Law & Grace 007: Whacking & WateringNumbers 20:1‐13 • Dr. Jim McGowan • April 29, 2018 • Law & Grace
Sugar Land Bible Church
Dr. Jim McGowan
Law & Grace 007: Whacking & Watering
4-29-18 Numbers 20:1-13
Good morning. I’d like to welcome you here to Sugar Land Bible Church, thank you for those of you that are here present physically here in our sanctuary and we’d also like to welcome those of you that are viewing by livestream, it’s a real blessing for us to have the opportunity to come and minister the Word of God on this occasion. I want to thank you for the privilege you give me here at church to do this and I’m excited this morning about what God has for us today. If you want to go ahead and open your Bibles up to Numbers 20, we’re going to be looking at verses 1-13. And while you’re doing that I’ll open us up with a word of prayer.
Dear Precious and Loving Heavenly Father, we come before you now in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with great praise and thanksgiving, mostly Father for who You are but also for what You do. Father, thank You for saving us, thank You for filling us with your Holy Spirit. Thank You, Father, that you didn’t leave us orphans. Father, thank You that You’ve given us a guide book whereby we can find answers to every issue of life. Thank You, Father, that You call us to be co-laborers together with You in this great work of bringing men and women, boys and girls to Jesus Christ. Bless the time we have today, Father God; help me Father, move me aside and may the Holy Spirit speak through me, to me and to all of us. I pray in Christ’s name, Amen.
If you have been participating in the studies that we’ve been doing you’ll recognize that this is session 7 of our Law & Grace series that we’re doing and here is an outline of what we’ll be looking at today. As always we’re going to review our purpose, aim and objective, we’ll do a little brief review of Session 6 to kind of help catch us up, and then we’ll enter into the material for today which is Whacking & Watering. Don’t you love these titles? Aren’t they great.
So, let’s look at our aim and purpose here; we said that the reason that we’re studying this topic of Law & Grace, there’s a lot of confusion out there so our aim and purpose and objective here is to compare and contrast Law & Grace so as to properly understand these two important themes AND (this is the important part) how they are related to the life of the New Testament believer. And hopefully we’ve, in previous sessions, given you some insight perhaps that you haven’t had or perhaps had forgotten and had a chance to renew that in your heart and mind. I’m not going to read through this again, I have a made a point to include this in the last two or three sessions but I would strongly encourage you to go back and look at the material and take time to read this. The issue that Dr. Scofield brings up here is this issue of Galatianizing and being Galatianized in the church today. And basically in a nutshell what he’s saying here is because we are very much like the Galatian church we’re confusing the themes of law and grace and that impacts us greatly in terms of our ability to walk in the things of the Spirit. So I’d encourage you to go back and read that when you have some time.
I’ve been throwing this chart up here just to give you some ideas, just very briefly there’s a whole lot more material than this but just to show you that there are some real significant differences in the teachings of law and grace, again I’m not going to read that to you, I’d encourage you to go back and look at that slide.
So let’s review what we have been talking about in lesson 6. You’ll recall that in lesson 6 we had Moses getting the Ten Commandments and you’ll recall that one of the important things that God said during that point in time was that the children of Israel, even their beasts, their animals were to keep their distance from the mountain because there was something very important and very holy transpiring there. You will recall that I put this chart up last time, the last couple of times showing you that there are various ways in which different groups break up the Ten Commandments and I actually got a couple of comments from folks that said hey, I really appreciated the slide, I didn’t realize that there was so much variation in terms of how people look at these, but I guess the main point is that regardless of how you divide them up everyone comes up with ten and that’s the important thing.
Just a few slides here again, with review, some of the things we brought out last time in Exodus 20:1-21 we said that presents what has come to be called the Ten Commandments, and there were additional spoken instructions at the end of the chapter, that was after verse 21. Some people stop at the Ten Commandments and say oh, there you are, we got the whole deal there. That’s not the case! We said that the Ten Commandments were later literally called the Ten Words, so we’ve added this, through church tradition, this word “Commandment” but they’re literally in the Hebrew text called the Ten Words. And in Exodus 21 through 21 which we’ve covered, the ten were not given some special unique name. You know, the Ten Commandments have sort of been elevated and esteemed and exalted above all the rest of the Law, and so it’s important for us to understand that when God thinks in terms of the Law He doesn’t just think about the Ten Commandments, He thinks about the entirety of the Mosaic system.
We said that the first tablet of stone were broken by Moses, he got a little upset with the children building, fashioning the idol, the calf, and he broke the tablets and new tablets of stone were being written again by God and those were placed in the Ark of the Covenant. We also mentioned the fact that in Deuteronomy 5:4-25 that that consists of a retelling of the Law, the Ten Commandments plus, to the younger generation and that is the reason why that book is called Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy means second law. And so here they were at this point in time in Deuteronomy, they’re about to go into the Promised Land and at that point in time God says maybe we’d better rehearse this law business again because it’s going to become very important as you enter into Canaan.
The Ten Commandments were clarified, this is an interesting point, with additional laws. For example, if someone was presumed guilty the Law that came after the ten clarified, well how were those individuals to be brought up with charges? How were they to be proven guilty or innocent? How were they to be punished? So the Law, the entire Law is holy, not just the Ten. All of the additional laws were to be followed with equal attention to detail and weight; you couldn’t pick and choose, you know, I really like commandments 1-4, I think I’ll follow those and leave the rest for someone else. NO, the Law is the Law! And it was to be followed explicitly.
