The temptation in writing a devotional on Numbers 13-14 is to focus on Caleb and Joshua as shining examples of what it looks like to display unwavering trust in the promises of God, specifically in the face of daunting circumstances. Be like Caleb and Joshua! That would be the easiest route to take—and while it’s not wrong, I’m not sure it’s the main thrust of the passage.
The truth is that we have far more in common with the grumbling Israelites than we do the honorable spies. We doubt God’s promises. We question his provision. We shun his providence. When his purposes don’t line up with our plans, we rebel. Just as the Israelites turned their eyes back to slavery in Egypt (Num. 14:2-4), in our rebellion we effectively turn our eyes back to slavery to sin and death, foolishly choosing our way and our will over God’s higher ways (Is. 55:9) and his good and perfect will (Rom. 12:2).
And here’s the hard truth: that never ends well. As previously mentioned, the thrust of this passage is not primarily “Be like Caleb and Joshua!”—the main point is that rebellion against God is met with judgment. Israel, as God’s chosen people, still felt the consequences of their sin and rebellion. We, as God’s children, still likewise feel the consequences of our sin and rebellion—after all, the Lord disciplines those he loves (Heb. 12:5-6).
While we are not free from all of the consequences of our sin, praise God that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been freed from the penalty of our sin. As Moses effectively saved the Israelites by interceding for them (Num. 14:13-19), Jesus saves to the uttermost by continually making intercession for all who draw near to God through him (Heb. 7:25).