Faithful in Consequences
Lesson: Numbers 14.10b-20 Read: Numbers 14.10b-23
The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Exodus 34.6-7 (NRSV)
This lesson concludes the story of the twelve spies and the fate of Israel to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
After rejecting the report of Caleb and Joshua, the whole congregation prepared to stone them. But the glory of the Lord appeared before the tabernacle (Numbers 14.10). The Lord asked Moses, “How long will this people refuse to believe in me?” Then the Lord made an outrageous statement to Moses: “I will disinherit them and make of you a nation greater than them” (Numbers 14.11-12). This was the second time that the Lord threatened to abandon the Israelites. When Moses came down from the mountain (carrying the Ten Commandments) and saw the people worshiping the golden calf, the Lord wanted to give the people up (Exodus 32.10). On both these occasions, Moses became an intercessor for the people. Moses made two arguments. First, if the Lord left the people in the desert, word would get back to Egypt and everyone would accuse the Lord of failing to deliver the people to Canaan as promised (Numbers 14.13-14). And so, for God’s own name’s sake, the people must reach the Promised Land. Second, Moses appealed to God’s own character. In Exodus 34.6-7, God described the divine character as “merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Now, take note of God’s resolution. God rendered a judgment and showed mercy. The judgment was that those who did not want to conquer Canaan would die in the wilderness. The mercy was that the children, whom those unbelievers sought to protect, would enter and take the Promised Land, enabled by the power of the Lord. The Lord would be faithful to a new generation despite the unfaithful actions and consequences of the first generation.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence