Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan, your host for the Daily Challenges. Yesterday we read the story of how Moses sent spies into the promised land to see how Israel could overcome it, and some of the spies lied about having seen ruthless and violent giants there. That’s when the people revolted, repeating their usual defeatist refrain about how they were better off in Egypt:
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:1-4 ESV)
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? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
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, 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. Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, ‘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.’ And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, ‘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.’ 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.”
Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, 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, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. (Numbers 14:11-23 ESV)
Just like when the Israelites worshipped a golden calf, we see God’s anger ignited. They are not showing their love or worship to God once again, by trying to replace their God-given leader and reject their God-given plan. What they’re missing is that God is unfailing – if he says this is the leader and plan, then it will work.
Moses gets this, so, Moses pleads on their behalf. He reminds God of how his reputation will suffer, of who he is and what he’s done for the Israelites so far, and how God’s character is about more than just anger, but also about mercy and forgiveness. He wants everyone to see this, and if God destroys the Israelites now, then no one will understand God’s true character, they’ll just assume.
So Moses directly asks God to forgive Israel and not hold this grudge against them. It’s that simple, as God immediately says they’ve been pardoned.
BUT there are consequences – none of those living will enter the promised land. A whole generation will have to die off and be replaced before Israel can finally finish their wandering in the desert.
Question: Was God’s punishment fair?