Scripture: “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.” 14:19 ESV
Observation: As the drama of the scouting report escalates, God’s people resort to their familiar habit of selective memory: harkening to the good old days in Egypt and clamoring to choose a leader to take them back to a life in captivity (14:3-4). In response, Moses and Aaron fall prostrate before the crowd in frustration and sorrow. Joshua and Caleb then face their compatriots, tear their clothes (as a show of grief over Israel’s cowardly, unfaithful response), and try to reason with their brothers and sisters by reiterating that the land before them is exceedingly good (14:5-7). And more to the point, the Lord will grant them victory over the Canaanites by removing protection from their enemies, but only if the nation exhibits trust over their fears (14:8-9).
Unfortunately, escalating fear spurs Israel to react rather than take action. The congregation clamors to stone Joshua and Caleb, so the Lord intervenes and threatens to strike the nation with pestilence and disinherit them. But humble and faithful Moses again petitions the Lord on behalf of his chosen people (above verse), and God relents (14:20).
Takeaway: While not a perfect leader (there was only one of those, and his people demanded his crucifixion), Moses time and again pleaded with the Lord to forgive the iniquity of Israel. But Moses’ petitions are not based on his or his people’s worth but on who God is and his track record. Indeed, if Moses had interceded for any other reason, his argument would have failed (just as Abraham’s intervention proved deficient when pleading for the Lord to spare Sodom).
The same applies to us when we cry out to the Lord on behalf of others. No matter how mature a Christian they may be, whether a nationally-recognized Christian leader like Tim Keller (who is currently battling pancreatic cancer) or a stalwart loved one, the basis of our petitions begins and ends with Christ. For in Christ, alone, we stand (as the modern hymn reminds us). So when our or others’ hardships and trials weigh us down, we can approach our Lord’s throne of grace with confidence, knowing that we can receive his mercy and find his grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). But the bases alone is our Savior and Lord’s goodness. His perfected character moved him to endure the cross, scorn its shame, and ascend to his rightful throne in glory (Hebrews 12:2), where he now intercedes for us (Romans 8:34).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your glorious Son who always obeyed your commands and followed your will. And we thank you that he and your Holy Spirit now intercede on our behalf. Would you please help us keep this perspective when bringing our petitions before you so that we might not trust in our or any other loved one’s goodness but in Christ’s alone? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling