Whose Reputation? Whose Glory?
Too often we are concerned about our own reputation when we should be concerned about God’s. As I am reading through the Pentateuch once again, I find at least three major incidents in which Moses showed his complete concern for the reputation, honour and glory of Yahweh. Each one involves three elements: the Israelites rebelling and complaining; God threatening to wipe them out; and Moses interceding, worried about God’s reputation among the pagans.
If you are like me, you may often worry about what others think of you. What should really concern us however is what God thinks of us. After all, the fear of man brings a snare (Prov. 29:25), but the fear of God brings life (Prov. 10:27).
Too often we are concerned about our own reputation when we should be concerned about God’s. As I am reading through the Pentateuch once again, I find at least three major incidents in which Moses showed his complete concern for the reputation, honour and glory of Yahweh.
Each one involves three elements: the Israelites rebelling and complaining; God threatening to wipe them out; and Moses interceding, worried about God’s reputation among the pagans. Let me look at each one, and offer a few words from three expository commentaries – all from the Preaching the Word series.
The first is found in Exodus 32 where we have the famous story of the golden calf. The Israelites had been miraculously delivered out of Egyptian bondage. The people had seen the ten plagues and they had been through the Red Sea and seen Pharaoh and his troops overcome there. Yet in spite of all this, they quickly turned against the Lord. While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai getting the law of God, the people turned to idolatry. Exodus 32:7-10 tells us how God responded:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
And verses 11-14 tell us how Moses responded:
But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
Philip Graham Ryken says Moses offered five reasons why God should show mercy. The third one is this:
Moses appealed to God on the basis of his public reputation. He asked God to save his people not simply for their sake, but for the sake of his own good name. Remember, this was the reason God saved them in the first place. It was so the Egyptians would see his glory (Exod. 7:5). So now how would it look if God decided to destroy his people? . . . God’s credibility was on the line….
Thus it was out of zeal for God’s glory that Moses begged God not to destroy his people. He cared about God’s reputation. He wanted to see God exalted among the nations. This gave the strongest possible support to his prayer. Moses was appealing to God’s own highest goal, which is to glorify himself. We have the same motivation when we pray for the salvation of family and friends and when we pray for the global work of the gospel through missions. We are asking God to enhance his international reputation, to bring glory to himself by saving sinners.
The next example of this is found in Numbers. In chapter 13 we read about how the 12 spies went into Canaan, checked out the land, and then returned to report. Only two gave a positive report. Moses wanted to proceed, but the people again complained and wanted to go back to Egypt.