In Numbers 14, the Israelites were in a tight spot at the border of Canaan.
Just over 2 years earlier, they had been delivered by God from cruel Egyptian slavery in a stunning display of power and mercy. Just before this deliverance occurred, God told them to eat a meal of roast lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This was set as an annual ordinance known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread or the Passover. In Numbers 9, the Bible says on the first month of the second year after they left Egypt, God commanded Moses to have the Israelites observe the Passover as he had appointed.
Now a short time later in chapter 14, the Jews were at the brink of entering the Promised Land. Ten out of twelve of their spies told them they should forget all about conquering the mighty nations found there. Some of the people said, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt” (Numbers 14:3-4). For a people who had celebrated the Passover memorial possibly only a few months earlier, how could this be?
If the Jews were faithful to God’s other directions pertaining to this feast, then this had occurred during all their Passover observance:
26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Ex. 12:26-27
What does it say of a people who could be so reminded of God’s deliverance from their condition of deplorable bondage but who turn their backs on God at the first sign of trouble? The people didn’t just express concern over entering the land or some understandable trepidation about the conquest of it. They said, “That’s it. Let’s throw out the LORD and Moses, find a new leader, and go back to the land of our slavery!”
Considering their recent observance of the Passover, we could easily say they had observed it in an “unworthy manner”. By their outward display, they said, “Yes, we are God’s people”, but inwardly, their hearts were in rebellion against God.
We should see some similarities between this story and the time Paul chastises the Corinthians for their shameful treatment of each other at the Lord’s Supper and says,
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. I Cor. 11:27 NIV
If we outwardly observe the supper, but our heart is not God’s, there is no purpose in the supper – there is only judgment.
For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. I Cor. 11:29 NIV
In the context, Paul is addressing the church treating each other with contempt while observing the supper. This revealed hearts not acting consistently with the gospel – not being compelled by the love of Christ. Their actions displayed their fleshly, sinful hearts.
If our heart desires to “choose another leader and return to Egypt” – essentially rejecting Christ and returning to our state of bondage to sin – the supper is meaningless for us. As we take the Lord’s Supper we must guard our hearts against a rebellious desire for any other leader but Christ and any other object of our worship, which will be displayed in the way we love others.