There are some accounts in the Bible that used to make me a wee bit upset at my Heavenly Father and His actions. But, the closer I’ve drawn to Him throughout the years, the more they now make sense.
One of them is in Numbers 20:1-13.
The Israelites have been wandering in the desert for almost 40 years. Why? Because they continued to rebel against God even after He freed them from Egypt’s slavery through the miraculous last act of drying up the Red Sea (see Exodus 14, Joshua 5:6).
Moses had been patiently (usually) leading them those 40 years, but now as Numbers 20 opens up and the Israelites are again complaining that they’re thirsty – blaming it on Moses and Aaron – Moses is nearing the end of his rope.
Moses and Aaron pray, and God tells Moses to gather the people, take his staff in his hand, and speak to a rock, which will then yield water.
The assembly of people are gathered, and then Moses speaks – but instead of speaking to the rock, speaks to the people:
‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff…
Number 20:10-11 NIV (emphasis mine).
You can certainly sense Moses’ frustration – as I would have been trying to manage a group of whiners for almost 40 years!
The Lord, of course, did provide the water for the people, but He was angry with Moses.
Because Moses, the man of whom God had chosen to lead the Israelites out of slavery – the man of whom Deuteronomy 34:10 says God knew face-to-face – had disobeyed God’s clear instructions.
How? First off, Moses wasn’t told to speak to the people, but speak to the rock; and secondly, Moses wasn’t told to strike the rock like he’d done previously in Exodus 17:6.
But there was another glaring sin…
Moses included himself in the miracle of what God was going to do by providing water for the people to drink, by stating that he and God were providing the water, not God alone: “Must we bring you water…”
Not something that you should be doing! God had given him clear instructions.
Because of this particular act, neither Moses nor Aaron would step foot into the Promised Land.
For years I thought that was just plain mean of God. I mean after all, Moses had followed God’s instructions starting way back when he was told to go and confront Pharaoh himself (Exodus 5-12). He had done what God asked of him over and over again, and now – when he’s sick and tired of the Israelites complaining and loses his temper – he’s told that he’ll not enter the land he’d been wandering through the desert waiting to get to for such a long time.
But did that mean that God didn’t love Moses anymore? Absolutely not! God never stops loving His children – it’s a promise (Hebrews 13:5).
The Lord ended up letting Moses climb up Mount Nebo to view the Promised Land from a distance. And even more important, after that God took Moses home to be with Him forever (Deuteronomy 34:5, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8) – I can’t think of a happier ending than that!
Most of the time we just get “inklings” of what God wants us to do with no specific instructions – just the first step to take. So we step out in faith, trusting that God will guide us and show us what to do next when He’s ready.
But occasionally, he will give specific instructions, just like He did with Moses. When we receive specific instructions from Him, be careful you do what He says!
For me – someone who likes to blast forward sometimes – that means I need to be careful, so I keep praying that God would direct me and not let me stray.
Have you ever been trying to witness to a loved one about Jesus, and all of a sudden the door just seems to slam shut? Well then stop witnessing! That may be all this particular person needs to hear at that moment in time; God may be working on them in ways that we have no idea about.
Sometimes the Bible has a way of making us question God and His motives, doesn’t it? Is there a passage of Scripture that has always seemed “not quite fair” to you? How have you dealt with it?