Book of Numbers?
Come on. Even the title of the book sounds boring. You've got to really love God to work your way through books like Leviticus and Numbers.
But as I was reading through the Book of Numbers, I came across one of the clearest teachings of how God's grace and God's holiness works.
Often times, we see these as opposite things. But God is both gracious and merciful, and God is absolutely holy and just. And they are to be held together.
In Numbers 14, Moses sends out the 12 spies to check out the Promised Land before the Israelites enter it. The 12 spies report back to Moses and the people that the land is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey, but the land is also filled with giants and there's no way they can conquer it.
So the people start whining and complaining saying that Moses should have never brought them out of Egypt, that things were so much better in Egypt.
Remember, they were slaves in Egypt!
But this wasn't the first time the people complained. They had been whining pretty much the entire trip.
By this time God is fed up and he tells Moses that he's going to put an end to all their complaints by wiping out the people. But Moses pleads for mercy and God relents.
Listen to how God's grace and holiness work together.
Moses says, "The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished" (Numbers 14.18).
God says, "Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times - not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it (the Promised Land)" (Numbers 14.22-23).
God forgives sins. That's grace. That's mercy.
But no one who treats God with contempt will see God's promised land. That's holiness. That's justice.
God forgives because he is a gracious God, but there are consequences to contempt. The people who treated God with contempt died in the desert never seeing the Promised Land. They existed, but they never thrived.
I think that's true of people today. When we "diss" God and treat God's goodness and grace with contempt, God will forgive us but we may never experience the bounty of God's goodness. We end up surviving rather than living.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to just survive. I want to thrive! I want to be in a context where my church is thriving, where my family is thriving, where God's power is being demonstrated day in and day out.
I hate just surviving.
The key is dissing God. Don't do it. We diss God's grace and hold that which is holy in contempt, when we treat our sins and God's call to righteousness lightly.
Don't do it.
Live life right.
Choose God's best.