Moses Intercedes for the People

KEY VERSE: “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty.” —Numbers 14:18

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Numbers 14:10-20

ISRAEL’S God—who is also our God—was revealed to be long-suffering and patient. In the light of the divine spirit of forgiveness which was manifested toward that stiff-necked people on so many occasions, it is surely true that the creeds of men have made God’s love “too narrow by false limits of their own, and they magnify his vengeance with a zeal he will not own.” God was willing to forgive Israel. He gave them a “second chance.” Their repentance, of course, was essential. But where there is true repentance, God is quick to forgive and to extend his favor.

God’s viewpoint on the matter of forgiveness is expressed by Jesus in his ‘seventy times seven’ rule (Matt. 18:22) laid down for the guidance of Christians. What Jesus taught on the subject of forgiveness must surely reflect God’s own attitude in the matter. How strange, in view of this plainly taught Scriptural principle, that anyone who professes to be a Christian should decry the teaching which gives an opportunity for repentance during the thousand years of Christ’s kingdom.

However, divine forgiveness is not without limit, nor is it extended irrespective of the individual’s request for it. Guilt which God does not forgive is that which is wholly willful. In order for sin to be willful it must be committed in full understanding of the issues involved, and with full ability to resist the temptation. It would seem, therefore, as though there have not been many among all the teeming millions of earth who have sinned beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. If God could forgive the Israelites who set up the golden calf, surely his tender mercy will yet be displayed to the millions who have sinned without possessing nearly as much light as they.

But God did not ‘wink’ at Israel’s sin. He noticed it, and was displeased. He told Moses so, and Moses was displeased also. Moses was so wrought up, in fact, that he destroyed the two tables of stone on which the Law was written. He very probably thought, Why give a law to a people who had so soon forgotten the God who delivered them from Egyptian bondage?

However, God thought otherwise, and he instructed Moses to take two other tables of stone and go up into the mount. There God communed with Israel’s leader, and again the Commandments were inscribed as a permanent record upon that second set of stone tables. The account says that when Moses went up into the mountain of Sinai, bearing the tables of stone with him:

“The Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”—Exod. 34:5-7

God proclaimed his name to Moses by reminding him of the glorious attributes of his character. The term ‘name’ is here used to denote personality, or character, as today we say that an individual has a good name, or a bad name. God’s name was glorious, and what made it so was his mercy, his longsuffering, and the abundance of his goodness and truth, or righteousness. “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.”—Ps. 11:7

In II Corinthians 3:3, Paul refers to the tables of stone upon which the Law of God was written at Sinai, and then explains that now God is again writing his law on tables—not on tables of stone, but on “fleshy tables of the heart.”

As Moses was the Mediator of the Old Covenant, Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant. As Moses was provided with tables upon which the Law of the Covenant was written, so Jesus, too, will have ‘tables’ upon which the law of the New Covenant will be written—fleshy tables of the heart.

As Moses went up into the mountain to commune with God while the Law was being written, so Jesus entered into the divine presence following his resurrection, and by faith the church is seated with him in the heavenlies. Through a ministration of the Spirit of truth, God’s name is being proclaimed, and his glory reflected.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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