Daily D – Numbers 20:2-8
Numbers 20:2-8 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. The LORD said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
One of the worst spankings I ever got as a child was when my mother told me to do something I did not want to do and I refused. Mom cranked up the volume and amped up the command. Then I uttered a line I had heard a woman say in a television program: “I wish I had never been born!”
Did I mention this was one of the worst spankings I ever received?
If you have been reading along in Exodus and Numbers, you know there are several moments where the people complained. After their last big episode of whining and grumbling, the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were swallowed up by the ground. (See Numbers 16:31-34.) Fire came out and consumed 250 men who were offering incense after declaring they were just as holy as Aaron and his sons. (See Numbers 16:35.)
The people continued complaining, so God sent a plague that killed 14,700 more people. (See Numbers 16:46-50.) This series of events where the people challenged Moses and Aaron went on for a while. Moses and Aaron fell facedown time and again seeking God’s wisdom and direction. God kept giving it. The people kept complaining. The more they complained, the more people died.
Their complaints were not about Moses and Aaron and their leadership. Their complaints were about God’s directions. God takes his commands seriously. He wanted them to take them seriously. He wanted them to learn the blessings of obedience, the rewards of following his directions. Psalm 62 ends this way:
Two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing Love;”
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”
(verses 11, 12)
God rewards obedience. He disciplines the disobedient. He wants everyone to attune their hearts to his and to align their ways with his. He also wants us to put away the complaining, griping, and grumbling. He does not want us to develop a critical spirit.
In Numbers 20, after everyone should have learned their lessons about complaining and challenging God’s directions, the same old problems started all over again. This time the griping took on a new and angrier tone. The people said to Moses and Aaron what I said to my mother.
4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here?
5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place?
It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates.
And there is no water to drink!”
and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.
7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together.
Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.
You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
Moses and Aaron fell facedown. The glory of the LORD appeared to them. God gave clear and simple directions to solve their problem. When we have a problem, we take it to God in humble dependence and ask what to do next. He tells us what to do. We do it. God does what only God can do. In this case, he gave instructions to bring water out of a rock. Sometimes God asks us to do something seemingly impossible. What is impossible for him? Follow his directions. Receive the gift he wants to give.
As it turns out, Moses and Aaron probably should have stayed facedown a little longer. They got up while they were still angry. They spoke to the people instead of the rock. They expressed their displeasure with the people. They tried to do God’s will their way. They interfered with the lesson God was trying to teach.
I wonder if Jesus’ little brother James was pondering this episode when he wrote, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” (James 1:19, 20)?
This chapter begins with the death of Miriam (verse 1). It ends with the death of Aaron (verses 22-29). Moses would never enter the Promised Land because of his disobedience and his failure to trust God and to do what he told him to do the way he told him to do it.
Falling facedown before God is not enough. It is not a magic trick to get God’s attention and to make him do what we want him to do. When we go to our knees in prayer, or when we fall facedown on the ground, we are to pour out our hearts to God. We are also to open our ears. We are to take careful notes regarding what God says. We are to follow his directions precisely. Do not get up off of your knees or off of your face until you are determined to do God’s will God’s way.
And never, never, ever confuse your authority with God’s. Moses asked, “must we bring you water out of this rock?” (verse 10). No, not We. He. He alone could do that.
I will do what God says the way he says to do it.
Our Father, deliver me from a critical spirit. Save me from unrighteous displays of anger. Bless me with an ever-greater trust to do what you say when you say it and how you say it. Amen.
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