Pardon for an Unrepentant People
“According to Your Word”
Moses sent twelve spies to Canaan to bring back a report of the land. When they re turned, ten said that, though the land was good, Israel would surely be defeated by the inhabitants. Although Joshua and Caleb argued that Israel certainly could drive out their enemies, the people moaned, complained, and rebelled, even seeking to stone Joshua and Caleb and return with new leaders to Egypt. And again, the anger of the Lord was kindled against them and threatened to bring judgment (see Num 12 14).
Faithfully, once more Moses intercedes.
“I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as Thou hast declared. The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, 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 generations.” Num 14:17-18
Just as Abraham had prayed centuries before him, Moses focuses upon two things: the integrity of the Lord and His great mercy. God is slow to anger, He is abundant in lovingkindness, He forgives people. When the Scripture says He will “by no means clear the guilty,” it speaks of those who sin yet do not repent. Yet even here the Lord is able to be entreated.
Remember, the Israelites have rebelled, they are not even aware that their sin has them at the threshold of God’s wrath. The Lord looks at a nation of unrepentant, sinful people on one side and one man, Moses, praying on the other. Even though Moses acknowledges that the Lord will not “clear the guilty,” Moses still prays that God would forgive Israel, “Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Thy lovingkind-ness, just as Thou also hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” Num 14:19
Listen in awe at the Lord’s response to Moses’ mercy prayer. He says, “I have pardoned them according to your word” (Num 14:20). Incredible!
Three million Israelites had not repented, nor rent their hearts, nor confessed their sins to God and one another. Not one of them who sinned possessed a broken, contrite spirit. Yet, the Lord says, “I have pardoned them.” This is utterly amazing to me. The Lord granted Israel forgiveness “according to [Moses’] word.” Staggering!
One man with favor from God brought mercy upon three million people who had not repented. Then, in case we think this is some kind of easy grace, the Lord reaffirms His purpose with all nations, beginning with Israel. He says, “But indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num 14:21).
The integrity of the Lord is non-negotiable. He says, in effect, Though I forgive, I am not going to change My plans. All the earth will be filled with My glory.
When we ask God for mercy, we are not asking Him to compromise His intentions. We are only asking that He forgive the sins of people until He can fulfill His purpose. In truth, we are in complete agreement with His desire. We earnestly want His glory to overshadow America, to fall upon Canada, to roll through Europe and Asia, Israel and the Middle East all over the world, in fact. We shout a resounding “Yes!” to the purpose of God. Fill America with Your glory, Lord. Fill Canada. Fill Europe. Fill Israel and Africa, Asia and Australia with Your majestic glory. But we also pray, until Your purposes are perfected, reveal Your mercy and forgive the sins of Your people.
We need a vision of God’s ultimate destiny for our nation and our world:”to be filled with the glory of the Lord.” He will hear our prayer for mercy as we reach, with Him, toward His ultimate goal. Do you doubt this? The mercy prayer worked for Moses. God brought Israel from Egypt to Canaan through the prayer of His servant.
You say, “But that was Moses, I am a nobody.” Jesus said, “He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater” than the greatest prophets in the Old Testament (see Matt 11:11). How can that be? We have the power of Christ’s blood covenant to aid our quest for mercy!
Yet, God indeed used Moses to bring an imperfect people from promise to fulfillment. Whether we are praying for our nation, our cities, our churches, or our family, the Lord will “pardon them according to your word.”
Lord Jesus, I am awed at Your willingness to show mercy. You actually changed Your mind about judgment on sinners because of one man, Moses. Lord, in my world and times, let me be that one who so delights You, who is so intimate with You, that my prayer for mercy outweighs Your need to destroy the unsaved. May the favor You have given to me be multiplied to those who yet do not know You, and may it spread until all the earth is filled with Your glory!