Forty Years of Nothing
Giving In To Sin Equals Nothing to Record Nor to Remember
Numbers 13.3, 26 — “And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran………And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh, and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land.”
Numbers 14.39—45 — “And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly. And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, ‘Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the LORD hath promised: for we have sinned.’ And Moses said, ‘Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.’ But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah.”
Numbers 16.1—3 — “Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, ‘Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?’”
Numbers 20.1, 7—14 — “Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there………And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.’ And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, ‘Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?’ And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, ‘Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.’ This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them. And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, ‘Thus saith thy brother Israel, “Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us…”‘”
Numbers 33.36—37 — “And they removed from Ezion-gaber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. And they removed from Kedesh, and pitched in Mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.”
Isaiah 64.6 — “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us all away.”
Ezekiel 33.11—19 — “‘Say unto them, “As I live,” saith the Lord GOD, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. Again, when I say unto the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die;” if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. Yet the children of thy people say, “The way of the LORD is not equal:” but as for them, their way is not equal. When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.’”
Have you ever done something that was really and truly great, but nobody saw you do it? Has some great event taken place in your life, but because it wasn’t recorded anywhere, few people believe that you did it? Probably for everyone in the world today, some great thing has been done, or some great event took place, but because it wasn’t seen nor recorded by anyone, few believe that it really happened. I wonder: how often has some great invention been created, but because there was no way to record or write down the idea, nothing came about? There is a story in the Bible where, for forty years, the lives, actions, and movements for millions of people were not recorded. In fact, an entire generation died off and there is no record of where these people were buried, how they died, nor any other information. Another question for you today: could this happen with God? Could the lives of people be totally forgotten because the records of them are totally erased? What about your life? Will your life be remembered or forgotten?
The Sad Story of the Generation that Left Egypt — If you’ve been around a Christian church for any length of time, perhaps you have heard the story of the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt. God used Moses and his brother Aaron to help the Israelites to come out of slavery in Egypt, punishing Egypt and Pharaoh with ten plagues, wondrous miracles that enabled the Israelites to freely leave. The trip from Egypt to what is today Israel probably took no more than a year or two. With millions of people following Moses out, they very likely moved somewhat slowly through the area that is today called the Sinai Peninsula. Along the way, God provided the Israelites with food, water, and protection against enemies through many miracles. The Israelites literally saw on a daily basis the miracles of God performed right in front of them. It should have been enough to make them very strong in their faith. However, when they reached Canaan, sent out spies, and heard the evil report from ten of the twelve spies that were sent out, the people of Israel lost their faith. Even though Moses, Caleb, and Joshua begged the people to remain close to God and to trust him, they refused. They even threatened to kill Caleb and Joshua. Because of this, the generation that came out of Egypt was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land. These people had watched God literally destroy the most powerful nation on Earth at that time for them to be able to be free. They had seen God provide them with food and water every day of their journey. They had also seen God defend them against attacks by enemies that sought to destroy them. Again, all of this should have been enough to make them faithful and strong. In the end, they were not, and because of their lack of faith, they could not go into the land God had promised to them through Abraham. They were also a generation that was not remembered, their lives for the next forty years left unrecorded.
Four Events Before Vanishing — Before they were ordered by God to go into the wilderness, there were four events that happened:
(1.) The Israelites tried to Enter the Promised Land without God — In Numbers 14, the closing verses tell about how the Israelites — after hearing that God had refused them entry into Canaan and that they were to wander for forty years — changed their minds and tried to enter Canaan anyway. The result was humiliation and defeat. Anytime we try to do something without God — especially when he has told us to do something else — will end this way.
(2.) Rebellion Against Moses — In Numbers 16, we see another tragic story. A group of men challenged the Authority of Moses, and, indirectly, of God. Wanting to return to Egypt to where they thought life was better, a great number of people appointed another leader. The sad result was that a great earthquake took place, swallowing up the rebellious people and their leaders. Again, a humiliating failure and end to some of the people because they were without God.
