Numbers 14:13-25 (Part 3) – How the Israelites and Raising Boys Are Similar…

Posted: September 7, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 14:13-25 (Part 3 of 4)

Moses Intercedes for the People

One of the differences between boys and girls that I learned during the 10 years of dating, then marriage, to my second wife (with her three boys) back in 1994-2004 was that boy, oh boy, how boys are different from girls. When those who try to claim unisex approaches to parenting and unisex approaches to life in our society, they just fail to see that boys and girls, and men and women are just fundamentally different. We should celebrate the difference but we try our best to eradicate it in society. But my little case study of the wiring of boys vs. that of girls during my second marriage is proof that God designed us, men and women, to be different and it is evident early on.

 

In my second marriage, we were a blended family. My second wife had three boys and I had two girls. The irony of that was not lost on me. You would have thought that either one of us could have a mixture of sexes in our children. What are the odds of a second marriage where one spouse brings 3 of the same sex of children while the other spouse brings 2 of the opposite sex of children? I would venture to guess that the odds were pretty staggering. It was the fact that girls and boys are different and react to things differently that had a lot to do with the undoing of that marriage. There were other factors but this one was always center stage in many of the conflicts between me and my second wife.

 

When my second wife and I got married, her boys were ages 10, 6, and 3 and my girls were ages 10 and 5. Five kids under the age of 11. Can you imagine? Wow, when I look back on that now. I ask that younger Mark at age 33 in 1995 when we got married, “Are you freakin’ crazy?” But it did teach me a few things about parenting boys and girls at the same time. The main thing that I learned is that boys are hard-headed and girls are timid. With my girls, usually a stern look, a stern discussion about errors in their behavior were sufficient to at least curtail that kind of behavior. Girls are tender and want love and approval and, thus, a stern talking-to would lead to reforms in behavior in a permanent way. Yell at them once and that would be enough to end whatever behavior that you wanted to stop. Sure, that is a generalization, and there were times that they willfully disregarded my instructions but generally the girls just wanted my approval more than anything else so that was a behavior modifier in and of itself.

 

Boys. Boy, oh boy, how they are different. I guess God designed boys (who later become men) so that they can survive in the world and be providers for their families and sometimes that involves rebelling against authority to do what is needed to provide. It is that hunter-gatherer mentality. We are wired, as boys and men, to figure out ways to get around things and solve problems where we come out the victor (coming back to the stone age camp with food for the family). We are wired to see something and get around it. With the boys, being boys, they were stubborn. I would have to repeat rules of behavior that I had established in the home on a daily basis. They would act each day as if the rule or rules were completely new and they had no knowledge of the rule’s existence. You’d have to tell them the same thing over and over again to the point of frustration. Boys would rather run through a brick wall than around it. Girls will collaborate together and figure out how to work together to scale the wall. Now, that I look back on it, both my second wife and I should have not expected the girls and the boys to be any different than who they were wired to be. It was that expectation of sameness that was the undoing. The irony of it all was that it should have been a boy/girl discussion but it become my kids vs. your kids with no middle ground of understanding the differences between the sexes.

 

But when reading through the passage today, it was the stubbornness of the boys that leapt into my mind today. And, I think, in general all boys are like that. I was probably like that with my parents. As boys, we push the limits of our parents to see how far we can go and see just what we can get away with before the hammer falls. My second wife’s boys were the poster boys for boys. They were stubborn. They were willful. Repeatedly getting in trouble for violating house rules and acting all shocked as if the rules did not exist. It was a test of wills that was for sure. Me, as stepdad, and them, as stepsons. It was not the best of relationships in those days. I was always on the boys about something. Trying to get them to behave well and do the right thing and to not be self-centeredly selfish all the time. I was trying to grow them into men because the world is not kind to men if they are not ready to be out in the adult world. It wasn’t until about maybe 4 years ago that one of the boys thanked me for being tough on them. He said I know we boys were a handful back then and I appreciate your trying to make us into men. His attitude had changed. Why? He had a boy of his own. Stubborn. Willful. And a handful to deal with. We both agreed that its funny how we get paid back and the cycle continues of parenting boys. He said you don’t stop loving them but they can drive you crazy.

 

As we read through Numbers 14:13-25 for the third time today, let us think about how God had to be so totally frustrated with the stubbornness of the Israelites and rightfully so. They were a stubborn, willful people. The way I relate to how God felt was thinking back to the days of raising stepsons for a decade:

 

13 Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 16 ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

 

17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

 

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant 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. 25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”

 

Here in this passage, Numbers 14:13-25, we know that God was not exaggerating when He said that Israelites had again and again failed to trust and obey Him. There is a litany of times that they showed a complete lack of respect for the authority of God:

 

  • Not wanting to cross the Red Sea (Exodus 14)
  • Complaining over the bitter water at Marah (Exodus 15)
  • Complaining in the wilderness (Exodus 16)
  • Collecting more than the daily quota of manna (Exodus 16)
  • Complaining over the lack of water at Rephidim (Exodus 17)
  • Engaging in idolatry with a golden calf (Exodus 32)
  • Complaining at Taberah (Numbers 11)
  • More complaining over the lack of delicious food (Numbers 11)
  • And finally…failing to trust God’s protection when presented with the Promised Land (Numbers 14)

 

This is not an exhaustive list of their complaints and willfulness before the Lord but you get the gist. In some places in the Old Testament, the Bible calls the Israelites “a stiff-necked people”. They were just stubborn boys. They often willfully disobeyed the Lord because they did not like being told what to do. There were always consequences to the bad behavior of my former stepsons. It would take a while for me to get to the point of being tired of the constant disobedience but you do get there and those were bad times in the house. Just as we will see here in the rest of Numbers, there were consequences to be paid for disobedience. God got fed up. He said you are on restrictions for the rest of your life. You are restricted from the Promised Land. Only your children will inherit the Promised Land not you.

 

Is this God of wrath stuff? No. When you read the litany of disobediences that lead up to the banishing then you understand why God did what He did. Just as parents of boys can get fed up with their constant pushing of the limits and stepping over the lines in the sand. In the same way, God lets you and me suffer the consequences of our non-biblical decisions. Speaking of my second marriage, don’t think for a minute that I do not see that my making a woman my god and access to sex my god that God allowed me to walk down that path. He said OK if you want to put a woman before me, how bout this, I am going to let you suffer through the whole second marriage thing with my kids vs. your kids, girls vs. boys thing. I am going to give you some tough boys to raise. I am going to allow you to have this whole kids thing to become the focus of your marriage rather than what you wanted and thought this marriage was going to be about. All of our ungodly decisions have consequences that we do not count on. God allows us to live with the results of our bad choices that are in disobedience to His Word.

 

But the crazy thing is that He still loves us while we are mired in the results of our decisions that are against His will. He will always be there when we get sick and tired of being mired in the just punishment that we deserve. When we come to Him in true repentance, He will show us the path to righteousness. He will show us the way out of the mess that we have made for ourselves. Even when we are a stiff-necked people, God still loves us. But, we must have the scales drop from our eyes that blind us to the reality of the pig sty that we have made of our lives and come to Him in humility. We must repent and seek the favor of the Lord through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. We will be restored through Christ to a right relationship with Him. He will then allow us to enter the Promised Land.

 

Amen and Amen.

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