Forgive this deviation from the norm. I received a question about a subject in the bible recently (as I do from time to time) and decided to share the exchange in that there may be others who have the same question.
***Subject: Numbers 14:10 - 45
I have been reading the Bible through again this year and noticed
something I never have before or heard discussed. In this chapter the
spies return from the promised land and the people listen to the
defeatist. God then says he will destroy them all who opposed and
grumbled. Moses then reasons with God citing the political
implications. I do not know what to make of this. What are your
thoughts? It is a very interesting passage. Moses counseling God who
power is unlimited?
It is good to hear from you. It is also amazing timing in that we just discussed this issue in class on this past Sunday evening.
The scripture in Numbers is not the first time Moses appealed to God for mercy on behalf of the people. You may recall the anger that God felt when the people made the molten calf while He was giving the 10 commandments to Moses on the mountain (Exo 32:7-14) and how Moses appealed to Him on their behalf.
Some people will say that God knew what He was going to do the whole time, but presented Moses an opportunity to exemplify both faith and compassion. I disagree with this theory because we are not told that God was testing him and going about it this way could be considered guile, of which God cannot be accused.
There are those that would say that Moses was counseling God and convinced Him to do other than he planned. I don't completely agree with that either. Romans 11:33-36 says, "Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has know the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor. Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them. For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen."
I believe the answer is twofold. First, it is important to know that God had a strong relationship with Moses. He famously said of Moses in Numbers 12:6-8, "Listen to my words: when there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord." Secondly, God has proven himself over and over to be a God who hears and grants requests. This is what the power of prayer is all about. You'll remember how Hezekiah cried out to the Lord who had just delivered the news of his impending death through Isaiah, which resulted in the Lord relenting and giving him another 15 years. Scripture is replete with instances of God being amenable to request, not just from the "mighty men of God" but from folks just like me and you.
It should not be considered that Moses was giving God political advice. The focus should be that he was putting in a request for mercy for the people before Him and using reason of God's own public relations to substantiate it. It should also not be missed that in both cases, the people were in fact punished for their transgression (Exodus 32:31-35, Numbers 14:17-30; 32-35).
I hope this clears things up for you. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the word. Know also that I'm praying for you.