(3.) Miriam, the Sister of Aaron and Moses, Died — The very first verse of Numbers 20 states that Miriam died. Unlike Moses and Aaron, who lived to be older than 100 years, Miriam died in her 80s. Now why did this happen? We don’t know the cause nor reason for her passing, but it is likely that God wanted to spare Miriam the pain of seeing so many pass away in the wilderness. When we rebel and sin against God, it is not only ourselves that pay a price, but others also, including people that we love and look up to.
(4.) Moses and Aaron Sinned, and were refused entry into the Promised Land — In the 2nd through the 13th verses of Numbers 20, we see that Moses and Aaron chose to disobey God. Though the people were given water, God pronounced his judgment against Aaron and Moses, and they, though living to be more than 120 years old, died on the borders of the Promised Land. Our rebellion and sin against God oft influence the leaders we follow, and can even cause them to stumble.
Do you see the pattern here? Rebellion against God is a serious thing! Sin affects more than just the person who is doing it! There are great upheavals in life when someone is guilty of sin. But this, really, isn’t the worst part.
The Sound of Silence — Can you think of a great celebrity, government person, or historical figure who made a terrible mistake? What did that person do? How is that person remembered today? In the USA, there was a baseball player named Darryl Strawberry. Darryl Strawberry was one of the most talented players in the history of American Baseball. He was a great hitter. He was so fast that he could steal any base and rarely be tagged out. Darryl Strawberry was so good that he helped his team, the New York Mets, win a world series. However, just when Darryl Strawberry’s career was taking off, a terrible thing happened: he was found by police with illegal drugs. After that came the upheavals in his life. Very similarly to the Israelites, Strawberry tried to continue playing baseball, but failed miserably. He was released from the Mets, and was picked up by a few other teams, but his salary was cut, his playing began to get worse, and later, he went to prison. Darryl Strawberry is not remembered today, and after his first drug arrest, his career was largely forgotten. Today, very few people know the name “Darryl Strawberry”. The silence surrounding Strawberry’s career is deafening and terribly tragic. The same thing happened to the Israelites. Because they rebelled against God, their wanderings for 40 years are not recorded. Nobody knows what happened to that generation of Israelites after Moses and Aaron sinned because their forty years in the wilderness is not recorded. The only thing we know from the Bible is that each and every one of them died. The only two from the generation that left Egypt that were still alive were Caleb and Joshua. Everyone else — possibly as many as two million people — died in the wilderness. They died in anonymity, they died forgotten, and they died without God’s grace and without ever entering the Promised Land (on a side note, Darryl Strawberry has since come to know Jesus Christ as his Savior and has become a speaker [and a Pastor] talking about the dangers of drug use along with giving his testimony).
The Bad News — Does this tragic story of the Israelites and their 40 Years of Invisibility match your life? Are you working, working, and working, hoping that at the end of your life here on earth, God will see your works and welcome you into heaven? The bad news is that, all of your work without Jesus Christ in your life means that you are basically following the same path that the Children of Israel followed after they rebelled against God in Numbers 13. Though you may have all the good works in the world, the Bible says that they will be like the actions of these Israelites: they will neither be remembered nor really spoken of. In fact, Isaiah 64 states that all of our good works without Jesus Christ are really like dirty laundry in the eyes of God. Ezekiel also says that if we have sin in our lives that God will not recognize any good works that we do until the sin is dealt with. In other words, without God, we are like the Israelites of Numbers 13-20: we are wandering around in a wilderness of sin that will eventually kill us and leave us without God’s Promises nor will we ever see a minute in his Promised Land. Friends, that’s the bad news. Does this describe you?
