Thursday, April 14, 2022

Israel in the Wilderness (Numbers 11-14, 21)

The Wilderness of Wrath

We've talked over the past few posts about the Lord's ultimate objective in rescuing Israel from Egypt - to create a "peculiar nation" or Zion, where at Mount Sinai all would enter into the presence of The Lord.  But Israel refused to meet God face to face and He honored their desires and removed the High Priesthood from their grasp.  We talked about the journey from the world of Egypt to God's presence at Sinai, as symbolized in the Tabernacle - which required baptism and sanctification via the Lord's Wilderness School.

After their rejection of the Lord at Sinai, how did the wilderness they traveled through change?

The actual desert terrain remained the same – stark, arid, and dangerous.

But the wilderness changed from one of refuge from the Egyptians and sanctification in preparation for entering the Lord’s presence and knowing Him to a wilderness of cursings, wrath, indignation and judgement (see D&C 84:19-27; D&C 124:46-50).

What happens when you spurn the opportunities God offers and choose instead to follow “other gods” in the form of other priorities?

You will reap the whirlwind.

You will be left to yourself; physically and spiritually.

What aspects does the Lord’s Wilderness include?

Leaving the things of the world behind.

Separation from worldly people.

Going only where The Lord directs.

Trials of faith and opportunities to sacrifice.

Discovering our basic weakness.

Trust in The Lord to take care of worldly needs.

Means of daily revelation given.

The ministry of angels.

Temples in the wilderness.

Confronting Satan.

See Blaine Yorgason’s book I Need Thee Every Hour for more insights.


READ Numbers 11:4-6

Which of these aspects are Israel still struggling with?

Leaving the world behind – while they’ve left Egypt physically, they still pine for it, remembering the “good old days” of their enslavement when they could at least visit the “flesh pots” and bask in the reflected glory of the great, worldly civilization.

Separation from worldly people; they've brought them with them – they are them.

Going where the Lord directs; they are just wondering lost or setting up camp and stagnating for months or years at a time.

Failing the trials and not seeing the opportunities to sacrifice - asking "why is this happening to us"; although The Lord is taking care of their worldly needs, they don't like the manna.

They are dependent upon the Lord for their very survival – the manna they eat every day; but they complain about it.

They are blind to their weaknesses, still thinking of themselves as “chosen” because they have a strongman prophet like Moses who actually communes with God.

They want Moses to be the means of revelation; they don't want to commune directly with heaven, whether it be angels or The Lord; for example, only the Priests can administer in the Tabernacle.

Angels are not ministering to them often, if at all; or only to a very few.

They have a tabernacle which is supposed to guide them to understand the temple but they get caught up in the ritual and never see or experience the real thing (the actual veil between heaven and earth).

They embrace Satan with their idolatry of golden calves and of Moses.



Would God That All Were Prophets

But while a people may be struggling, that does not have to stop individuals from rising up personally - as that is really all that counts anyway.


READ Numbers 11:24-29

Is this prophesying pleasing to The Lord?


Can a man stop the Lord from revealing truth to another person?

Not without offending the Lord.

What can we learn from Moses' response to these spiritual manifestations by others?

This was Moses' and the Lord's desire from the beginning - that Moses not be the only one saved in all of Israel.

The Lord has not given up on Zion - although the Holy Order has been taken away, individuals can still rise up and progress in their spiritual journey and attain all of the blessings that are offered - The Lord is NO RESPECTER of PERSONS.

Everyone who has received the Gift of the Holy Ghost should have and display spiritual gifts - they are for the benefit of the rest of the group - they are opportunities to receive revelation and to serve.


READ Numbers 12:1-2, 5-8

How does this incident with Miriam and Aaron differ from the one in the preceding chapter?

Aaron and Miriam feign spiritual gifts/prophesy but they are "dark speeches" - or lies; The Lord will reveal Himself to true prophets but He has not revealed Himself to them.  God knows it and they know it. 

In the preceding chapter, the prophesies were real revelation from God.  God knew it and Moses knew it, and rejoiced in it.

Aaron and Miriam are using feigned spiritual gifts or power to enact their wills through compulsory means (they didn't like Moses' choice of wife) - this is completely against the principles that govern priesthood power as laid out in D&C 121.  Whatever priesthood (association with the Powers of Heaven) they may have had is gone anyway.

