice and what was his advice? (“Then Caleb [of the tribe of Judah] silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’” (Numbers 13:30 NIV))
What was the outcome of this difference of opinion? (As you may imagine, the majority won this debate. They had spread a bad report among the people whereby the people gave way to their fears. “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:32-33 NIV) In Genesis Chapter 6 the Nephilim were the “fallen ones” but they were also mighty men of valor; heroes of old; men of renown. If these are the same people, they must have been a formidable force to behold.)
Again the people repine for Egypt. Well, naturally, after such a fine report, the people became fearful of their adversaries. They lost spirit and longed for the days of yore in Egypt. What was the complaint this time? (“All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, ‘If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? … We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’” (Numbers 14:2,4 NIV))
Joshua and Caleb try to mount a campaign against the majority. Both had explored the land before them and both were convinced that with the LORD’s help the Israelites could subdue their enemies. How do they urge their countrymen? (“Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, ‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.’” (Numbers 14:6-9 NIV))
Who prevailed? What was the mood of the crowd? (The majority prevailed and the mood grew ugly, there was talk of stoning Joshua, Caleb, and I suppose Moses and Aaron.)
What does the LORD do? (“Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. The LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater than they.’” (Numbers 14:10-12 NIV) Remember that whenever the people grumbled against Moses that they were actually grumbling against the LORD. Moses took it all too personally, how could he not? But the LORD saw their anger as directed against him. Anytime Moses got discouraged because of the complaining of the people the LORD would encourage him by telling him that the people were actually rebelling against their God.)
So the LORD wants to wipe out the people for this rebellion. How does Moses talk him out of it? (Moses reminds (!) the LORD that the Egyptians will hear of it and then think that the LORD was not powerful enough to be able to manage this great crowd; that he was unable to bring them into the land he promised them and their forefathers; “so he slaughtered them in the desert”. (Numbers 14:16 NIV))
In verses 14:17-19 it sounds like Moses is trying to soft-soap the LORD: “Now may the LORD’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.’” Moses then pleads with the LORD to forgive the sin of these people “just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” (Numbers 14:19b NIV)
Care to guess how long it has been since Moses first brought the people out of Egypt? (It is probably two years since the people had left Egypt.)
What is the LORD’s judgment on the people? (“…as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times – not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (Numbers 14:21-23 NIV))
We know that the Israelites “wandered” in the desert for forty years so it is safe to assume that they were early in the journey when this episode occurs. These people could have spared themselves so much grief if they had only listened to Moses and Aaron. Would we have fared any better do you think? (Probably not!)
Because Caleb distinguished himself in that foray into to land of Canaan, how does the Lord distinguish Caleb from the rest of the Hebrews? (“But because Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” (Numbers 14:24 NIV))
Where do the Israelites end up? (They end up at the Red Sea.)