“Adonai said to Moshe, “How much longer is this people going to treat me with contempt? How much longer will they not trust me, especially considering all the signs I have performed among them? I am going to strike them with sickness, destroy them and make from you a nation greater and stronger than they are!”-Numbers 14:11-12
Unfortunately Joshua and Caleb’s appeal to the people to reconsider their rebellious stance against the Lord has little effect.
Actually, that’s putting it lightly.
Let me rephrase that.
The people literally go ballistic and threaten to stone Joshua and Caleb.
They had firmly made up their minds that attempting to enter the Land of Canaan was a suicide mission and they weren’t going to listen to any more preaching to the contrary.
The people had reached the boiling point and it really seemed like the lives of the chief leadership of Israel consisting of Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb were in serious danger.
However, at that exact moment, we’re told the presence of the Lord descended on the Tent of Meeting immediately shutting the raging mob up.
And from this point begins one of the most fascinating dialogues ever to take place between God and man.
God tells Moses that He’s going to literally destroy every last one of the Israelites and start all over again from Moses.
God’s statements to Moses are quite bold indeed.
He goes on to say He’s going to make out of Moses a nation EVEN LARGER than the presently living 3 million Israelites.
We’re going to take our time to examine this dialogue between God and Moses because contained within are some very important God-principles that we’d be remiss to overlook.
Moses responds to God’s threat by basically reiterating the same argument he had used during the Golden Calf accident.
He tells God that if He destroys the Israelite people, the goyim (gentile nations) will think it was because He was unable to keep His Promise to give Israel the land of Canaan.
In other words, the God’s reputation would go down in history as a God who couldn’t keep his promises.
God responds to Moses argument by saying “I have forgiven, as you have asked“.
We really need to examine this dialogue closely because what we’re witnessing here is the issue of repentance and how to receive divine forgiveness.
This should be a topic that should be of intense interest to any believer in the God of Israel.
There was one major difference between Israel and the religion of its neighbors.
And here it is.
The major difference is that just going through the rituals did NOT automatically bring about forgiveness.
Did you catch that?
Performing the rituals is one step.
Being forgiven by HASHEM is another step.
Mere mechanical observance of a ritual does does not result in automatic forgiveness.
So what does?
The missing ingredient is that when a worshipper submitted him or herself to God, his or her heart had to be in the right place.
There had to be an honest and sincere inner resolve in the heart of the worshipper to stay from the sin for which he or she was asking forgiveness.
We can see this God-principle especially prevalent in the Psalms.
It doesn’t matter how much sacrifices or heaping ashes on oneself or wailing and screaming to the heavens is done, if your conscience is not convicted and your heart is not in the right place, it really doesn’t matter.
It also doesn’t matter how many days you fast, how much money you put in the tithe box, or volunteer.
Again, if your heart is not in the right place, it is all for nil.
HASHEM looks at the heart.
There must first be inner change BEFORE there can be outer change.
When a person comes forward and performs a ritual, God will look into the heart of the worshipper and make a judgement.
Is the worshipper sincere?
Has he or she deep in his or her heart sincerely repented?
If so, then I believe that forgiveness will be granted.
If not, then the worshipper remains out of HASHEM’S favor.