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Numbers 14:40

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

We - will go up unto the place, etc. - They found themselves on the very borders of the land, and they heard God say they should not enter it, but should be consumed by a forty years' wandering in the wilderness; notwithstanding, they are determined to render vain this purpose of God, probably supposing that the temporary sorrow they felt for their late rebellion would be accepted as a sufficient atonement for their crimes. They accordingly went up, and were cut down by their enemies; and why? God went not with them. How vain is the counsel of man against the wisdom of God! Nature, poor, fallen human nature, is ever running into extremes. This miserable people, a short time ago, thought that though they had Omnipotence with them they could not conquer and possess the land! Now they imagine that though God himself go not with them, yet they shall be sufficient to drive out the inhabitants, and take possession of their country! Man is ever supposing he can either do all things or do nothing; he is therefore sometimes presumptuous, and at other times in despair. Who but an apostle, or one under the influence of the same Spirit, can say, I can do All Things Through Christ who strengtheneth me?

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Some of the Israelites were now earnest to go forward toward Canaan. But it came too late. If men would but be as earnest for heaven while their day of grace lasts, as they will be when it is over, how well would it be for them! That which has been duty in its season, when mistimed, may be turned into sin. Those who are out of the way of their duty, are not under God's protection, and go at their peril. God bade them go, and they would not; he forbade them, and they would go. Thus is the carnal mind enmity against God. They had distrusted God's strength; they now presume upon their own without his. And the expedition fails accordingly; now the sentence began to be executed, that their carcases should fall in the wilderness. That affair can never end well, which begins with sin. The way to obtain peace with our friends, and success against our enemies, is, to have God, as our Friend, and to keep in his love. Let us take warning from the fate of Israel, lest we perish after the same example of unbelief. Let us go forth, depending on God's mercy, power, promise, and truth; he will be with us, and bring our souls to everlasting rest.
Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 393-4

The Lord still works in a similar manner to glorify His name by bringing men to acknowledge His justice. When those who profess to love Him complain of His providence, despise His promises, and, yielding to temptation, unite with evil angels to defeat the purposes of God, the Lord often so overrules circumstances as to bring these persons where, though they may have no real repentance, they will be convinced of their sin and will be constrained to acknowledge the wickedness of their course and the justice and goodness of God in His dealings with them. It is thus that God sets counteragencies at work to make manifest the works of darkness. And though the spirit which prompted to the evil course is not radically changed, confessions are made that vindicate the honor of God and justify His faithful reprovers, who have been opposed and misrepresented. Thus it will be when the wrath of God shall be finally poured out. When “the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all,” He will also “convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds.” Jude 14, 15. Every sinner will be brought to see and acknowledge the justice of his condemnation. PP 393.1

Regardless of the divine sentence, the Israelites prepared to undertake the conquest of Canaan. Equipped with armor and weapons of war, they were, in their own estimation, fully prepared for conflict; but they were sadly deficient in the sight of God and His sorrowful servants. When, nearly forty years later, the Lord directed Israel to go up and take Jericho, He promised to go with them. The ark containing His law was borne before their armies. His appointed leaders were to direct their movements, under the divine supervision. With such guidance, no harm could come to them. But now, contrary to the command of God and the solemn prohibition of their leaders, without the ark, and without Moses, they went out to meet the armies of the enemy. PP 393.2

The trumpet sounded an alarm, and Moses hastened after them with the warning, “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.” PP 393.3

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Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a, 26-7

The Lord declared that the children of the Hebrews should wander in the wilderness forty years, reckoning from the time they left Egypt, because of the rebellion of their parents, until their parents should all die. Thus should they bear and suffer the consequence of their iniquity forty years, according to the number of days they were searching the land, a day for a year. “And ye shall know my breach of promise.” They should fully realize that it was the punishment for their idolatry, and rebellious murmurings, which had obliged the Lord to change his purpose concerning them. Caleb and Joshua were promised a reward in preference to all the host of Israel, because they had forfeited all claim to God's favor and protection. 4aSG 26.1

The Lord sent fire from his presence and consumed the men who had brought the evil report, which made all the congregation murmur against Moses and against the Lord. But Caleb and Joshua lived before the Lord, and before the people which evidenced to them that their report was correct. 4aSG 26.2

When the people learned from Moses the purpose of God concerning them, they mourned greatly. Early the next morning they gathered themselves before Moses, all equipped for war, and said, “We be here, and will go unto the place the Lord hath promised, for we have sinned.” The Lord had said that they should not possess the land, but should die in the wilderness, and if they should go up to battle they would not prosper. Moses said, “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 ventured to go out against their enemies, without their appointed leader, and without the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and they were met by their enemies, and smitten, and driven before them. Here the Israelites repented too late, and when God had said they should not go up to possess the land, they were as forward to go, as they had been backward before. 4aSG 26.3

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Ellen G. White
Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a, 52

Some can see only the destruction of God's enemies, which looks to them unmerciful and severe. They do not look upon the other side. But let everlasting thanks be given, that impulsive, changeable man, with all his boasted benevolence, is not the disposer and controller of events. “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” 4aSG 52.1

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 68

Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith, and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. 1SM 68.1

But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. Dissensions and divisions came in. The majority opposed with voice and pen the few who, following in the providence of God, received the Sabbath reform and began to proclaim the third angel's message. Many who should have devoted their time and talents to the one purpose of sounding warning to the world, were absorbed in opposing the Sabbath truth, and in turn, the labor of its advocates was necessarily spent in answering these opponents and defending the truth. Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history! 1SM 68.2

It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in “because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them. 1SM 68.3

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Ellen G. White
The Retirement Years, 32.1

The experience of those aged workers is needed now; for Satan is watching every opportunity to make of no account the old waymarks—the monuments that have been raised up along the way. We need the experience of the men who through evil report as well as through good report have been steadfast to the truth; men who have not built their house upon the sand, but upon the solid rock.—The Review and Herald, November 19, 1903. RY 32.1

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The Conquest of Canaan
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