I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they. And Moses said to the Lord: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them.” (Numbers 14:12-13)
At this point in the narrative, the nation of Israel was on the brink of annihilation — God was ready to wipe them out of existence. This was not the first time, of course. This had been the case when the people bowed down to the Golden Calf. Then, as now, the LORD was ready to destroy them and raise up a nation from Moses, essentially making him a second Abraham. However, Moses did not step aside to let this happen; instead he stepped into the gap and interceded on behalf of the people just as he did on Mount Sinai.
Not only did he stand in the gap for them, but he suggested to God that such a thing would be a mistake. Can you imagine making such an argument with the Almighty? And especially at a time when God is so upset that He is ready to eliminate such a large group of people? Yet, that is exactly what He did, making the claims that, if He were to do such a thing, the nations would say that God was unable to bring them into the land. He followed that up with the assertion that God should forgive them again for the sake of His honor. Then He reminded God of what He said about Himself after the Golden Calf incident: “The Lord is long suffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression” (Numbers 14:18).
Moses appealed to God that His attribute of mercy should prevail over His attribute of justice. In short, Moses apparently felt it was safe to make this argument with God because it spoke to who and what God really is, not to mention, Moses wasn’t pleading for himself but for others. I suggest that this is exactly why Moses wasn’t rebuked; to the contrary, God said, “I will pardon them according to your word” (Numbers 14:20).
This reveals many things to us, chief among them being the power of intercession. Compassion upon those who don’t deserve it moves the heart of God, as it should, because that is His heart. In my view, there is no greater example of this than the appeal Messiah made to the Father when He said, “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Seeing this, what kind of people should we be then? How many of us would have stood aside and invited God to remove these aggravating people from our lives once and for all? Knowing that there are those who would have, in His wisdom, God didn’t choose them for that job — He chose the one He knew would be willing to stand in the gap for these insolent people. Think on these things today, and as you do, reflect on how merciful and gracious God has been to you through the years. Should we not be merciful and gracious with others?
Blessings and Shalom,