Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).Bible Passages: Numbers 13:1-2, 26-33; 14:1-20
Discussion Questions: What characteristics of God did Moses mention when pleading for mercy? God could have displayed His power in judgment. Why do you think Moses asked for mercy? As the people's representative, Moses showed interest in what "the nations" would think if God destroyed the Israelites. How can the church show interest in seeing that the glory of God's forgiveness is known among the nations?
Food for Thought:
How did the Lord respond to the Israelites' faithlessness? He was ready to destroy them, until Moses began to intercede for his people. God was going to send a devastating plague among the Israelites and restart the building process of His great nation. As the Lord, He held the right to do as He pleased to fulfill His perfect will. So Moses appealed not to the Israelites' goodness but to God's greatness. He lifted up the name of God and reminded God of His character.
Read Numbers 14:13-20.
Moses stood before God as the representative for his people. He pleaded with God to show mercy so that the name of the Lord would be more widely known. Certainly, any work that God does proves His power, but Moses prayed that God would use this circumstance of the Hebrews' rebellion to display His power in His ability to forgive sin -- once again. Moses asked for God's forgiveness.
Moses asked God to forgive "in keeping with the greatness of Your faithful love, just as You have forgiven them from Egypt until now" (v. 19). The forgiveness of our Heavenly Father is based on His love, not on our merit, penitent spirit or ability to straighten out our lives. When God immediately pardoned the sin of the Israelites, He mentioned nothing of their ability to keep covenant faithfulness. The good news given to us by God is that His forgiveness is based on His power, not on our abilities.
When Moses stood before God and begged for mercy upon the people, he gave us a picture of what was to come. The people needed an advocate. They had one in Moses. The problem, however, was that Moses died and is still dead! This was a temporary advocacy by a temporary leader in a temporary time. We need a permanent solution.
God's pardon finds its ultimate fulfillment not in the temporary circumstance of the Israelites standing on the edge of the promised land. Rather, we have found it in the journey Jesus made to the cross and the grave, and in rising from the dead. Only God in the flesh can be our perfect advocate.
Jesus lived as we do so as to sympathize with our weaknesses. Israel would spend 40 years in the wilderness, wandering around in faithlessness. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, but unlike Israel, He passed the test. As the perfect representative, He gave the sacrifice we should give so as to grant salvation by His grace and through our faith. He rose from the dead, a state we cannot overcome, to defeat sin, death, hell and the Enemy. And now Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father to intercede for you and me every moment of our existence.
Furthermore, because we have been fully represented before God by Jesus, we now are able to represent God before the people of the world who do not know Him. Today, our calling is not to conquer the nations but to take the Gospel to them. No matter if the obstacles make us feel like "grasshoppers," we trust that God's power is greater than our own and that He will give us all we need to accomplish His mission.
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