Monday, February 17, 2014

Numbers 14-15 They shall not enter my rest

From Numbers 14-15

Num 14.1-12 Story-Sin; The people rebel against Moses and Aaron. The LORD rejects the people.
Num 14.13-19 Story; Moses intercedes with the LORD for the people
Num 14.20-38 Story; The LORD promises judgement. They will not enter his rest.
Num 14.39-45 Story; Israel mourns, presumes to enter the promised land and is defeated in battle.
Num 15.1-21 Law; Worship and sacrifice, Repeated instructions on various offerings
Num 15.22-31 Law; Laws about unintentional sins and deliberate sins
Num 15.32-36 Story-Law; Festivals and holidays, Sabbath breakers to be executed
Num 15.37-41 Law; Clothing, Tassels on garments to remind them of the commands
Passage and Comments
Today we see what happened when the Israelites pushed the LORD to far. They got punished! There were actually a number of things I found quite interesting in these two chapters but I cannot comment on them all. This was the first to grab my attention.
[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.” [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. [25] Now, since the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valleys, turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea.” (Num 14:13-25)

Moses petitions the LORD. His first is that the LORD's name may be honoured among the peoples who are watching him lead them into the promised land. If the LORD is not seen to be fulfilling his promise and vow to lead them into the land, his name will be mocked. There is a kind of religious competition implicit in Moses plea.
Secondly, Moses acknowledges the LORD's forgiving character. On the basis of God's character and previous acts of forgiveness Moses pleads for more forgiveness. But the LORD intends to punish those who despised Him. They will not enter his promised land.
We might also want to remember Moses earlier complaint about leading this people. There must be some sort of internal conflict within him. Here we see Moses compassion for the people and concern for the LORD's name in action.
This second quotation reminds me of a similar one in the New Testament.
[30] But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. [31] Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.” (Num 15:30-31)

Story of Israel
This is the ongoing story of Israel. God displays his patience by forgiving an unbelieving, disobedient people. Eventually their sins overtake them and God acts. He sends them into exile.

Story of Jesus
There are warnings in the New Testament about continued sin as well.
[26] For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, [27] but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. [28] Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. [29] How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? [30] For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” [31] It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:26-31)

As God's people we need to be diligent in examining ourselves for sin. We should be asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us any sins that displease the LORD. The first quotation reminds us however that the LORD is a forgiving God. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1.9). If we sin, Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, our faithful high priest who offered himself up for our sins (1 Jn 2.1-2).