In Numbers 14:10-19, we hear God's response to all of the Israelites' grumbling, complaining and refusal to trust Him. "How long will these people treat me with contempt" the Lord says in verse 11. (It shows that when we refuse to believe in Him and take for granted the good things He has done, we are treating God with contempt and arousing His anger.)
God tells Moses that He will strike all the Israelites down and destroy them, while proposing to make Moses into an even greater nation (v11-12). Moses responds by pleading with God not to destroy the Israelites for the sake of God's own name (v13-19).
What happened there? Was Moses more compassionate and merciful than God?
Here's what I learn from this passage: God is full of justice. He is also full of mercy. In His justice, God is committed to punishing all evil and wrongdoing. But He is also full of mercy. As Moses writes, "slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion" (v18).
Now how can God show both sides of His character -- justice and mercy -- clearly? He involves people who are close to His heart to play the part of mercy, while He mainly plays the part of justice. Like a play involving two actors, often we see that God plays the part of justice, and He looks for a partner who is close to His heart to play the part of mercy, to stand in the gap on behalf of sinful people. In Numbers 14, that partner is Moses. In Genesis, that partner is Abraham. During the exile, His partners were Ezra and Nehemiah. And in the New Testament, that partner -- the greatest one of all -- is Jesus Christ. All these partners stood in the gap between God and the people, acting as a mediator who would usher God's mercy for the people.
As Ezekiel 22:30 says,
30 "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none."
God is looking for people today to represent and express God's heart of mercy for a new generation of people. He is looking for men and women who understand God's heart to be His agents of mercy.
How can you be one of God's agents of mercy?
1. Pray persistently and passionately for the people in your life who do not know Jesus Christ. Cry out to God for their salvation, asking God to soften their hearts that they would know Jesus as their Saviour and King. In so doing, like Moses, you are standing in the gap on behalf of those people.
2. When people sin, do not simply preach condemnation, but show them that there is forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ. Show them, as James 2:13 says, that "mercy triumphs over judgment".
Take a moment now and pray a quick prayer for those family members and friends of yours who do not know Jesus. You can pray:
Lord Jesus, I pray for [say their name]. Thank You that You love them and in Your love and mercy You died on the cross for them. I pray for them, that their hearts would be soft toward You. I pray that they would hear the message that there is forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ and respond with faith. May they know You personally as their Saviour and Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen!