Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
Chapter 14 continues the account of the people’s response to the report that came back from the Promised Land. Caleb and Joshua came back and said that the Israelites should go take the land while the other ten discouraged the Israelites. Things go from bad to worse in chapter 14. Discouragement leads to grumbling and outright rebellion. The Israelites go from being scared of the people then living in the Promised Land to planning a coup and a return journey to Egypt.
Things escalate to the point that Moses and Aaron fall on their faces in the midst of the people — presumably to pray for them — while Joshua and Caleb are tearing their clothes in mourning for the rebellion of the Israelites. And it is into this situation that God inserts Himself. His proposed solution? Kill everyone in Israel except Moses (and presumably the other three standing with him) and make a new nation out of him. Moses falls back on intercession and pleads with God not to malign His reputation among the nations. Instead, Moses asks God to forgive the Israelites in the same way that He (God) has forgiven them since they left Egypt up until that moment. God agrees and the thing that Moses points out in his intercession — that God forgives, but does not leave sin unpunished — is what God acts on. God forgives and does not destroy the Israelites — which would have been no less than they deserved — but does cull the nation of those who acted from fear instead of faith.
This gives me some big things to mull over.
First, I need to examine myself and see which side I am standing on: those who respond in faith or those who respond in fear. Those who respond in faith enter into God’s promises. Those who respond in fear do not.
Second, I should be interceding. Moses frequently puts himself between God and the Israelites and the Israelites are nothing but a headache to Moses the entire time. But God gave Moses a heart that cared for those wayward sheep. Have I been given such a heart? If no, I should ask for that heart to be formed in me, because it is the heart of God.
Father, please form in me Your heart toward people. May I begin to care for them as a shepherd for his sheep. Please also examine me and see if I respond in faith or fear. If in faith, thank You for having worked that in me and please continue me in it. If in fear, please bring me to the place where I am so aware of Your perfect love that fear is cast out. Thank You for being loving and forgiving and still just.