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
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
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.