Summary: The Israelites grumble again against God. Moses responds to their grumbling with anger and loses the privilege of entering the Promised Land. Moses responded with anger and disrespected God. We can learn a few things form an angry man who lashed out against the Creator.
Today’s topic is “Being Obedient” and as I look around our society in this COVID-19 time, I see a lot of people who are challenged with being obedient.
Many businesses have signs that say you have to wear a mask to enter, yet many don’t obey that sign.
We hear repeatedly that we should keep 6-feet away from others to contain this virus. Yet, many choose to gather in crowds and group activities, with or without masks.
We often know exactly what the rules are, COVID or otherwise, yet we want to do our own thing, do things in a way that pleases us, regardless of what any authority has to say about it.
I think it’s safe to say that many don’t like to obey directions that are given. Just watch how people drive in town and see how many obey road signs, traffic lights and other rules of the road.
Today, we’re going to look at Moses and the Israelites, and a story of disobedience.
For the past five weeks, we’ve been studying this fourth book in the Bible, and the continuing story of the journey to the Promised Land. We’ve looked at a census of Israel, God providing for Israel’s needs, and a number of problems that Israel struggled with.
The we also see a story of a people that were not content with where they were, and loved to complain along the way.
I’d like to invite you to open your Bibles with me as I read selected verses in Numbers chapter 20 where we read our text for today. Starting at the 2nd verse, it reads:
2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “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 they and their livestock can drink.”
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 honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
We’re a little more than halfway through the book of Numbers and we’re right at the cusp of Israel entering into the Promised Land.
Over the course of the last forty years, God has continually provided for Israel’s success every step of the way. God brought the miracle of plagues that moved Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.
He saved Israel from the pursuing Egyptian army when He parted the waters of the Red Sea.
God’s blessed His people with manna from heaven during the day and quail at night.
Yet, each time the Israelites saw a significant problem, it wasn’t their memory of how well God took care of them, but the memory of how good it used to be. Over and over they cried out,
“It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:12, ESV)
When people grow accustomed to the gifts that they receive, they often want more. We pray loudly when we’re in need, but we’re less willing to shout prayers of thanksgiving. The Israelites forgot the miracles… overlooked the blessings, and allowed complaints to abound.
Even with all this grumbling, God was with His people, every step of the way.
A Familiar Place
To fully appreciate our text for today, I’d like to take a look at a bit of history that will help us understand more of what’s happening.
The people are camped out in the Wilderness of Zin at a place called Kadesh, which is not an unfamiliar place. Early in Genesis (14:7), Kadesh is mentioned as a holy place where people and kingdoms could discuss their grievances and find agreements.
Abraham lived there, part of the time, as he used this site in his travels between markets in what is Southern Israel and Eastern Egypt today. (Gen 20:1) It was a place that offered water for donkeys and food for livestock to graze.