Summary: Moses at Meribah is a prime example of James’ statement that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.’ Moses let himself get distracted and apparently never really learned his lesson.

Numbers 20:1-13

James tells us something very important in James 1:19-20 “Wherefore, my beloved

brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man

worketh not the righteousness of God.”

The New International Version replaces the word “wrath” with “anger” and I don’t

think it is as strong. Paul tells us that we are to be angry and sin not, so there is a proper

and righteous anger. I believe that wrath denotes a harsh outpouring of anger. My own

personal definition is uncontrolled anger. We are right to be angry at sin. We are not right

to pour out that anger in a wrong way.

I enjoy using this particular illustration because it is comical. A man comes home at

3 in the morning and he has lipstick on his collar and smells of cheap booze and even

cheaper perfume. His wife stands in the doorway with her arms crossed and points at the

dinner table, where dinner was waiting from 6 P.M. until this early morning hour. She has

every right to be angry and upset. He has wronged her. However, she would be wrong to

crack him in the head with a frying pan, even though the ladies in the church where I

pastor think the bum would deserve it. She needs to find an appropriate way to express

that anger, and it needs to have some brakes on it.

Several years ago, a mother walked into a courtroom and shot a man who had

molested her child. She had every right to be angry, but her vigilante action was in wrath

and accomplished nothing bu getting her in trouble with the law, despite the fact that

many applauded her action because they didn’t believe she would get justice from the

justice system.

I believe that Moses’ action in Numbers 20 is an excellent example of how man’s

wrath doesn’t bring about righteousness in anybody’s life.

Numbers 20: 1

“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.”

The chapter begins with the Children of Israel arriving at the Desert region of Zin

and of Miriam’s death. While we cannot say that Miriam’s death definitely played a part

in Moses’ attitude in this chapter, it certainly couldn’t have helped. We know that Moses

loved his sister because he interceded with God on her behalf when she was struck with


The devil will always catch you when you are physically or emotionally drained

because he knows you are more easily manipulated at that time. In Matthew 4 the devil

approaches Jesus after a period of fasting and in which he was physically weak.

God has given us emotions, but he doesn’t want us to be controlled by those

emotions. God has given us human bodies, but we are not to be controlled by the body.

God has given us free will and that will is to be led by the Holy Spirit into Self-Control,

which is one descriptive word used to describe the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Whenever you find yourself at an emotional or physical low it is important to be

especially on your guard against Satan’s attacks.

Numbers 20:2-5

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

desert, 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!"

I think it is fair to note that a small portion of the complaint that the Israelites make

is valid-- there is no water. Quickly, however, the criticism degenerates into peripheral

complaints-- no water, no grapevines, no pomegrantes, etc. The Israelites had a valid

complaint, but they turned their valid complaint into a personal attack against Moses and


I wonder how often we let our valid complaints degenerate into personal attacks

against others. I know that sometimes congregations face major problems and rather than

dealing with the problem every possible complaint is aimed at the pastor, the deacons, or

other leaders within the church. This sort of response to a problem is less than helpful.

Isn’t it amazing that when the roof is leaking and funds for repair are short someone starts

griping about the church’s music program? Isn’t it odd that when someone is angry with

the pastor or other church leaders about the music that it isn’t long until someone is angry

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