This story is sometimes used to illustrate the sin of “lesser members questioning of a High Priest or Prophet's authority”, using the fact that Moses was so humble as justification, but when you read the story in the context of the last chapter, that is not what is really happening here.

What is the cautionary tale we should learn from the story of Aaron and Miriam?

Do not feign spiritual experiences.

Do not use compulsion.

And NEVER combine the two - using fake spiritual experiences/power to compel people to do what you want.

You will be cursed if you do!


READ Alma 26:22, D&C 76:5-10, D&C 76:114-118, Hebrews 8:10-11, 1 Cor 2:9-10, and 3 Nephi 11:14-17

What kind of revelation does the Lord want each of us to receive?

He wants to reveal ALL things.

Revelation has nothing to do with “Church government” - remember that this Church is an earthly institution only; confining revelation to “church stewardship” is contrary to the scriptures.

Most of what God wants to reveal to us has nothing to do with Church government or policy but it has much to do with the doctrine of Christ and our standing before Him.

Why do these things have to come directly from God and not via a man?

The natural man can’t comprehend it.

No man can articulate it effectively to another anyway.

You can’t KNOW with a surety that Jesus is the God of the whole earth and was slain for the sins of the world unless He reveals Himself unto you.


"Do you believe Joseph Smith, Jun., to be a prophet? Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (TPJS 137:9-10)

“God hath not revealed anything to Joseph but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.” (TPJS 170:6)



The Spies’ Report on Canaan

So, they walk through the wilderness and get to the borders of the land of Canaan (Palestine) and Moses sends 12 spies into the land to check it out.  They come back with the following report:

READ Numbers 13:26-33

What was their report regarding the Promised Land?

It was as rich and plentiful in its fruit and produce as they had hoped.

It was inhabited by many different tribes of people; some of whom were giants and all of whom looked tough.


READ Numbers 14:1-4

And how would you expect the Children of Israel to react to this report?

We’re going back to Egypt.


Two of the twelve spies had faith and spoke to the people very much like Nephi spoke to his brothers with regards to obtaining the Plates of Brass:

READ Numbers 14:7-9

Given the account of the other spies, why does Caleb say “they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them”?

The Lord will fight their battle for them, if they don’t rebel against the Lord.


READ Numbers 14:10-12, 22-23

What is the Lord’s response?

To disinherit them - so that they are no longer the Lord’s people. 

He is done with them and their lack of faith and constant entitlement and bickering.

At a minimum, they will not enter the promised land - Israel will wander for 40 years in the desert until this faithless generation have all died.

Why is the Lord so hard on Israel?

They rejected the offer to become Zion and stand in His presence.

They witnessed so many miracles and so much of God’s power but every new trial saw them revert to ground zero again.

They were terrible whiners.

There is a law of karma or condemnation in play here - they have brought upon themselves a curse (D&C 124:48).



The Brazen Serpent

READ Numbers 21:4-9, Hel 8:14-15, 1 Nephi 17:41, and Alma 33:18-20

What was required to be saved from the poisonous snakes?

To look up at the brazen serpent that Moses had constructed.

If all they had to do was look, why did many not look?

They didn’t believe it would heal them.

They didn’t have faith in God.

Why is something so easy as “looking” called a “labor”?

Because faith without works is dead.

Because exercising faith in the face of poisonous tree serpents takes spiritual effort, i.e. labor.


READ Matt 11:28-30

How can a "yoke" be light? What is the yoke?

Our relationship with God.

Our responsibilities under His gospel covenant.

Where is the requirement for obedience to the Law of Moses to be saved from the serpents?

Where indeed?  By grace we are saved, after (despite) all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23).

We must look for life to the one who was likewise “lifted up” on a “pole” or cross of wood.

Why was the symbol of a serpent used?

In Near Eastern cultures, the serpent had a dual symbolic role - both the “monster” who guarded the gates of the netherworld (“I am the gatekeeper and employeth no servant there”) and a god who gives life (“I am the light and life of the world”) - (from Noordtzij, Numbers, p. 186-7).

But it is interesting that the snake has no inherent life-giving traits that we know of - the serpent on the pole can only give life because of the Lord’s gracious will - He forgives, He heals, He delivers from death.


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