5 Minute Read

TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Numbers 14:1–15:16
Mark 14:53-72
Psalm 53:1-6
Proverbs 11:4

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Numbers 14:18 (CSB): “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation.”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

The words of our Verse for Today came out of Moses’ mouth.

Here’s the context:

Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan to explore the land God had promised to give to Israel. When the spies returned, they gave their report to the people of Israel.

Two of the spies were ready to claim God’s promise and take the land. However, ten of the spies discouraged the people by doubting God’s ability and God’s promise.

So, the people of Israel grew discouraged. They voiced their desire to get a new leader who would take them back to slavery in Egypt. When Moses and Aaron tried to calm and encourage them, the Israelites talked of killing their leaders by throwing rocks at them.

God had enough! He told Moses to step aside so that He could kill the Israelites and create another nation for Moses. (Personally, while I believe that God’s anger was real, I don’t believe that He intended to wipe out the Israelites. I think He was testing Moses’ heart to see if he truly cared enough about the people of Israel to step in front of them to protect them.)

As Moses was speaking with God, he said the words that I have chosen as our Verse for Today:

Numbers 14:18 (CSB): “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation.”

Since these words help us to understand more about our God, let’s take them a phrase at a time.

“The LORD…”

The English translators of our Bibles have done us a huge favor.

Two words in the Old Testament are typically translated “Lord.” However, those two words are very different in meaning.

So, how did the translators distinguish between the two Hebrews words? Like this:

“LORD” (all caps): This is God’s name, Yahweh (Jehovah).

“Lord” (only first letter capitalized): This is one of God’s titles, Adonai. It means “God, boss, master.”

When “Lord” (Adonai) is used, it speaks of God’s right to rule over His creation and His rightful expectation that He will be obeyed. This word does not have any warmth to it and does not speak of relationship. It is simply a title.

When “LORD” (Yahweh) is used, it is deeply personal. It is God’s name. It points to the fact that God has reached out in relationship. We could even take this further and say that this name demonstrates God’s love and grace since it required those two attributes for a holy, just God to reach out in relationship to a sinful, rebellious people.

So, when Moses uses “Yahweh,” he is identifying God as someone who has made Himself known and has reached out in relationship to him (Moses) and the Israelites.

“The LORD is slow to anger …”

Essentially, God doesn’t have a temper. He doesn’t have a short fuse. It takes Him a long time before He gets angry.

But, when His patience runs out, look out!

“The LORD is … abounding in faithful love, …”

The Hebrew word for “faithful love” is a beautiful word! It is pronounced “hesed” (as you clear your throat while pronouncing the “h.”

The beauty of this word is found in the fact that it means that God’s love isn’t flighty. It isn’t a temporary feeling. Instead, it is a covenant love. It is not an act of his emotion so much as it is an act of His will.

Simply put, when God says He will love you, nothing (absolutely NOTHING!) can take that love away. You may stray away from Him but His incomprehensible love for you will never, ever go away.

“The LORD … forgiving iniquity and rebellion…”

God is infinitely holy. That means that He is completely removed from anything that is even remotely sinful. Further, He is justifiably angry at sin and must punish it.

After all, could a father be considered loving if he sat back and allowed his children to be harmed by an evil predator? No! Of course not! If the father truly loves His children, he will hate the evil done to his children and will do whatever he must to stop the one who is harming the objects of his affection.

(Restated for emphasis:) If love is present, then anger must also be present. If there is no anger at what brings harm to the object of one’s affection, then there is no love. Love demands the presence of anger.

Since God has chosen to place His love upon us, He must therefore be filled with anger at whatever would harm us. Since sin is what brought such great harm upon His creation (Genesis 3), then God must be furious at sin (and anyone who chooses to be engaged in it).

But, you and I are sinners! ALL of us have broken God’s laws. All of us have done things that demonstrate that we are lawbreakers. So, we come to understand how God became so angry at the rebellious Old Testament Israelites (and anyone else who engages in sin).

That’s why God set up an Old Testament system of sacrifices. It was the death of an innocent animal on behalf of the guilty worshiper. And then, we observe that God sent His only Son to die as the final, ultimate payment for sin when Jesus died on the cross. The cross demonstrates for us how furious God is at sin but also how deeply God loves us.

It is because of the cross, and anyone who looks to Jesus for forgiveness, that God’s justice is satisfied, His anger is abated, and we are brought into a loving, “hesed,” relationship with a Holy God.

“The LORD … But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation.”

If Moses’ words had stopped with the fact that God is engaged in “forgiving iniquity and rebellion,” it would have been wonderful.

But, Moses says one more thing. He says that while God stands ready to forgive us, to deliver us from the penalty of our sin, He rarely saves us from the consequences of our sin.

Can God forgiven a man for being an alcoholic? Certainly! But, will God save that man from the heartache of knowing that he killed someone while driving under the influence? Will God save him from the time in prison that his crime deserves?

Can God forgive a woman for engaging in premarital sex? Certainly! But, will God save that woman from the embarrassment of knowing that people, in the years to come, will do the math and realize that her child is older than her marriage?

Can God forgive a teenager for doing drugs? Certainly! But, will God save that teenager from the brain damage he received as a result of drug use?

Principle: God saves us from the penalty of our sin but He often does not save us from the consequences of our sin.

As difficult as this truth is to swallow, look at Moses’ words a little more closely. He applies this principle to children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren…

“The LORD … But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation.”

This means that as parents raise their children, those children observe and are affected by their parents’ sin. Sometimes, those sinful patterns, or consequences, take three or four generations to weed out.

Conclusion

So, are you glad that God is patient with you? Of course you are!

Are you glad that God loves you with a faithful love? Of course you are!

Are you glad that God forgives you when you sin and you ask for His forgiveness? Of course you are!

But you had better not presume upon God’s grace by continuing in sin. Because while you can be spared the penalty of your sin, you probably won’t be spared the consequences of your sin. And, if you are a parent, your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (along with their families) may be negatively affected by what you tolerate in your life.

Let love for your God and your posterity motivate you to pursue holiness and not presume upon God’s grace.