God hears the prayer and forgives. This does not mean that He leaves evil unpunished, but that He postpones judgment. He saves the people and does not consume them immediately. He will punish evil in the continuation of the wilderness journey. Never will the disobedient enter the land (Psa 95:10-1110“For forty years I loathed [that] generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11“Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.”). The bodies of all the rebellious will fall in the wilderness.
The next task to set out will not be to continue on the way to the promised land, but to go back in the direction of the Red Sea. They want to go back to Egypt (verse 33Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”)? Then they can go that way. They want to die in the wilderness (verse 22All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!)? They will die in the wilderness. Their bodies shall not be buried in the promised land, as Joseph’s body shall (Gen 50:2525Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.”; Exo 13:1919Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.”; Jos 24:3232Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.), because they have despised that land.
Only Caleb and Joshua will enter the land. The LORD calls Caleb “my servant Caleb”. He is a picture of the faithful Servant, the Lord Jesus. This is also evident from the following character sketch: with him is “a different spirit” than with the unbelievers. Caleb does not let his mind be influenced by what he has seen, but by what the LORD has said. Through this “different spirit” in him it becomes visible to the outside that he “followed” the LORD “fully” (verse 2424But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.; Num 32:1212except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully.’; Deu 1:35-3635‘Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers,36except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the LORD fully.’; Jos 14:8-9,148Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully.9So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.’14Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite until this day, because he followed the LORD God of Israel fully.).
In a few words, a portrait of a believer of old is given here, which we wish to take as an example. Obedience to the Lord and not let himself being influenced by the human spirit, which prevails in Christianity, are the conditions to fully follow the Lord.
Children under the age of 20 will also enter the land. They are a new generation. The old generation is full of Egypt. They are in the wilderness, but their hearts are still fully in Egypt. The children only know the wilderness, not Egypt. God takes these children for His account.
This is also a great encouragement for parents who care about their children because of the time they live in. There is more and more open revolt against God and His Word. There is hardly anything Christian any more present in the once Christian Netherlands. But God has a way for every generation to walk. That way can be found in His Word. If the children read in it and take it to heart, they will have their own experiences with an unchanging God who knows all circumstances and is above them.
God’s people must roam in the wilderness for forty years. This is reflected in the two thousand years of Christianity. The good ones suffer in it with the evil ones. Caleb and Joshua, as well as the children, have to travel through the wilderness for forty years. They have to wait for 40 years before they can enter the land. Those forty years will be used by God to teach them who they are and who He is (Deu 8:22You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.). They will have faith experiences and learn to distinguish between what is and what is not of God.
But across the board, Caleb and Joshua will have kept theirs eyes constantly on the impressions they have gained as spies of the land. What they have already tasted and enjoyed of the fruit of the land, will have given them strength to continue. They will thus have encouraged the children to persevere.
The people have become a people of vagrants. They have been pilgrims, travelers on a journey to the promised land. Now they are vagrants, without a fixed goal wandering around in the wilderness. This is their punishment, because they have “despised the pleasant land” that God has wanted to give them, for “they did not believe in His word” (Psa 106:2424Then they despised the pleasant land;
They did not believe in His word,
). To deny what God gives is in fact to deny God Himself.
We know little about the forty years in the wilderness. Only a few events are mentioned to us in Scripture, but they are characteristic of their entire stay in the wilderness. They have been written down so that we may learn from them: “But in most of them God had no pleasure, for they fell down in the wilderness. and these things happened as examples for us, that we might not have desire in evil as they had desire in it. Do not become idolaters like some of them either, as it is written: “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1Cor 10:5-115Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.6Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.7Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.”8Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.9Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.10Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.11Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.).
The children must also learn that what is in the parents’ hearts is also in their own hearts. They do come into the land, but not because they are better than their parents. If we can know and enjoy anything of the heavenly blessings it is not because we are any better than others who do not know these blessings.