Wilderness wandering” refers to the difficulty of the Israelites due to their disobedience and unbelief. The story of their journey through the wilderness shows that they never overcome their slave mentality, the mind-set they brought with them from Egypt. Their thinking, attitudes and conduct constantly returned to the way it had been molded in Egypt.
God desire his children to enter the Promised Land, but only two of all those men were destined to see the land flowing with milk and honey. The others all died in the wilderness.
The journey from Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 10:11-14:45). On this journey, several things happened. The people longed for the food in Egypt. They were sent quail by God, but were punished for their sins of murmuring and complaining. Also Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses’ authority. Miriam was stricken with leprosy as punishment. Perhaps this was because she was the leader of the rebellion and being a woman, it was not proper for her to claim such authority. Also twelve spies were sent out from Kadesh-Barnea. They were gone for 40 days. They brought back a report that Canaan was a “land flowing with milk and honey.” However, ten of the twelve spies feared the people of the land. They lacked faith in God to give them the land. Only Joshua and Caleb disagreed. The people followed the faithless spies. Because the people lacked faith, they were sentenced to wander in the desert for forty years. Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Their wilderness wanderings are a frightening picture of a restless, aimless, and unsatisfied life.
• Restless – because the tents were constantly being struck and re-erected in much the same spot.
• Aimless – because they wandered around in the wilderness achieving nothing – just killing time until the 40 years were done and all but Joshua and Caleb were dead and gone.
• Unsatisfied – because they were always moving, but never getting anywhere, never achieving anything.
God had promised them victory and the land He commanded them to go in and take was already theirs and they simply had to trust and obey, but this they did not do. God will never lead us where His grace cannot provide for us or His power cannot protect us. Indeed, the Israelites had seen the powerful hand of God at work during the plagues and miracles of the Exodus. Yet, like many people, they walked by sight and not by faith and their unbelief displeased God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Their failure to believe in God’s word kept them from entering the Promised Land.
The Lesson of the Faithfulness of the Lord:
Throughout the book of Numbers, we saw the unfaithfulness of Israel in contrast to the faithfulness of the Lord. God is faithful, even when we are faithless.