An encouraging thought from Numbers chapter 14

Here’s a random thing that crossed my mind when I was preparing for a youth group Bible study this week.

Some context: the Israelites are near the promised land, and Moses has sent twelve spies into the land to see what it’s like. They all report that it’s a good land (“flowing with milk and honey”, so crunchy nut cornflakes all round), but most of them think they can’t take the land because “the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large” (Numbers 13:28).

Then in Numbers 14:20-23 we get this passage:

The Lord replied, ‘I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times – not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.’

It reminded me of how serious sin is. God forgave them, but he also punished them by cutting them out of the promise he’d given to the people. Even though their unbelief seems like a small thing to us (at least it does to me), it was serious enough for them to miss out on the reward of the promised land.

So why is this an encouragement, I hear you ask?!

Well, it just made me realise how much I take salvation for granted. The reason that God doesn’t punish my frequent unbelief is not because I’m better than the Israelites or because he’s changed his standards. It’s because Jesus was cut off from God instead of me. Hallelujah for the cross!