On Faithfulness, Failure, Forgiveness, and the Fallout



October 31, 2021

Numbers 14:26-35 (NIV)

26 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 


But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)

Today has come yet again, praise God.

Faithfulness. If there is anything we can say about God in his relationship with his people it is this: God has been faithful. God’s grace had been beyond extraordinary for these former slaves. He delivered them from slavery, walked them out of the country, parted the Red Sea, destroyed Pharaoh’s army, led them by day and night through the wilderness, fed them morning and evening, entered into covenant with them to be their God, promised them a land flowing with milk and honey, and on we could go. God had been faithful. 

Failure. God’s people failed. But who is keeping score, right? Apparently God is. It’s interesting how God says, “they disobeyed me and tested me ten times.” (I wonder about the correlation between this and the ten plagues by which God tested Pharaoh.) But didn’t Paul say, “Love keeps no record of wrongs?” And what happened to God casting our sins into the sea of forgetfulness and remembering them no more? It’s a good question. 

Let’s recall Moses’ prayer again. In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” v.19

God forgave and forgave and forgave to the tenth power. Every act of forgiveness offered an opportunity for the people to bear the fruit of repentance. Instead, they did the opposite and presumed on grace. I recall a situation in my own life in a difficult relationship where I forgave and forgave and forgave and hit reset time after time after time. From my perspective, each time it was like the transgression never happened. It was forgotten. Finally, there came a point in the relationship where I could forgive, but I could no longer hit reset. This is the point where all the forgiven debts come back on the ledger, not so forgiveness can somehow be retracted but so mercy can be reframed. There comes a point in a persistent pattern of broken behavior where the deeper condition must be identified for a different kind of intervention. There is a word for this deeper condition in these seeming intractable situations: Contempt. There is a point at which persistent trespassing must be called out for what it is—contempt toward the one who has been repeatedly trespassed against.

It’s interesting how the Hebrew word here behind the translated English word, “contempt” (pronounced naw-ats) means to blaspheme. Contempt comes from a place of crystallized disrespect. Contempt is a hallmark expression of a hardened heart. Contempt can be forgiven, and it must be. It just can’t be tolerated. This is the place where “reset” no longer works, and in fact becomes dangerous and even irresponsible. This is the place where sin’s consequences must be allowed to run their course. This is the place where failure must finally be allowed to face and feel the fallout. That is exactly what happened here:

But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.”

This is quite sobering isn’t it? You likely see many analogies across the past and present relational landscape of your life. This is why the stakes are so high when it comes to encouragement. It takes awhile to reach “hardness of heart,” and it comes through the subtle deceitfulness of sin. 

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)


Father, thank you for your long-suffering, patient, merciful, grace-filled, slow to anger way with us; and with me. I want my heart to be laid bare before you. Have I or am I presuming on your grace. Are the seeds of contempt sown in my heart toward you? Toward others? Come Holy Spirit and reveal to me the connection between contempt for others and contempt for you. Reveal my own propensity to be deceived at just this point. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. We pray in Jesus name, Amen. 


How do you relate to this concept of contempt? Where have you seen it in others? In your relationships? In yourself? 


I want to invite you to join me and hopefully thousands of others from the Daily Text Nation in what we are calling the Seedbed Advent Experience. You can see all the details here. If you already have the book, The Christian New Year, be sure to choose that option on the dropdown to avoid buying another book—OR EVEN BETTER—get another book and invite a friend to join us. COME ON!

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.


  1. I am currently new to the Daily Seedbed. Two of my friends introduced me. They love the message J.D.Walt brings.
    Our Thursday night Bible Study has 8 women and all of us have prodigal children.
    On November 4, I am leading the group and I want to do a lesson on prodigals.
    Do you have any Daily Texts that speak to this subject? Our group meets and our study has a limit to an hour and a half.
    Any readings or suggestions to inspire my discussion will be most helpful.
    Thanking you in advance.
    I am so thankful for finding the Seedbed. Many Blessings to all.