Sin and the Gospel by the Numbers (Pt 4)

God promised to give Israel a good land called Canaan.  Poised at its edge, Moses sent spies into Canaan.  Two spies believed God and wanted Israel to go in and take the land.  Ten spies disbelieved God and gave a cowardly report.

God was angry, saying essentially to Moses, “Stand back boy while I annihilate these whiners and I’ll make an even greater nation out of you and your own children” (Numbers 14:11-12).

Now I cannot speak for you, but my initial gut reaction might have been to just stand back and say, “OK God, have at it.  This should be some kind of air show.”

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 was because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land that He swore to give 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 . . .’  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’ ” (vv. 13-19).

Wow.  What a stunning confession and humble intercession.  Moses is not interested in his name being made famous or great.  He cares far more for God’s own Name and reputation.  Moses is essentially begging God not to change!  It’s as if he’s saying, “O God, please do not change on us now, after You’ve shown us how great and gracious You are and made all these promises to us.  Please God do not allow Yourself to be mocked by Egypt and other pagan nations.  Fight for Your glory and Your name, O God!  Forgive and keep on forgiving us, just as You have done all along.”

Oh, for the Church of today to have such zeal for God’s holy Name and fame.  What if this spirit truly consumed a local congregation in America today?  Can we even dream of such a thing, so foreign to us in our pride and complacency?  Salvation, after all, is ultimately “to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:11-12).

Well, God did pardon Israel’s great sin, as Moses requested (v. 20).  But He did not erase the real-world consequences of their rebellion.  God promised that none of the generation of Wilderness Wanderers, except Caleb and Joshua, would see the Promised Land.  They would instead die in the wilderness and their corpses would rot there.  Their children, whom the ten spies claimed would be “prey” in the land of Canaan, would actually go in and take the good land (vv. 20-31).

Of particular note is verse 33: “And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.

Sin always has consequences, you see.  And, those consequences nearly always involve the suffering of those closest to you.  This is still true.  Few things grieve me more than to see others hurt because of my own sin, and to see the unrepentant sin of those in the church cause immense grief and hurt to often innocent by-standers.

The Gospel tells us Christ has borne the curse of our sin upon Himself on the cross.  By trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice, we have forgiveness of sin and right standing with God.  This right standing relies on Christ’s own righteousness and thus cannot be diminished or removed (Romans 3-4).  And yet, even as Christians saved by grace through faith, our sin has real-world consequences.  It’s definitely one of the means God uses to discipline His children, to allow our sin to impact us and others in this life (thankfully it will not be held against us in the next life, praise Jesus).

Sin hurts.  Always has, always will, until God makes a full end to sin in the New Heaven and Earth.  Until then, let us “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13), and “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:10).  Let us not use grace as a license to sin (Rom 6:1).  Rather, let us “walk in a manner worthy of our calling” (Eph 4:1).

The Name of our Lord and Savior is worthy of our fighting against sin in His Spirit and power.  Jesus is worthy of our living for things above and not the things below (Col 3:2).  And when we sin and God allows consequences to bite us, let us thank Him for this kindness of Fatherly affection (Hebrews 12:4-11).

After all, God could rightly kill us instantly for our disbelief and sin.  That is exactly what He did to the 10 cowardly spies (Numbers 14:37).  The fact that we are alive and reading this blog is all of grace in Christ Jesus!

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