The problems are worse. The people are not getting better and better. Nm 13-14 narrates the events, and to the extent sin has an explanation, it explains it, but more, it explains the ways of God toward Israel.
The first question that might occur to us as we read is, how is this not a test, the fact that God Himself is the one telling Moses to send men to "spy out the land of Canaan" (Numbers 13:1)?
If God had not told Moses to send spies out -- if God had sent a different group of spies out -- if they had just went in to the land without spies -- if Moses had just asked for volunteers -- all these second-guesses are answered by 14:11, which points out the problem: the people spurned God and did not "believe in" Him.
We gain an insight into what believing in God is, and what not believing in Him is, that we can carry, and will carry us, into Mt 8:8,9,10 and beyond. God had made promises. They were not a "test." The signs, which God brings up here, "that I have performed in their midst" (14:11) were also, not a test. They were to enable them to believe in Him. What had signs been for, since their beginning with Moses? "that they may believe ..." (Ex 4:5). That's why here, in 14;11, God explicitly states that their unbelief despite signs that He Himself performed already, in their midst, amounted to spurning Him.
Did we think that earlier, when Moses set up his advocacy of pardoning the people for this, that it was almost impertinent, or childish (Ex 32:11-14)? The text does not say that Moses' argument about what the Egyptians would think prevailed then, but the fact that God was going to be faithful to His promises (Ex 32:13-14).
Moses tries it again, with elaborations. What else was he going to do? Not just the Egyptians (14:13), but "the nations who have heard of Your fame" (14:15) will say things denying God's ability to bring about His promises (14:16). But Moses' elaborations, "let the power of the Lord be great," sound like Moses had run out of something to convince God with. What was Moses thinking, asking for God to let His power be great, here?
Looking at 14:19, it might have been referring to something else in God's greatness. Moses summary of that is "just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."
The "So" of 14:20 is due to that argument. God had forgiven this people, from Egypt until that point. Moses was right about that. God then says "I have pardoned according to your word." Moses word!
Pardon is not the same as what we call nowadays, "no consequences." Something different will come about, that would not have come about, because of the pardon (14:12). Also, something different will come about, that would not have come about, because of the sin (14:28-38).
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