Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 19 May 2022:
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 God’s 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 even 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. Similarly, 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.
“It is easy to see why Moses became frustrated with the Hebrew people. They were so hard-hearted and weak in their faith that Moses lost his patience and became angry with them. Yet every time Moses shifted his focus away from God, it cost him. When he sought to help his people by taking matters into his own hands, he spent the next forty years herding sheep in the wilderness (Exod. 2:11-15). This time his impetuous behavior cost him the opportunity to enter the Promised Land (Num. 20:12). In his frustration at the peoples’ irreverence, Moses committed the very same sin, blatantly disobeying God’s instructions. How did this happen? Moses allowed his attention to shift to the behavior of others rather than focusing on the activity of God.
This could happen to you as well. God has put people around you who need your ministry to them. You will never be able to properly help them, however, unless your primary focus is on God. If you concentrate on people, their weaknesses, their disobedience, their lack of faith, and their stubbornness will quickly frustrate you. You may, like Moses, commit the very sins you are condemning. If, however, your eyes are fixed on holy God, you will become more like Him–gracious, forgiving, long-suffering, and righteous. When a friend’s behavior disappoints you, go immediately to the Lord. Seek to discern what God is wanting to do in your friend’s life rather than concentrating on your friend’s sin. Then you will have the strength, wisdom, and patience you need to help your friend in the way God desires.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
We should be examples to others by imitating Christ, acting exactly like Jesus.
1 Corinthians 11:2-16 — Customs and courtesies are often helpful visual reminders and acts of respect for the system of social order established by God. They speak to positional authorities and responsibilities, not to personal worth or value. Many honorable captains have saluted less honorable majors out of respect for the position, despite the person. God commands us to honor our fathers and mothers, not because they are always right, but because their position demands it. God does not call us to be contentious against rules of social order. However, customs and courtesies must never supersede God’s specific commands.
1 Corinthians 11:3 — “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”
Jesus is just as much God as the Father and equally worthy of honor, praise, and worship; yet He remains subordinate to the Father positionally. Likewise, wives are called to subordinate to husbands, but are not any less valued or less used by God.
1 Corinthians 11:10 — “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.”
The Bible explains that marriage is intended to be a visible symbol/reminder/metaphor of the love relationship between Christ and the Church. (Eph 5) Head coverings were intended to be a part of that symbology.
1 Corinthians 11:11 — “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman.”
Again, the man and woman are equally important and interdependent, though they have different roles and responsibilities ordained by God.
1 Corinthians 11:17 – “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.”
In your relationships, are you making things better or worse? Are you reconciling or causing greater division?
1 Corinthians 11:19 – “…for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”
Some division is inevitable due to sin, but Christians must be true to God while continually seeking, from a heart of love, to bring others closer to that truth, not allowing their own sinful behavior to stand in the way.
1 Corinthians 11:22 – “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”
In our worship, we should naturally be placing others ahead of ourselves, from the heart. Leaders of love do not have to be reminded to eat last.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 — Jesus broke bread even with Judas, who he never kicked out of the group. Judas accepted the gift in an unworthy manner. We must continually offer peace and grace to sinners, regardless of what they do with it (which is their responsibility, not ours). We must continually search our own hearts to consider what we have done with God’s grace.
1 Corinthians 11:32 — “But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
The Lord disciplines His people in painful ways within His grace. Grace saves us but doesn’t remove the demand for obedience of which we are still accountable.
1 Corinthians 11:33 — “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”
Again, leaders eat last. Worship puts everyone else ahead of self.
1 Corinthians 11:34 – “…if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.”
If your heart is not right for the situation, best to remove yourself from the situation rather than add to your sin or misrepresent Christ before others. For example, when you start to become emotional during a disagreement, remain silent rather than say the wrong thing. Don’t let your lack of self-control impact others in a negative way. As we continually partake in God’s grace, we must always offer grace to others and put them over ourselves.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 May 22: Deny your rights, overlook insults, put sinners before yourself, and speak to others in a way that promotes healing and reconciliation, opening the way to the preaching of the gospel. Do this as an act of worship and in gratitude for the grace that you have received from God. Reference from today’s readings: 1 Corinthians 11:34. Listen to others to truly understand them. Do not worry about making them understand you. Listen empathetically, seeking to promote love, unity, healing, and joy. Practice 1 Corinthians 13 love in your conversations today. Put everyone else ahead of yourself; submit to all authority, even if those in authority seem less mature than you (submission can be an act of leadership); obey God’s commands. (1 Corinthians 11)
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. (Numbers 20)