If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
16 February. Numbers chapters 11-14.
If these stories are taken to be in chronological order, then according to chapter 11, almost as soon as the tribes of Israel had started their march, some of them started complaining about a lack of decent food. God provided quails to provide meat for them (though that does make me ask, what about the meat of all the bulls and sheep and birds that they were sacrificing on the altar?). The story has many elements in common with that in Exodus 16 so it may be a re-telling with embellishments, but of course God may just have worked the same miracle twice. Either way though, what is interesting in this version, is that in between God’s promise of miraculous provision and its delivery is the coming of what later writers would call the Holy Spirit on the seventy elders who were to assist Moses, and they prophesied. This looks like a foretaste of the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit came on thousands of people after Jesus’ ascension. The lesson here appears that people have to be open to God working in their own lives, before he can make provision for others through them.
In chapter 13 the twelve “spies” were sent out. Forget James Bond, these men would be better termed “scouts”. Two of them – Caleb and Joshua – were destined for greatness, and Caleb was confident after their scouting mission that with God’s help the Canaanites, big men though they were, could be defeated and the bountiful country settled. But the other scouts did not share his courage and persuaded the majority of the people that it was better to continue living in the desert alone than risk being subjugated by other nations. Such decisions on the future of a people are never easy, and I imagine Moses must have felt much as Teresa May did after she took office as Prime Minister last year – disheartened that the majority of people had listened to misleading reports and voted against what she herself thought the better way. But both leaders realised that it would not be in their interests to force the people down a route they did not wish to go. I’m not going to push the comparison too far – the EU is not the Promised Land, Britain is no desert, and I’m not aware that God has cursed every Brexit voter to die before his plan can be accomplished. The point is just that sometimes leaders have to accept that Plan B is the only realistic option.