We can be so thick-headed and weak! After all that God does, all the ways he shows his presence and his sovereign power, we still trust more what we think we see and know instead of the God of heaven and earth. Israel only provides a glimpse of us all. After everything they have been through, all the times God has saved them, provided for them, punished the rebellious, they still have no faith in him. The promised land was beautiful and offered much, but the people were large and the cities well built. They included Nephilim, descendants of Anak. Cities are built up and fortified, even the ones their ancestors knew as small. They trust what the spies saw and report, and turn against God – again! Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua cannot persuade them to change their minds. Still the people decide to return to Egypt, and they talk about killing the four in their way.
We can understand God’s anger and disappointment. We see why he would want to start with a different group. We can sympathize with his confusion at their lack of faith in him. But how often do we also falter in our faith? How easily do we lose heart in the face of what we see and hear around us? But for Moses’ intervention, I wonder how the rest of the Bible would read? Moses pleaded for Israel and turned God’s wrath. He has come a long way as a leader and a mediator. But sin and rebellion against God must be dealt with. In this case, their punishment is 40 years of wandering in the desert. They have broken the covenant made with Yhwh and will taste the prescribed consequences. They will suffer just as they continually feared they would, for not trusting God. The ones brought out of Egypt will not see the land, rest, and peace promised; that blessing will be given to their children.
I don’t know that Moses wrote Psalm 90 at this point, but it definitely fits the occasion. Moses understands like few others how mighty God is.