3.39 Numbers -- Implementation: Internal
The third stage of God's purpose for Israel was Implementation. This involved two parts -- the first, subjugation of Canaan to divine rule, was delayed for 40 years. The second, formation of His people according to the divine pattern, proceeded in the wilderness. God was not interested in bringing a "Mongol horde" into the Promised Land. The new people of God were to be an ordered host, with each member disciplined and devout. The Book of Leviticus was to be to be lived out in their midst before they inherited the land. Israel needed to be conquered within before it could conquer the Canaanites. This meant a time of purging, of internal purification.
The casualty list grew: quail-eaters, Nadab and Abihu, the ten fearful spies, and some new names. A man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath was stoned to death (Num 15:32-36). This was most likely a crime of forgetfulness, not insurrection. One morning he woke up, saw that his cooking fire was nearly out of wood, and went outside the camp to pick up some scrub branches. He may not have remembered it was the Sabbath, he may not have known wood-gathering was work. (After all, the Bible doesn't say he was chopping wood, he was just gathering sticks that already lay on the ground. He needed a better defense attorney.) He may not have thought about it at all -- he was just picking up pieces of wood to light his fire, not eating blood or having sex with his neighbor's wife. Yet, it's all the same, a capital offense. In a theocracy, even the details matter.