One thing I love about the Old Testament is that it’s filled with real people. People who do dumb things. People who make me feel rather normal when I do dumb things.
So Israel is on the edge of the Promised Land. Spies are sent to check out the Land and 1o of the 12 spies report that it may be a tad difficult to take control of the land.
Now, get this, these people just came out of horrific slavery in Egypt. They were SLAVES reduced to making bricks without straw. So check out how they responded to this news:
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. … And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:1-2, 4
Let me get this straight. The people want to go back to slavery instead of into the Promised Land? They prefer the horrific known to the potentially difficult AND fruitful unknown.
So, how does Moses respond? “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel.” (vs. 6). I’d say he and his brother Aaron were pretty upset!
What I find interesting is that Moses didn’t beg God to have the people behave. God instead wanted to punish the people for their mistrust. You’d think that Moses would plead on behalf of the people for God to relent. Or maybe, Moses would cheer God on out of frustration at his bullheaded followers.
Moses does none of these things.
Instead, Moses focuses on God’s reputation and character. Moses wants God to receive glory. His priority is not himself or his people, but his God.
Moses argues that God should relent for two reasons:
1. God’s reputation:
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.’ Numbers 14: 15-16
2. God’s character:
…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…’ 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. Numbers 14: 18a-19
This is a great litmus test for me. When I ask God to do something for me (or for others or the ministry I serve), do I ask with God’s reputation and character in mind? Do I want above all to protect God’s Fame and for others to see who He really is, the God of Steadfast Love?
Do I live this way? Do I put at the front of my mind in all my actions and decisions a desire to guard His fame and reveal His love?
Just a little bit too convicting, so I shall close!
Dear Lord: Help me to think like Moses thought. To care more about your reputation and revealing your character than I do now. To be motivated by guarding your fame and showing your steadfast love in all I pray and do. Amen.
in all I ask and do. Amen,