Pardon for an Unrepentant People

By Francis Frangipane
(En EspaƱol)

Moses sent twelve spies to Canaan to bring back a report of the land. When they returned, ten said that, though the land was good, Israel would surely be defeated by the inhabitants. Although Joshua and Caleb argued that Israel certainly could drive out their enemies, the people moaned, complained, and rebelled, even seeking to stone Joshua and Caleb and return with new leaders to Egypt. The anger of the Lord was kindled against them and threatened to bring judgment (Num. 13-14).

Faithfully, once more Moses interceded:

"I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, `The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations'" (Num. 14:17-18).

Just as Abraham had prayed centuries before, Moses focused upon two things: the integrity of the Lord and His great mercy. When the Scripture says that God will "by no means clear the guilty" (v. 18), it speaks of those who sin but do not repent. Yet even in such a circumstance, the Lord is able to be entreated.

Remember, the Israelites had rebelled; they were not even aware that their sin had placed them at the threshold of God's wrath. On one side, the Lord looked at a nation of unrepentant, sinful people, and on the other side, He saw one man, Moses, praying. Even though the prophet acknowledged that the Lord would not "clear the guilty," Moses still prayed that God would forgive Israel: "Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now" (Num. 14:19).

Note with awe the Lord's response to Moses' mercy prayer. He said, "I have pardoned them according to your word" (v. 20). Incredible!

Three million Israelites had not repented, nor rent their hearts, nor confessed their sins to God or one another. Not one of them who had sinned possessed a broken, contrite spirit. Yet the Lord said, "I have pardoned them." This response is utterly amazing to me. The Lord granted Israel forgiveness "according to [Moses'] word." Staggering!

One man with favor from God brought mercy upon three million people who had not repented.

Then, in case we might think this is some kind of easy grace, the Lord reaffirmed His purpose for all nations, beginning with Israel. He said, "But indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord" (v. 21).

The integrity of the Lord is nonnegotiable. He said, in effect, "Though I forgive, I am not going to change My plans. The world will be filled with My glory."

When we ask God for mercy, we are not asking Him to compromise His intentions or His standards. We are asking only that He forgive the sins of people, showing His mercy until He can fulfill His purpose. In truth, we are in complete agreement with His righteous judgments. We earnestly want His glory to overshadow North, South, and Central America; to roll through Europe, Africa, and Asia; to revive Israel and touch the Middle East, Australia, and the rest of the world. We shout a resounding "Yes!" to the purpose of God. "Fill our land with Your glory, Lord!"

But we also pray, "Until Your purposes are perfected, reveal Your mercy. Forgive, O Lord, the sins of Your people."

Do you need a vision of God's ultimate destiny for your nation? The voice of the Lord has promised, "As I live, all the earth will be filled with [My] glory" (Num. 14:21). Your nation, being part of the earth, is included in God's heart. He will hear our prayers for mercy as we reach, with Him, toward His ultimate goal.

Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, "The Power of One Christlike Life" available at