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God's Righteous Wrath, Our Interceding Savior

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God's Righteous Wrath, Our Interceding Savior

Jed Stevens

This post was written by Michael Tandon.

One of the biggest influences in my early spiritual life was my Sunday School teacher Mrs. 

Coley.  I’ll never forget the inside cover of her Bible where she had recorded the start and end 

date of every time she read through her Bible.  Over the 30 or so years that she’d had that 

Bible, she consistently read through every 6 months.  This set a very early precedent for me and 

I’ve tried to follow Mrs. Coley’s example by reading through the Bible in its entirety every year.

Now, if I’m being honest, there are some sections of the Old Testament I find distinctly difficult 

to digest.  It can be hard to reconcile our gracious and loving God with what sometimes seems 

like an angry and violent God in the Old Testament.

I was recently reading through Numbers 14 and came across the account of Israel sending 

scouts into the Promised Land for reconnaissance.  After giving a faithless and disparaging 

report, the people rebel against Moses and Aaron and seek to kill them.  God intervenes in 

verses 11 and 12:

And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will 

they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them 

with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier 

than they.”

Moses pleads for mercy in the following verses, concluding in 19 and 20:

Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast 

love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” Then the LORD said, “I have 

pardoned, according to your word.

When I read this, God comes across like a petulant child bent on violence and is only placated 

by the intervention of Moses.  I wrestled with this passage, but the Spirit revealed awesome 

truth to me.  To fully understand the interaction here between God and Moses, we first have to 

develop a larger view of God’s attitude towards the sin of His people.  The prophet Nahum 

writes:

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD 

takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger 

and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and 

storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:2-3)

Yes, God hates sin prior to Christ, but what about after Christ?  Let’s see what God’s attitude 

towards sin is in the New Testament:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and 

unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)

We see here that the wrath of God is a tsunami seeking to obliterate sin.  He would not be just 

if He didn’t absolutely hate evil, just as any good parent knows that not addressing a child’s bad 

behavior is unloving.  So what keeps God from destroying us because of our continual sin?  

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and 

the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the 

Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God 

remains on him. (John 3:35-36)

In dying on the cross for our sins, Jesus absorbed the wrath of God meant for us.  So God no 

longer sees us as children of wrath, but rather as His righteous heirs.

So how does this relate to the account in Numbers of Moses intervening in God’s threatening to 

destroy Israel?  We know all scripture points to Christ, so where is He in this passage?

 The sin of the people of Israel is grave.  They desire to murder the man that God appointed to 

lead them, and God’s anger is kindled.  But in a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, Moses intercedes 

on behalf of the people.  And so we see here a full image of the gospel.  God’s hatred of sin 

meets the magnitude of His grace, and the result is mercy.  God forgives this sin of Israel 

because of a flawed but righteous man named Moses; an amazing picture that generations 

later, God would forgive all sin because of a perfect and righteous man named Jesus. 

I know that sections of the Old Testament can be difficult to understand and digest at times.  

But in it, God has preserved unique truth about His character and the amazing plan that He laid 

out for us.