One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, March 13, 2013: Numbers 19:1-20:29
7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” 9 So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Numbers 20:7-11 (NKJV)
Jewish and Christian scholars have always struggled with why God dealt so severely with Moses when he struck the rock the second time. After all, Moses had been through forty years of faithful service. He had stood strong through tough times. He had, to say the least, paid the price.
Then, he makes a mistake and BINGO! -- disqualified!!! It does not seem fair that God could set him aside for a single sin. Many have tried to identify the exact offense Moses committed. One scholarly article lists 10 different things he did wrong in this one incident. Numbers 20:12 summarizes God's assessment when God says to Moses, "Because you DID NOT BELIEVE ME." Whatever the specific nature of Moses' offense was, it had its origin in a failure to believe God.
I would like to pin-point one particular thing about this story that leaps out to me. It is Moses' REACTION. Whatever other things he did, I believe this one thing is significant and speaks to us today.
When the people started complaining about the lack of water, Moses and Aaron did the right thing at first. They fell on their faces before God (20:6). Then God gave Moses specific instruction to "Speak to the rock" so that it would yield its water for the people. It is at this point that things begin going wrong.
Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly (20:10), and Moses proceded to tear into them. He virtually yelled at them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" Then, in the heat of anger, he "lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod."
Moses lost his temper. He got "in the flesh." His frustration and anger boiled over, and in that context, he radically disobeyed God. He lashed out verbally at the people. He lost it. He spoke to them in an angry and demeaning way. In that anger, he proceded to go beyond God's instruction and used physical force on the rock instead of speaking to it.
There may be many reasons why God disqualified Moses from leading Israel on into the Promised Land. But, I know that one of the reasons many leaders lose their place is because they fail to control the storm going on inside their heart. This happens to everyone, not just leaders.
In a moment's time, a father can lash out as his son or daughter and wound them for a lifetime. In a fit of frustration, any one of us can say or do stupid things that cost us for years to come. It's the nature of our flesh. Here are just a few observations:
1. ANGER is like a time bomb. It sits smoldering under the surface, and can erupt uncontrollably at the worst possible time.
2. ANGER exaggerates. It distorts your ability to see clearly and to react correctly. It distorts the reality around you. It always makes everything look worse than it is.
3. ANGER can burn your house down. In the heat of anger, you can defile those around you and forfeit your future. This is at least part of what happened to Moses.
Almost always such angry outburst have justification. They are not unmerited or unprovoked. Moses had every right to be frustrated with these rebellious people. He had put up with 40 years of whining and complaining. But, here's the worst part: when Moses finally gave vent to his anger, he himself was the only one who lost in the deal. It pushed him into direct disobedience to God. The end result was failure on his part.
That's the way the devil works. That's the way our flesh works. It pushes you to react in ways that make human sense, but that spell spiritual disaster.
So, let me close with a few recommendations. If you find the volcano building inside you, here are some things you should do:
1. Stop and find out why you are angry.
2. Do not under any circumstance, succumb to impulse anger.
3. Realize that YOU are the one in danger in this situation -- not those offending you.
4. Bring the situation under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
5. Put the fire out! I refer here to the fire of anger burning on your insides. Put the fire out before it burns your house down, and you lose something valuable -- your future.
Moses was undoubtedly one of the greatest leaders in the entire Bible. He was a great man. It seems so strange that this one blemish at the end of his life should cause him to not finish that which he started. Moses speaks to us today. He gives us great lessons about vision and leadership. He serves as a standard for morality and godliness. He also warns us to never in a moment of weakness yield to our fleshly tendencies.
Many great men and women have forfeited their future in a moment of angry reaction. May you and I not be among that number. May we finish well, and enter the Promised Provision that the Lord has for all His people.