Am I trusting enough?

Slices

Prepare

All true encounters with God begin with awareness of his holiness. This was the experience of Isaiah (Isaiah 6) and Peter (Luke 5). Take time to be still and recognise the holiness of God – his purity, glory and otherness. 

Bible passage

Numbers 20:1–13; 22–29

Water from the rock

20 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarrelled 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 corn 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 face down, 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 that they and their livestock can drink.’

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’

13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarrelled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them.

The death of Aaron

22 The whole Israelite community set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 23 At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 24 ‘Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Call Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. 26 Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there.’

27 Moses did as the Lord commanded: they went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. 28 Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, 29 and when the whole community learned that Aaron had died, all the Israelites mourned for him thirty days.

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Explore

You have to feel sorry for Moses. This chapter begins and ends with profound personal loss: the deaths of his sister Miriam (v 1) and his brother Aaron (v 29). Their prophetic and priestly gifts have been such a support to him as he has led his people. With Moses increasingly alone in leadership, the people focus their discontent on him for bringing them into ‘this terrible place’ (v 5). 

At this time of intense pressure, Moses makes a mistake that leads to a third devastating loss: the opportunity to enter the Promised Land. In frustration he points to himself rather than God: ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ In the crucial moment he did not trust God enough and thought it all depended on himself (v 12).  

The secret to Moses’ authority in leadership was always his humility (Numbers 12:3). This quality allowed God’s power to work through him. Without it he was just a weary, ageing man. 

For us too, in moments of pressure, it can be tempting to speak words that seem justified and feel good for a few minutes but lead to years of regret. At such times, I have to remind myself, ‘It’s not about me. Trust God. Honour him as holy.’ 

Author
Steve Silvester

Respond

Where are your pressure points? Humbly bring them to God.

Deeper Bible study

‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d, / it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven’.1 Gratefully recall ways in which you have experienced God’s gentle mercy and grace.

In his book, What’s So Amazing about Grace?, Philip Yancey coins the term ‘ungrace’. Today’s narrative illustrates both grace and ungrace. While still mourning his sister’s death (v 1), Moses gets more grief from the disgruntled Israelites (vs 2–5). Their anxiety over the water crisis is legitimate; their childish, petulant griping is not. Moses extends grace – not turning on them in anger but turning, instead, to God (v 6). 

Moses emerges from the tent of meeting armed with God’s script for an enacted parable of grace – but then he fumbles his lines! All God had required was that he ‘Speak to that rock before their eyes’ (v 8) so that the people would witness the outpouring of God’s grace like a waterfall! Moses speaks to the people rather than the rock; instead of obediently reflecting God’s grace, he demonstrates ‘ungrace’, addressing them as ‘rebels’ and administering a high-handed rebuke (v 10). The quality of mercy is badly strained in this messenger of God.

Moses’ upraised arm (v 11) contradicts his former submissive ‘face down’ (v 6) attitude before God. Shakespeare’s Portia declared, ‘His sceptre shows the force of temporal power … But mercy is above this sceptred sway.’2 Moses’ staff was intended to gather the people together (v 8), but it became a prop in a show of temporal power (v 11). James counsels, ‘Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.’3 Although water gushed forth from the rock, Moses failed in his role as God’s grace-dispenser.

Allow Yancey’s words to challenge you: ‘How is it that Christians, called to dispense the aroma of amazing grace, instead pollute the world with the noxious fumes of ungrace?’4

1 William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act 4 Scene 1  2Merchant of Venice, Act 4 Scene 1 3James 1:19,20  4 Philip Yancey, Christianity Today, Feb 1997

Author
Tanya Ferdinandusz

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year: Proverbs 5,6; Colossians 1

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