Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 7 March 20:
Numbers 20:10 — “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”
It is hard to completely understand what happened at Meribath. Moses ‘struck the rock’ the first time in Exodus 17, and God miraculously provided for the people, while giving Moses a miraculous experience with His glory. This time, however, it cost Moses entry into the Promised Land – “And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.’” Moses’ life-long journey seems to have come to a dead end. What happened?
True, Moses was not supposed to strike the rock this time but rather “speak” to it. True, Moses seems to lose His temper. However, it would appear to me that the main issue (subject to much debate) was that Moses gave himself partial credit for the miracle of the water rather than giving all glory to God – “shall WE bring water….” God rebuked Moses, saying — “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold ME as HOLY (set apart) in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them (Numbers 20:12).” It is unthinkable for God’s servant to share glory with God. God’s ambassador represents Him and Him alone, and ALL glory must go to God.
“Therefore, you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” God’s punishment of Moses may seem extremely harsh and unfair. After all, Moses had dedicated his whole life to humbly leading this stiff-necked people through great challenges in the desert, and his character was so much greater than everyone else’s. However, God holds leaders to a much higher standard than He does others (James 3:1), and when such an influential leader fails to uphold God as holy in the eyes of the people, that is a monumental violation which must be dealt with powerfully and publicly (before all who witnessed the offense). God’s standard for Moses was also much higher than everyone else because, though He was closer to God than everyone else, God intended to bring Him closer – God’s goal for Moses wasn’t life achievements but rather unity with Him.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28, 29) If God’s sole purpose for Moses’ life was to lead the people into the Promised land, then this incident would be a tragic end Moses’ life – he failed miserably and didn’t make it. Everything he had worked for was lost. However, God had a much greater plan for Moses. God gave Moses a mission to lead His people, but God’s ultimate purpose for Moses was to draw Moses closer to Him in eternal relationship, “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” It wasn’t as much what Moses was doing (the task) but rather who he was becoming along the way (the purpose). What was Jesus’ ultimate prayer for God’s people? “…that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…. they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:3, 22, 23)
God was using this failure to further refines Moses’ character and to reveal the reality of His grace and sufficiency to Moses – this was personal. God was more interested in Moses’ relationship with Him than in Moses reaching the temporal goal of crossing the Jordon River. God’s standard for Moses was much, much higher than His standard for everyone else, because Moses was at a different place in his relationship with God than anyone else, and God intended to take Moses to the next level by exposing Moses’ hidden pride so Moses would understand his total reliance on the love and grace of God. And ultimately, Moses did make it to the Promised Land, but in a much more powerful way — “And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus (Mark 9:4).”
Eternal life is not found in accomplishment but rather in “Knowing the Father and the One He has sent, Jesus.” (John 17:3) God often causes us to fail in our areas of strength we tend to rely on and take pride in order to expose and tear down our idols which stand in the way of our reliance on Him and fidelity to Him. Moses was the humblest man of his time, but God allowed him to fail in pride so Moses could understand the sufficiency of God’s grace. Abraham was known for his faith, yet time and time again, God had to expose his lack of faith. Solomon was the wisest man of his day, and God had to bring him to the place where he would see that his ‘wisdom’ and unapparelled accomplishment was ultimately “meaningless.” Peter was courageous, yet he had to fail through cowardice, denying Christ three times, in order to come to a place where he truly understood the sufficiency of God’s grace, empower Peter to truly die for Christ.
Where might you still be trying to share glory with God in your pride and efforts? What personal ‘strengths’ will God have to expose as idols in your life, that you may learn to understand the total sufficiency of God’s grace?
Psalm 28:8, 9 – “The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”
God wants you to learn to rely solely on Him in complete confidence and have fullness of peace and joy in Him. Christians are God’s anointed and His heritage. 1 John says, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge…. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:20, 27) Revelation 21 says, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7) “For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage.” (Psalm 94:14) The Lord Himself is your strength, your shield and your rock; call on Him, trust in Him, and give Him thanks. (Psalm 28:1, 7) He will never abandon you.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 Mar 20: Today, rest in the sufficiency of God’s grace, and give Him all the glory. Trust God with both your successes and failures, and be further conformed to the character of Christ.