Monday, October 7, 2013

"Leadership Matters-following a Just & Holy God" (Numb 20)

"Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water…So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; 10 and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank…But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Num 20:8-12).

The Book of Numbers records the period when the children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years. The book displays how God had to groom his newly chosen people, teaching them how they are to behave as his children. So He provided the Law as a tutor for them (Gal 3:24) before He sends the ultimate One who will show them in the flesh what it means to be a child of God (Gal 3:25). 

This is the same way God deals with us today. In our case He sent Jesus to die to reconcile us back to God (Rom 5:10) AND to show us who God is (Heb 1:1-3), so that we may place our faith in Him, experience His love and willingly obey Him, living lives that show we are His chosen children indeed. 

This same thing God wanted for His first chosen people Israel. So during this time in the desert like a Father raising up a child to be a good citizen of society, God was raising up Israel to be good citizens of His kingdom, one not of this world (John 18:37). When He chose Israel, He set them apart for His use. However before they could be useful to be the light in their world, they had a lot that God had to teach them, his children needed to grow to know the voice of their Father. So the book of Exodus and Numbers records the beginnings of this growth journey.

God provided and protected His children Israel, day and night (Num 9:15-17) but disciplined them when they rebelled as we see in this story (Num 11, 14:13-19). He was raising Israel to worship Him as their on true God and also to trust Him as the one who provides for them and the one who loves them with an undying love*. This is not an easy task as we are going to see through the whole Old Testament, and one we understand first hand as we look at our own rebellious heart. This task of conforming God's children to His image is actually an impossible task without one very essential element-God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. We will see how this plays out more fully later when we get to the New Testament.

But for now we are stuck with a rebellious people, in this case even Moses rebels against God. He is frustrated, angry, impatient, tired of dealing with God's people…I am sure some Pastors can relate...if Moses feels this way, you can only imagine how God feels…he is Holy and perfect, yet patient and long suffering. God in His justice punishes Moses rather severely, declaring he will not enter the promise land with Israel. On first glance it seems rather unfair, but because I know God is perfect and Holy, I have to let this understanding be my point of view in order to understand the lessons I need to learn here. So lets take a look at some of them.

Lessons from God
There is a lesson even in the haystacks
  • Leadership Matters-(Luke 12:48) "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more". God expects more from leaders. We see this through several places in the Bible, when a leader fails, the whole nation suffers but when he follows God wholeheartedly many generations after that are blessed. One example is in 2 Samuel; when David rebels, 70,000 people die (2 Sam 24), when David follows God wholeheartedly, God preserves his line up till Jesus Christ, the One who will save the whole world (2 Sam 7, Mat 1:1-17). We also see this to be true in our lesson today.

  • God is not only loving but Just-(Exo 34:6-7) "Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” So here in this story we see that God cannot overlook sin, that is why He provided the sacrificial system for Israel, to pay for the penalty of sin which is death. This system was to be used until the ultimate sacrifice Christ comes to pay for sin once and for all. So until then the Lord being Holy and just had to discipline Moses for not obeying Him and not showing God to be Holy to Israel.

I still need to learn some things
  • I need to fear the Lord-( Prov 9:10) "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdomAnd the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding"(Prov 15:33) The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdomAnd before honor is humility".  Fearing God does not mean we are afraid of Him, but rather we understand who He is and with this understanding comes a respect, honor and appreciation for God. Fearing God is what helps us, flee the temptations that our sin nature longs for and those the delights of our world throws at us. This reverent fear of God causes us to make wise choices and lead others on this same path. The Moment Moses let his anger overrule his fear and respect for God, he disobeyed a direct instruction. So I pray we all grow in our fear for God as we realize that although He is our Father and friend, He is also the God who made the universe, and so demands our respect and reverence. How this is applied will look different from person to person, but God's Spirit would help us understand daily.

  • Anger can lead to great sin-(Ps 4:4) "Be angryand do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah". (Eph 4:26) "Be angryand do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath". In our story today, we see it was Moses anger that lead him to sin. The scriptures above suggest a cooling off period. it is not a sin to be angry, it is a normal and even protective human emotion. However anger has the tendency to go out of control and lead us to make poor choices. We all have to look at the best way to cool off when we are angry, before we act. For me I have to walk it off, drown myself in worship music, clean the bath tub…it seems to work for me sometimes. So no matter how mature we are as Christians, Moses as our example, we have to ask our God to help us manage our anger each time so that it will not lead to actions we regret.

I am sure you can come up with more lesson, and I encourage you to do that. I love the Bible because through its pages I learn more about the nature of the God who created the universe, helping me not to make Him in my own image, but to realize that I was made in His. The Bible forces me to live out the kind of life God prescribes and not that of my culture, even though my culture screams louder. The Bible corrects me when I am wrong and provides comfort to my soul. Most of all through God's word, God Himself helps me grow into someone that can reflect day by day who he is (His glory). I can reflect His love, joy and Truth in my world, helping others to experience His beauty because nothing else satisfies. 

I pray you will continue to journey with us at Comfortnotes as we learn from our God, through the 66 Love letters He has written to us, because from these letters comes real comfort for the soul.

*Earl D. Radmacher, The NKJV Nelson Study Bible, Nashville:Thomas Nelson, 1997, 225.

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