READ: Numbers 19-21, Psalm 47, Luke 3, 1 Corinthians 3


Moses hits a rough patch. In short order his sister dies (Num. 20:1), there is no water for his massive congregation (v. 2), and his followers gather and complain against him (v. 3). Initially he seems to handle it well, falling on his face and experiencing the glory of the Lord (v. 6). Moses listens to the voice of the Lord, makes one tragic adjustment (strikes the rock rather than speak to it), the people are granted water, and Moses is denied the promised land. At first blush it seems that God has been over harsh. A little digging adds perspective.

No one is allowed to rebel. God explains His rationale later in the narrative when He explains that Aaron will not be allowed to enter into the promised land because “you rebelled against my word” (v. 24). No one is allowed to disobey God’s Word. Not missionaries, not ministers, not Moses. When we meet with God, when we have responsibility to lead others into the presence of God, when God speaks to us, we must simply obey all that He tells us. We have to get the when, how, and what right – or face the consequences, whoever we are.

Nothing should point others to us.  Paul explains to the Corinthians that we are but messengers “through whom others believe” (1 Cor. 3:5). When God’s messengers participate in God’s message in such a way that draws attention to themselves, God is offended. Moses was told to speak to the rock – he instead struck it. On the surface this seems innocuous, but the reality is that God commits the primary communication of His message to speaking, as our actions often detract from the source of the message. This seems counterintuitive and dangerous as we have historically seen the equally offensive opposite — the abuse of hypocritical words without loving actions. Yet, God insists that the focus of any act or speech must be on Him alone.

When our actions (even in the attempt to communicate God’s message) make it seem that we are the source or the answer, glory is stolen from God and He is intolerant of such lechery. To the simple, striking the rock could have seemed to indicate Moses was the source of the miracle. Speaking (not striking) removes Moses one half-step from the miraculous and guarantees that only God did this. Moses understood this principle. In Numbers 16:28-30, Moses is dealing with rebellious Korah and tells the people that the proof of God’s sending is if Korah and family are destroyed by God’s hand alone – and the earth opens to swallow them whole. Moses was punished because he acted in the flesh when he knew better. And yes, the more spiritual authority you have, the more careful you must be to obey God implicitly.

No inheritance matches God Himself. Most importantly we must realize that Moses’ primary passion was not to cross a little river and then die fulfilled. Moses’ all consuming desire was to be in the presence of Jesus. Physical presence in the promised land was not what would fulfill Moses – his only eternal joy was the presence of Jesus. Success in ministry is not the goal. God is the goal. Moses was granted that.

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