The Good News — The Good News is that because of Jesus Christ, we can be like Caleb and Joshua. You see, in Numbers 13, when the other spies were giving a terribly discouraging report about the Promised Land, Caleb and Joshua were carrying the fruit of the land, giving a good report. When the other spies were complaining of the size of the Giants, Caleb and Joshua were praising God for being bigger than those giants! When the others were crying about the size of the walled cities in the Promised Land, Caleb and Joshua believed that those cities were already defeated and taken! Even in the face of being stoned to death, Joshua and Caleb remained faithful to God. When everyone else around him was speaking of death, destruction, and disaster for the Israelites, Caleb and Joshua were speaking of how God would help them overcome. How was this possible? Caleb and Joshua were faithful because of Whom was living in their hearts. They had trusted God with their eternity, and because of that, they saw how great and powerful God was instead of seeing how big and bad the giants, the cities, and their enemies were. The good news for us today is that we can have that same Spirit that Caleb and Joshua had. We can look at difficult circumstances, hard situations, and gloomy futures the same way that Caleb and Joshua saw the Promised Land. If we choose to have Jesus Christ on the inside, and trust him wholeheartedly, we, too, can have that same attitude. Paul writes in his letters that the Peace of Jesus Christ passes all understanding. Even when the world around you is flying apart like a haystack in a typhoon, if you have Jesus Christ on the inside, you will have peace.
How Do You Want to be Remembered? How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered like the Israelites that wandered are remembered? Do you want to be forever remembered as someone who rejected the Promised Land and wandered without memory for forty years? Do you want to have your life recorded for the good things you did, or to have your memory and good works look like dirty laundry. The way that the Wandering Israelites and the way Caleb and Joshua are remembered in the Bible are as different as night and day. While the their kinsmen were dying off with no record of where they fell, where they were buried, or anything else that happened, Caleb and Joshua were remembered for leading the next generation into the Promised Land. In fact, Caleb and Joshua are remembered in the Bible as having received special promises from God because they chose to trust in God! God directly spoke his promises to Caleb and Joshua in Numbers 14, and forty years later, they came to pass: Caleb and Joshua led the next generation into the Promised Land, and lived to enjoy it! If we choose to trust in God, if we choose to believe he is greater still, we, too, will receive his special promises!
The Bottom Line: To Be, or Not To Be; That Is the Question! What will it be, friend? Will you be remembered, etched into GOD’s Record and His Book of Life? So many people, day in and day out, give up their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, following the crowd and heading towards destruction and being, ultimately, being literally erased from history. Friends, we need to remember that sin is death. Sin isn’t just eternal death, but it is physical death also! When we continue in a life of sin, we risk being erased from memory, blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life, and cast into an eternity that is bereft of the presence of GOD! Friends, Sin is NO JOKE! There is coming a day when GOD will judge sin and those choosing to continue in it. Friends, Sin is deadly. Sin is destructive, and Sin kills eternally and physically. Living a life of sin not only causes one to be in danger of the second death, but also offers no fulfillment in this life on earth as well. The Bible is rife with examples of people who lived and died in sin, never having peace nor the hope of eternal life to come. The header, above, from the Shakespeare play, Hamlet, is significant for those who are living in a life of sin and debauchery. Will we turn to the LORD and seek his face in forgiveness and redemption and repentance? Will we, on the flip side, keep living for self, living for fun and sin, and keep heading to a future that is bereft of hope? The choice is ours.
Conclusion: Forty Years of Nothing or an Eternity of Joy? In conclusion, let us ask the question again: how do you want to be remembered? When people in ages and years to come think of you, will they think of you the same way the First Generation out of Egypt is remembered? Will they instead remember you as a person who chose to remain faithful to God, even when everyone else was going the other way? Do you want forty years of nothing, or an eternity of plenty? The significance of Numbers 20.13—14, and Numbers 33.36—37 is what is not there! In those two passages, there is a forty year gap. Do you want four decades of being lost to the record of history, or do you want an eternity where God himself remembers your faithfulness to him? The choice is yours! Trust Jesus Christ today!
Prayer — Father, we thank you for this good and wonderful day! Thank you for everyone who has come and received this message today! Help us all, Lord, to remember that without you, we get twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years of nothing. With you, though, we receive the promise of eternal life! We pray, Father, for each and every person who encounters this message, that they will make the right choice! Thank you again for this day, and for this chance to receive this message from you! Go with us all this week, Father, and we pray a special blessing on all here today, in Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Verse to Remember:
“Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.”