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Moses as Mediator Part 2

March 1, 2007

This morning, I read Numbers 14, in which Moses yet again intercedes for God’s people after they have greatly sinned:

11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

Moses Intercedes for the People
13 But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them, 14 and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, 16 ‘It is because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.’ 17 And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ 19 Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.”

God Promises Judgment
20 Then the Lord said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. 21 But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. 24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.

Once again, God brings his justice to the attention of Moses – this people fully deserves to die.  And once again, Moses pleads God’s glory.  However, he also reminds God of his mercy here.  He reminds God that he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  In this passage, even more than the last one, Moses is in the role of Christ – not only giving up his glory for the sake of God’s people, but also pleading the mercy of God before the people.  God relents, though not without punishing Isreal: none of the rebellious people will see the Promised Land – a harsh sentence indeed.  Our own sin has consequences, even if it is forgiven.

In Numbers 12, Moses again intercedes – this time for his sister, who has just been judged by God.   The amazing part here is that Miriam and Aaron had been complaining against Moses. Moses had been personally affronted, and seen God judge the sin of those who had done this.  He does not accept this judgement as final, though – he instead asks God for mercy, which he grants after carrying out a week long judgement.  Jesus took this to a further extreme when he forgave those who killed him.

Finally, a point of clarification.  In my last post on this subject, I mentioned that the offer of Moses becoming his own nation must have been tempting to him.  I had not meant to say that God was tempting Moses – at least, not in the sense that this was a temptation for Moses to sin.  In fact, looking at the texts, I think Moses would have been perfectly just in saying yes to the offer.  After all, the God of the universe is offering you this chance to be a great nation because his people were sinning against him.  However, I think Moses understood something (and God knew this – he did this to show Moses as a mediator for a sinful people, not because he wasn’t sure what Moses would say to the offers).  Moses understood that God’s glory was at stake here, and he also understood how sinful humanity is.  Moses knew that a nation that came from him would face that same problems, and that God had promised to be merciful to his people.  Thus, he felt right in asking God to show mercy to the Israelites, despite their sin.  If only we took this approach to the unbelievers in our lives.  Rather than judging them, why not intercede before God for them?  Let us ask God to have mercy on them, revealing himself to them as a saving God, so that he is glorified in their lives.  Moses prayed for a sinful Israel to be led by God despite their sin – let us pray that people in our lives be saved from their sin, that they be made holy before God.

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