‘It is no place of seed, or … of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink’, Num. 20. 5.

‘It is no place of seed, or … of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink’, Num. 20. 5.

Having been delivered from slavery in Egypt via the Red Sea, the children of Israel now arrive in the Desert of Zin. Perhaps better known to us as the Negev, it was a desolate and rocky region but on the very border of the Promised Land.

Sadly, there is an old familiar cry that arises from the people - ‘why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness?’ v. 4. Admittedly, their present circumstances may have been far from favourable, but the vision of the land that lay ahead, given by Caleb, 13. 30, was ignored. They did not believe that God could give them what He had promised. Even though their persecution at the hands of the Egyptians should have been fresh in their minds, they longed rather for the ‘figs … vines … [and] pomegranates’ they had left behind, carefully omitting the taskmasters and their bondage.

Those who have shepherd responsibilities amongst the people of God may appreciate how Moses and Aaron must have felt as they fell upon their faces at the door of the tabernacle. People often suffer from selective memories and turn on their leaders with alacrity. The children of Israel had forgotten the consequences of their complaint at Taberah, ch. 11, or of Miriam and Aaron’s protest against Moses’ leadership, ch. 12. Similarly, they did not remember the divine provision of the manna and the quails, ch. 11. The serious judgement that fell upon Korah and his brethren for their rebellion, ch. 16, was seen only as an escape from their perceived plight.

But what divine grace we see demonstrated! The God who could say to Moses, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people … and have heard their cry’, Exod. 3. 7, was still cognizant of their circumstances. Although they had forgotten Him, as ‘the congregation of the Lord’, God had not forgotten them. He supplied water enough for them all, and their beasts.

However, there is a lesson here that might not be immediately obvious. The judgement that had fallen swiftly in chapters 11, 12, and 16 did not fall in the same way here. Why? The answer may lie in chapter 14 and verse 23. Though they had sinned against God and rejected those that He had raised up as leaders amongst them, their punishment would not be immediate but would be to live out the rest of their days outside of the sphere of blessing. They came so near but remained so far away - from God and the Promised Land!


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