For four decades Moses led the people as they wandered in the dessert. Once when they were thirsty, God told Moses to hit a certain rock with his walking stick. He did and water gushed out.
Later on, the people again clamored for water. This time God told Moses to speak to a rock, but Moses hit it instead. Though the people still got their water, Moses earned a reprimand for his actions.
We don’t know for sure why Moses disobeyed God and hit the rock the second time, but it might be because hitting a rock worked once, so he did it again. He placed experience over God’s word. Though this worked out for the people, it didn’t work out so well for Moses.
Moses’ example reminds us that it’s important to carefully listen to what God says and then to precisely obey him.
[Exodus 17:6-7 and Numbers 20:7-12]
As a kid I enjoyed watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island. One thing that amused me was that for three years Gilligan sported the same outfit, but his clothes never wore out. They didn’t fade, become threadbare, or fray. His shirt, pants, shoes, socks, and even his hat lasted in pristine condition for as long as he was on the island.
But that’s nothing. Moses and the nation of Israel spent forty years in the desert and their clothes and sandals lasted that long. For four decades, their clothes did not wear out. Moses beats Gilligan by thirty-seven years, over thirteen times longer.
Although Gilligan’s situation amuses me, Moses’ situation amazes me.
Even more so is the reason Israel’s clothes lasted so long: God did this so that the people would know he was God, their Lord.
That makes me ponder the things God has done for me so I will know he is the Lord, my God. That’s amazing, too.
What do you thank God for?
Once, when the Israelites were in the desert and thirsty, God told Moses to speak to a rock and water would pour forth. Instead, out of anger towards the people, Moses hit the rock with his walking stick. Water still gushed out, but God was displeased over Moses’ lack of following directions.
Moses’ punishment was that God would not let him go into the territory he promised to give the nation. After forty years of faithful service, one mistake cost Moses dearly.
When it came time for Israel to take the land – without Moses – Moses blamed the people for God’s anger with him and punishment.
Moses, however, wasn’t the first to play the blame game. Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve ate fruit from the one tree God told them not to. Adam blamed Eve; Eve blamed the serpent. Even so, they still received punishment for their disobedience: God kicked them out of the garden.
It may be human nature for us to blame others for our mistakes. While doing so may deflect our faults onto others, it doesn’t remove the consequences. Just ask Moses, Adam, and Eve.
[Numbers 20:7-12, Deuteronomy 4:21-22, Deuteronomy 32:48-52, Genesis 3:12-13, Genesis 3:23-24]
Last week we talked about Noah’s obedience and Moses’ boldness. Both actions were reflections of their faith: the faith to obey and the faith to confront.
But what if Noah didn’t obey God, instead interceding for the people? If God changed his mind (as he did when Moses fasted and prayed), the great flood would have been averted.
What if Moses didn’t boldly approach God but merely accepted his plan, allowing the destruction of the people of Israel and making Moses into an even greater nation? Then millions would have died. Instead of there being the “children of Abraham,” we’d have the “children of Moses.” We wouldn’t talk about Father Abraham, but of Father Moses.
Had Noah and Moses acted differently, the world would have turned out much differently.
But both acted with great faith: obedient faith and bold faith. Both provide great examples for us to follow.
Who do you identify with more, Noah or Moses?
To Noah, God said I will destroy the earth. But God had a plan to spare Noah and his family. Building an ark didn’t make sense and required years of hard work, but Noah obeyed God’s instructions and survived the great flood.
We applaud Noah for his obedience to God.
To Moses, God said I will destroy these people. He promised to make Moses into an even greater nation afterwards. If I were Moses, I’d readily receive God’s words, both getting rid of the people who continually caused him grief and the part about making Moses into a nation. But Moses didn’t accept what God said. Instead, Moses sought to change God’s mind – and he did.
We greatly admire Moses for his boldness.
May we obey like Noah and be bold like Moses.
When Moses went up the mountain to get the 10 Commandments (the second time), God said “I will write on [the tablets] the words…” Imagine that, God providing written communication for Moses.
But it’s not just Moses, a few centuries later David said, “I have in writing from the hand of the Lord…” God wrote the instructions for David about building the temple, with “all the details,” so there’d be no confusion.
Wouldn’t it be great if God would write things down for us?
Wait, he did — and we can read it every day.
As we approach a new year, I encourage you to read what God said every day. Consider it a New Year’s Resolution, one with eternal ramifications.
Check back next week for the 2013 Bible reading plans.
[Exodus 34:1, 1 Chronicles 28:19]
In the Bible there’s the story of Jacob, who rolls away the stone from the well to water Rachel’s sheep. They get married.
Then there’s Moses. He rescues some shepherd girls when they are being harassed and provides water for their flocks. He marries one of them.
It’s just not a guy thing, either. Rebekah provides water for a stranger and his camels, showing herself to be the one for Isaac, son of the stranger’s master. They get married.
Sometimes performing simple acts of service result in some most amazing things.
[Genesis 29:10, Exodus 2:16-21, and Genesis 24:15-20]
The phrase “the finger of God” occurs four times in the Bible.
The first is when the Egyptian magicians cannot duplicate the feats God is doing through Moses and they say, “This is the finger of God.”
The second and third times are when God gives Moses the Ten Commandments inscribed on stone tablets. What tool was used to etch the message in stone? None other than “the finger of God.”
The final use of the phrase is recorded by Luke. Jesus, when verbally sparring with his detractors, says his power to cast out demons is “the finger of God.”
So “the finger of God” is sufficient to perform wondrous acts that cannot be duplicated, etch messages in stone, and empower Jesus to cast out demons.
If the finger of God can do all that, imagine what the arm of God can do — image what all of God can do.
Now that’s powerful.
Last year in my post on Korah’s rebellion, I noted that Korah had some progressive ideas about God and the people’s relationship to him. While these views are widely accepted today (thanks to Jesus), they were quite radical in Korah’s day.
However, I don’t think that Korah’s rebellion was theological in nature, that is, it was not about beliefs and doctrine, about what is right and what is wrong.
Korah’s rebellion was against Moses, God’s chosen leader, and therefore it was against God himself.
Korah arguably had the right ideas, but he was wrong in opposing God’s leader in order to promote his progressive perspectives.
Korah’s error was in disrespecting God’s ordained leadership — an error we need to carefully guard against.
The book of Joshua opens by confirming the death of Moses, followed by a curious instruction: Now you go into the Promised Land.
Imagine that, an entire nation was put on hold, unable to move — until Moses died. Moses had to die for them to receive what God had promised to give them. What if Moses had stubbornly clung to life for another month, another year, or even longer, holding on to a vain hope that he would also be allowed to enter the Promised Land? Then the people would have had to wait even longer. Or what if Moses had died a bit sooner? Perhaps the people could have moved forward a bit sooner.
Though it seems morbid, Moses’ death was a good thing for the people. Though their faithful leader was gone, only then could they receive God’s promised provision. His death was a necessary requirement for their journey.
It’s kind of like receiving an inheritance. The person needs to die for the gift to be given. Their death releases what has been promised.
It’s kind of like Jesus. He, too, had to die for us to receive what God had in store for us. His death was sad and horrific, but it was necessary for what happened next — our salvation.