Not much sleeping last night, so double reading this morning. And as I’m reading this extended portion in Numbers, I’m aware of how my view of the grumbling Israelites has changed over the years. From once being in utter disbelief and even judgmental, to increasingly realizing I’m looking into a mirror.
They grumble because they’re thirsty. Then they grumble because they’re hungry. They grumble because the land of milk and honey promised to them is populated by enemies opposed to them (Num. 14). Korah & Co. rise up against Moses and Aaron and grumble against them, “Who put you in charge?” And then, when God judges Korah & Co. in front of the whole congregation by opening up the earth beneath them and swallowing them, the congregation grumbles against Moses and Aaron too, “You have killed the people of the LORD” (Num. 16).
Grumble, grumble, grumble. But it’s more than that. It’s grumble and suffer the consequences. Then grumble some more and suffer more consequences. And yet again, grumble and suffer severe consequences. Give your head a shake, people! Don’t you get it? Evidently not.
Now grumbling may not be my thing (though there’s probably too much of that too), but I’m so aware of the other sins which “doth so easily beset me” (Heb. 12:1 KJV). You think I’d learn. Evidently not. At least not as quickly as my spirit would like to. But the flesh is weak (Mt. 26:41). So with great discomfort, I’m relating way too much to the Israelites as I read this morning.
But here’s the observation I’m chewing on, and which is tasting so good! Something repeated three times in this morning’s double reading in Numbers. These grumblers had an intercessor.
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel.
And they fell on their faces and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will You be angry with all the congregation?”
“Get away from the midst of this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces.
(Numbers 14:5, 16:22, 16:45 ESV)
How sore must the noses of Moses and Aaron been? Pretty sore!
How thankful should the people have been? Pretty thankful!
Moses and Aaron prayed, prayed, and prayed again for the grumblers in the desert. They interceded for those God had delivered from bondage even as those who were freed kept turning back to Egypt. They advocated for the rebels God had purposed to redeem. And while there were consequences for the people’s repeated sin, while a whole generation never saw the promised land, the people of promise remained God’s promised people despite the sin which so easily beset them. All because Moses and Aaron fell on their faces.
And I’m reminded of my Intercessor. An Advocate who advocates in my repeated failure and weakness. Yet One who doesn’t go face down, but stands in God’s presence.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
(Romans 8:34 ESV)
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
(Hebrews 9:24 ESV)
Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
(Hebrews 7:25 ESV)
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
(1 John 2:1 ESV)
To be sure, I read of the grumblers and see myself in a mirror. But I read of those who fell on their faces, and I see Jesus, the One who stands in God’s presence.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
All because of His abundant grace. Only for His everlasting glory.