Sunday, April 17, 2011

Numbers 20: 1-13

In early spring the people of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Zin and camped at Kadesh. While they were there, Miriam died and was buried.

2 There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The people blamed Moses and said, “We wish we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers! 4 Did you bring the Lord’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? 5 Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, figs, grapes, or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

6 Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord said to Moses, 8 “You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, command the rock over there to pour out its water. You will get enough water from the rock to satisfy all the people and their livestock.”

9 So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. 10 Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. “Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So all the people and their livestock drank their fill.

12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” 13 This place was known as the waters of Meribah, because it was where the people of Israel argued with the Lord, and where he demonstrated his holiness among them.

Points of Interest:

· We wish we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers!’—now it’s getting downright ridiculous. The people aren’t merely wishing they could go back to Egypt, or that they could stay in the wilderness. Now they’re wishing that they had rebelled against Moses so that they could have been swallowed up by a supernatural earthquake—and they express this extreme self-pity over a situation from which God has already rescued them in the past. You almost get the sense that they’re being intentionally provocative, or that they actually prefer to complain.

· This land has no grain, figs, grapes, or pomegranates’—God had wanted to lead them into a land abundant with fruit and grains. Apparently, according to the report of the spies, the promised land had especially good grapes. But the people said that they would rather stay in the wilderness. Either they’ve forgotten that this is what they asked for, or they’re regretting their decision.

· He took the staff from the place where it was kept’—Moses used to carry the staff around with him everywhere he went, performing constant miracles with it. Apparently, he doesn’t use it as often anymore; so he keeps it in God’s tent unless he needs it.

· you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness’—something happens when the people gather at the rock. Every other time he’s been in a situation like this, he’s done exactly what the LORD instructed. But this time he takes matters into his own hands. God tells him to command the rock to pour out water. Instead, he curses at the people and hits the rock twice. God still makes the water gush out, but something really bothers him about Moses’ actions. Perhaps it’s the fact that he said, ‘Must we bring you water . . . ?’—claiming the action for himself and Aaron rather than for God. Perhaps he doesn’t like the fact that he portrays God as being unwilling to provide the water. Or perhaps the LORD doesn’t like how Moses beefed up the drama factor, with the yelling and the hitting. God had his own plan for the kind of effect he wanted to make with this miracle. But Moses revised God’s plan.

· you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!’—to me, Moses’ disobedience seems insignificant in light of how faithful he has been and how much he has done. But to God, Moses’ error is serious and it has serious consequences. By not allowing Moses to lead the people into the promised land, God is saying that in this action he has shown that he belongs more with the generation that will die in the dessert than with the one that will go into the promised land. Over the course of his constant contention with this generation, Moses has somehow become like them.

· where he demonstrated his holiness among them’—God had wanted to show his holiness by providing water for the people. Sadly, he ends up showing just how holy he is by having to punish his most faithful servant.

Taking it home:

· For you: In this passage, we see Moses’ constant battles with the Israelites finally take a toll on his own relationship with God, his joy, and his future. Are you in the midst of any longstanding conflicts? Ask God to protect you from being embittered by that conflict. Ask him to give you the power to bless the person who has been a source of trouble in your life, and ask him to show his holiness and goodness in the situation.

· For your six: The Israelites just don’t seem to learn from their past. God provides for them again and again, but each time they have a need they see it as a hopeless disaster. The faith they gain from seeing God provide doesn’t seem to last to the next problem. Pray for your six that they would have a faith that grows, and that God would give them a good memory of the times he’s rescued them or provided for them.

· For our church: God had a plan to demonstrate his holiness to the people, and Moses thought he could improve upon that plan. Although the people were blessed and God’s holiness was shown, Moses’ modifications ended up having big consequences for him. Pray that God would give us trust in him to show himself, and wisdom to resist the temptation to ‘improve’ upon his plans.