INTERESTING FACTS : "The secret of my success? It is simple. It is found in the Bible." George Washington Carver
DAILY READING : [NUMBERS 18 - 20] [NUMBERS 21 - 22]
TEXT : Num 20:1 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. Num 20:2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. Num 20:3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! Num 20:4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? Num 20:5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. Num 20:6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. Num 20:7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Num 20:8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. Num 20:9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. Num 20:10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? Num 20:11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. Num 20:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them
THEME : THE LAW
"Behold the goodness and severity of God," wrote the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:22. He went on to say - "on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." As we read the Pentateuch [the first five Books of the Bible], we see this truth. God is God, His Law is His Law, and no one is free from its punishments or rewards. All Law - in theory, knows no exemptions, even though we realize this is not the case in life. Yet, with God's Law - especially when Moses first received it - knew no exemptions, not even Moses himself.
Again, in our text, we see the complaints and unbelief of the children of Israel. In fairness, it was a hard way. Unlike so many of our problems that have to do with living, their problems often had a direct relation to life itself. In other words, they had no water. There were enemies that would have killed them. God rained "bread" out of the sky daily with none left over except on Friday - Saturday. Therefore, we can empathize to some degree with their fears. Life, not merely living, was always on the line. Further, without approving their unbelief, we can see why going back to Egypt was a temptation. Although they were slaves, the Egyptians fed and housed them. Therefore, this journey in the desert handed Israel anxieties and fears most people never see in this life. Their problems had to do with life itself - that is, survival and staying alive, and not simply living and the many hardships associated with functioning while on earth.
There is a likeness with the Apostles of Christ. Some of their troubles involved real danger and not merely feeling anxious about a problem. For instance, when they launched their boat across the Sea of Galilee, the storm they faced was real. The water that filled the boat was also real. Jesus, asleep on the boat, looks like He is unaware or unconcerned. Yet, the Apostles, four of them experienced fishermen, knew the real danger they faced. However, when they awaken the Master, He calmly stops the storm with His Word, and issues a mild rebuke for their unbelief! We do not realize at times, the danger Bible characters were in when we criticize them for their unbelief or depression about God. When reading the Bible, it is good to know the background of the Book, and to real the details of the story. This will help us to empathize with the characters without, once again, supporting their rebellion and lack of faith. It will also help us to have faith in God when we compare our dilemmas and problems to theirs. This is how we build faith in God. We learn from the examples of others - good and bad.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS
Moses striking the rock instead of speaking to it as directed by God is the reason God condemns Moses. How many students and readers of the Bible have thought to themselves [when they come across this passage] that God seems too strict? Well, the answer to that question is simpler than may appear.
First, although Moses is a great man of God, he is nevertheless a man. He has limits and weaknesses - just like you and me. He suffers from fatigue, irritation, impatience, and anger. With that in mind, we see Moses, like other Biblical characters are not "superhuman." They are men and women who have the same nature we have.
Second, it is an encouragement to see great men and women of God fail. I say this not because we rejoice in their failing, but because we empathize with their losing strength, and at times, losing faith. In other words, we see the characters of the Bible as human beings and not superheroes. In fact, all the exploits the figures in the Bible perform are not their through their gifts and talents - they are through God's. God does the work. Therefore, we have the doctrine of God's grace. Grace is a gift of [from] God that changes and lets men to do what normally he or she could not or would not do. The grace of God enables all the men and women of the Bible under both covenants to conquer. That is, about what they did for Him, or in His Name.
Third, on the severe punishment of Moses and Aaron when Moses struck the rock. We must keep in mind that Moses leadership in not one of simple spirituality or presiding over religious services. No, he is the lawgiver. In addition, we have seen the Law was comprehensive in that in took in civil, criminal, spiritual, and military law. Because of this, Moses as the representative for God must uphold a higher standard than everyone else. Just as it is in politics or the military, laws that do not apply to ordinary citizens apply to those in authority. In addition, punishment is usually greater for the leader of a nation than it is for the common person. We understand this intuitively. Therefore, when Moses lost his temper and struck the rock, he not only set a bad example of the Law that he delivered, but he also did God a disservice by taking away His glory - that is, the glory due His Name. Had Moses spoke to the rock, no one would doubt they had seen yet another miracle, further stressing God's presence among them.
Lastly, Moses made the mistake of saying "must we" fetch you water from the rock. This of course, is a reference to him and Aaron. Once again, God did not receive the glory as He commanded when Moses did not follow His order. We must not however think the judgment on Moses and Aaron was too severe. For God gave Aaron a noble burial by telling Moses how to bury him after taking his priestly garments off and giving them to Aaron's son. Moreover, in Moses case, God buries Moses Himself where no one can see or know the location. We reserve these types of funerals in our world, for dignitaries and enormously popular people. Therefore, although the judgment at first glance seems harsh, there are reasonable motives and explanations on why this must be so.
When it comes to leadership in the Church, the Scriptures tell us not to be many teachers or leaders. "My brethren, be not many masters [lit. instructors], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. [Jas 3:1] As we see in Moses case, those who lead and teach will be held to a higher standard of judgment in this life and the next - then the ordinary Christian. We see this is a principle of Scripture, and we can observe it in the world as well. It is a law - that is, that those who lead, teach, lecture etc. will be judged more strictly then those who are not in positions of authority. I should add, for the Christian who is frequently giving advice from the Bible, or frequently correcting their fellow Christian regarding the Word of God, whether officially appointed or not, they have set themselves up as a "master." Because of this, God will expect more from them and judge them stricter - in this world and the next.