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Numbers 14:17-18

Numbers 14:17-18
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Numbers 14:17-18, “And now, please, let the power of the Lord be great, as you have promised, saying, “YHWH is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love….”

Two wonderful things stand out about this passage.

First, notice how the Lord shows the greatness of His power: by forgiving the sins of His covenant people. It is through a show of radical mercy that the power of YHWH is displayed before the watching nations. It is through super abundant grace, grounded in His own character and employed to the upholding of His own covenant that the One True God manifests the greatness of His power.

We get the sense here that the power of YHWH—the true, full, deep expression of His power—is different from the power of the nations. Typically we think of power as the ability to shatter, to break, to bend, to control, to master others. But here, power—the definitive power, since it is the power of the One True God—here, power is tied to forgiveness, to mercy, to steadfast love and faithfulness. Yes, great power is displayed in shattering the pride of Pharaoh, but arguably greater power is displayed in the steadfast love and faithfulness that forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin and draws and an adulterous bride into chaste and passionate fellowship.

This is, of course, the power displayed climactically in the gospel—which Paul calls the “power of God”—Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:24. Where the name of YHWH, on account of which He forgives and draws His people to Himself, where the name of YHWH is displayed, there the power of YHWH is displayed….and where the name is displayed supremely, there the power is displayed supremely. Therefore, the cross of Christ—by which YHWH shows Himself to be Himself and achieves for His people all that is promised to them in His Name—is the Power of God.
And that leads into the second point, namely that the Name of YHWH is, in itself, a promise to His people. Moses prays that the Lord would show His power as He has promised. And what is the promise that Moses proceeds to cite? It is the Name of YHWH Himself, the Name declared on Sinai in Exodus 34:6-7, the Name declared in response to Moses’ request to see the Glory of YHWH (Ex.33:18ff).

The Covenant Name of God IS His promise to His covenant people…….His Name is His promise….and what is the promise? It is the promise that He will be Himself to those whom He has drawn into covenant with Himself, that to them, He will be who He is….which is good news because He is who He declares Himself to be in Exodus 34:6-7……..Or, said supremely, it is good news because He is who He declares Himself to be in the Incarnate Word, in Jesus Christ, in the Crucified Lord who is Risen…..

Yes, it would be—I think—right to say that, if the Name of YHWH is a promise to His covenant people (as Moses seems to imply in this text), then so too the Life and Death and Resurrection and Ascension and Reign of the man Jesus Christ is a promise—the supreme promise—to the people of God….. “I swear by my life that I Am this for you…..” says God in the history of His incarnate Son.