Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Numbers 14:10-16 Behold, he prays!

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 25, 2021

10 Still the entire community threatened to stone them to death.

It’s astonishing that Moses was threatened with getting stoned to death. Stoning was the punishment for sins like idolatry (Leviticus 20:2; Deuteronomy 3:6-10), witchcraft or astrology (Leviticus 20:27), blasphemy (Leviticus 24:14), and adultery (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Here Moses was the one remaining faithful to the Lord, but he was the one who was threatened. But this wasn’t the first time. While the nation was on the way to Mount Sinai, they complained that there was no water to drink, and Moses prayed, “They are almost ready to stone me” (Exodus 17:4). This was just before they were attacked by the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8) who conspired against God’s people (Psalm 83:3,7). But now God’s people were conspiring against Moses. They were the ones saying, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him” (Psalm 71:11). It was time for God to intervene.

The Glory of the LORD appeared to all the Israelites over the Tent of Meeting. 11 The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with a plague and disown them. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are.”

First, there had been the miracle of preserving Israel’s family during the seven years of famine through Joseph. Then, God blessed the family so that they grew from seventy to two million in four hundred and thirty years (Galatians 3:17), “too numerous for their foes” (Psalm 105:24). Then he rescued them from bondage in Egypt without any Israelites losing their lives. Ten plagues were performed in public, and a few more in private for Pharaoh and his court (Exodus 7:10, 7:12, 7:20).  Then the Lord parted the Red Sea (“the sea looked and fled,” Psalm 114:3) and delivered them from the Amalekites. He gave them manna, water, and quail. He appeared to them and spoke to them in the pillar of cloud (Psalm 99:7). He had shown them the land he had promised them. But now they were turning on him! His response this time was to wipe them all out and start over again.

Moses Intercedes for Israel

13 Moses said to the LORD, “The Egyptians will hear it, since by your own power you brought these people up from the midst of the Egyptians. 14 They will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have heard that you, the LORD, are in the midst of this people. You, the LORD, are seen face-to-face. Your cloud stands over them. You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you killed these people, leaving no one, then the nations which have heard about your fame will say, 16 ‘Because the LORD was not able to bring these people into the land which he swore to them, he has slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

Moses could have accepted the Lord’s plan to destroy Israel. He could have said, “Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety” (Psalm 141:10). After all, it was the Lord’s own plan. But Moses didn’t think about his own status, and he really didn’t think about the rebellious people, either. He thought about God’s reputation in the world. “The Egyptians will hear about it!” he cried. People would say that God couldn’t do what he planned to do; he couldn’t bring his people out of Egypt and into the promised land.

Since God had shown himself to the nations as the Defender of Israel (Proverbs 23:11), Moses argued, he should continue to defend Israel, even if they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the land. This wasn’t the end of Moses’ argument, but up to this point the prophet has said: the death of the people will be seen by the nations as proof for them that God is powerless. This is a moment when God’s name, his very reputation, was at stake. This isn’t to say the God could have found a way around what Moses feared. But what Moses said and what the people were saying has one great difference. The people were speaking out of doubt and unbelief. Moses was speaking out of faith. The Lord didn’t have to do what Moses was asking, as if the Lord could have painted himself into a corner. But “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Consider the basic types of prayers: (1) Prayers for spiritual blessings (forgiveness, strength against temptation, understanding the Word of God, etc.). (2) Prayers for temporal, earthly blessings (health, rescue, a godly spouse, guidance, children, etc.). (3) Prayers of intercession (on behalf of another person or nation). (4) Prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

God invites us to pray. He promises to hear us. He shows us in his word again and again that prayers matter and that prayers make a difference. Allow me to quote one of my teachers:

“Rich and beautiful are the promises that God attaches to his invitation to us to pray. And still, given all the obstacles to prayer that the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh throw up against it, do perhaps even the holy angels stop and take note of it when God’s promises finally bring us to pray? Do they perhaps stoop down and marvel and say, ‘Behold, he prays!’?”

Pray, praise, and give thanks.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


Browse Devotion Archive