Summary: Making changes is tough and too often we do what Moses did and snap back to doing things the way we’ve always done them, but that’s not always God’s way!
“Let There Be a New and Better Way” – Numbers 20:8-12 January 2, 2005
Read Numbers 20:8-12
Ask: Do you notice anything wrong in that passage?
– God tells Moses to gather up three things: Aaron, his brother and “assistant pastor”; the staff, the symbol of Moses’ work as a shepherd both of sheep and of God’s people; and his entire community which would serve as a witness to a miracle which would be God’s response to their grumbling and complaining.
– God gives Moses specific details for procuring his provision: this will be a public display of God’s power; Moses is to speak to the rock (which could have been a craggy rock that was part of a hillside or outcropping of boulders); by Moses’ command enough water would come forth for the entire community and all of their animals. Wow! This is going to be so cool. But wait. What happens?
Moses does gather up his brother, the staff and the people.
Moses does hear God’s promise and believes enough to mobilize the community out to the rock.
But here it comes –
Moses is so frustrated with this group of whiners and complainers that he disregards God’s instructions and what does he do? He smacks the rock, not once but twice!
God honors his promise and the water gushes forth…but God’s not happy. Why? Because Moses disobeyed.
What did God tell Moses to do at the rock?
What did Moses do?
Every miracle before this required Moses to touch something or do something with the staff; every time God worked through him the staff was directly involved.
This time it’s different. God is trying to move Moses to a new and better way of doing things.
Now it was time to speak God’s word to the problem.
Moses didn’t accept the new and better way; instead he went back to the old way of doing things, and it cost him his right to enter the promise land.
We have entered a new year. 2005! Can you believe it?
What I believe is that God is going to point us to a new and better way, just like he did Moses.
My worry is that we’ll snap back to doing things the old way (i.e., the way we’re comfortable with), like Moses did, and lose the opportunity to make steps toward becoming a “promised land” church. That’s a church open to a bigger, better future; a church that looks forward to God’s promises of what will be and backward longingly at what God’s blessings were.
I’m going to try a little metaphor here to help us see what we are and what we ought to be.
I want to introduce the idea that as we look down the pipe of a new year, we can be one of three kinds of churches.
1) The Play-Doh Church
Play-Doh can be molded into any shape, but once it becomes hardened, there’s no changing it.
You can’t rework it, reshape it or even recycle it. Its first design becomes its only design.
The Play-Doh church has a tough time becoming anything that it isn’t.
It’s hardened almost to the point of being petrified.
If you even try to change the Play-Doh church, it will fall to pieces.
2) The Rubber Band Church
A rubber band can be stretched, but only to a limit. It has a pretty limited use and a basic purpose: to hold things together and wrap things up. If left to itself, it will snap back to its original shape, which can be any of a number of shapes.
The Rubber Band Church can stretch to accommodate, but only to a point. Anything new that tries to squeeze its way into the bulk of ministry the Rubber Band Church is already holding together will cause a little too much stress, stretching the church almost to the breaking point. The Rubber Band Church longs to snap back to the way it was with the cry of “This is how we were meant to be!”
3) The Silly Putty Church
Silly Putty can be stretched without breaking.
It can be broken and then brought back to its original composition.
Silly Putty was first just labeled as “bouncing putty” (in 1949) because of its ability to bounce back.
Silly Putty has the unique ability to reproduce pictures when it’s pressed onto newsprint.
And it’s just fun!
Today, Silly Putty is bought by the pound for fun and games, sure, but also as a way of relieving corporate and personal stress.
One company, Kevin Kelly, sells it at $16 per pound. Here’s there online ad:
“Silly putty – even the newer varieties like the thinking putty...— has long been sold in small amounts in the classic plastic egg. But this stuff is best enjoyed in bulk. The technical name of this now generic substance is Dow Corning Dilatant Compound 3179. Five pounds of it is.... well, pretty silly. Ten pounds of the stuff is enough to transfer a whole page of comics, or to make a humungous superball, or to lighten up the dour faces in a boardroom after being parceled out...Hand out some at your next birthday party. Don’t ask why.”