The first of the ten were not the first commandments in the Bible, we mentioned the fact that there were commands to be fruitful and to multiply previously, there was a command about male circumcision given Abram, the command for observing the Passover which happened previous to this part in the story. These were all given before the Ten Commandments.
And then something a lot of people were surprised to discover is that much of the Law of Moses was actually revealed through the agency of angels and if you’d like to go back and look at those passages it’s very interesting. A lot of people think that God just dictated all of the Law and that’s not the case. The Ten Commandments as given are holy, righteous and good, thus says the Apostle Paul, and then he says the Law demands obedience but provides no power… NO POWER to comply with those demands. So notice, this is very important, we have many believers today that want to live under the Law, but notice the last part of that statement there, you have no power to keep the Law if you’re under the Law and therefore the Law becomes fatal, it becomes fatal! And that’s why Paul called even the Ten Commandments, the tablets there and letters engraved in stone, listen to what he called them; does this sound like an encouraging statement? Let’s all follow the Ten Commandments, which he called a ministry of death and condemnation. So that’s a pretty heavy thing to say there, isn’t it?
Paul told us that we have died in relationship to the entire Law of Moses and Andy, Pastor Woods has brought out in the past there are some that want to take the Law and divide it up… well, you know, there’s the moral law and there’s the ceremonial law, we don’t have to follow the ceremonial law but we have to follow the moral law. We know that’s not what Paul said at all. He said the entire Law of Moses that we’re dead to it and we’ve been released from the law to be joined to Christ. Remember that in the Bible death means separation and the spiritual way of thinking there can never be a void; if you’re alive to the Law you’re dead to God as a believer. If you’re dead to the Law you’re alive to God, Paul is saying here. The singular reigning principle or rule of grace during the church age is what? The Law? NO! It’s grace… it’s grace!
We have said that salvation in every dispensation is always by grace through faith and that grace is not just the means of our salvation but it’s also, notice, the motive for our living. It’s the means for our living and it’s the source of opportunity within the church body. All ministry that takes place in the church is due to God’s wondrous grace. Isn’t that fantastic. You can believe it or not, me being up here before you this morning is God’s grace; some of you were wondering, I could tell. No, it is God’s grace to. So that brings us to the end of our review. Now if you need to run out and get a cup of coffee it’s okay, just be sure you come back quickly.
So that brings us to our session this morning, Whacking and Watering. So here’s our outline again, let’s look at what the Scriptures say. If you’d like to follow along I’m going to read these. It says, [Numbers 20:1] “Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there.  There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron  The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, ‘If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD!  Why then have you brought the LORD’S assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here?  Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.’”  Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them;  and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  “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. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.”  So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him;  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?”  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.”  Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them.”
Wow! Okay, strap on your seat belts, get ready, here we go. Let me give you some general information about this account. First of all this is not the first time, as you know, that water has been brought forth from the rock. We saw that happen in Exodus 17:1-7 and now here we have it again in Numbers 20:1-13. Some of the details are a little bit different though.
Now let me make a side comment just for a moment. It’s important that I tell you that thus far in our sessions I’ve tried to make a very clear distinction between Law and grace and give you contrasts and comparisons; I’m going to depart from that technique a little bit today but don’t lose heart, I think you’re going to discover that the event that we’re going to talk about here, since they are in fact key events in the life of Moses, and because there are tremendous spiritual principles I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed. So bear with me here.
This is the second account in which water is brought forth from the rock and as we worked our way through the Exodus account, remember we’ve been at this thirty thousand foot level, we actually passed over the first account, which again is found din 17:1-7. And there you’ll recall that the children of Israel were on their way down toward Mount Sinai. So they had crossed the Red Sea, they’re on their way down to Mount Sinai, and the Lord miraculously provides water in a very similar fashion to what we see here, almost forty years later. Isn’t that interesting?
So the account in Exodus 17 took place when? At the beginning of the Exodus and the account that we’re going to talk about today in Numbers 20 takes place toward the end of the Exodus. It’s almost as if they’re book ends of the Exodus story. Very interesting!
Let me give you a geographical overview of what we have seen thus far. Here’s a picture, if you look at the top center you’ll see that lush green area, that’s the land of Goshen. And so the children of Israel start out from the land of Goshen, they head sort of east, on the east side I should say of the Nile delta. Then, as they continue on down they cross the sea and they head towards the Sinai desert there, along the Sinai peninsula. And they eventually come to Mount Sinai and that’s somewhere near the southern end of the Sinai peninsula, and again as we’ve indicated this is where the first water from the rock event took place, just as they are getting close to Mount Sinai.
Then they travel northward up to Kadesh-barnea and Kadesh-barnea is the largest oasis in the wilderness of Zin. So that tells you why they were going that direction. In the northern Sinai there it served as kind of a base for the children of Israel until they ultimately set out on their campaign for the conquest of Canaan. So Kadesh-barnea is going to be an important place in the life of the children of Israel. You may recall that Kadesh-barnea was also the location where the spies had been sent out and where ultimately the children of Israel were disciplined because of their unbelief. And what happened? They were told to turn and go back into the wilderness and so they had a little journey ahead of them at that point in time, of some 38 to 40 years.
Just for information purposes here’s a family tree showing Sarah and Abraham down to Miriam, Aaron and Moses. And Scripture doesn’t tell us specifically what Miriam’s age was, generally the idea is that she was somewhere between the ages of probably about 7 and 12 years of age when Moses was dropped off in his little private ark in the Nile River. But we do know from Exodus 7:7 that Aaron was three years older than Moses. [Exodus 7:7, “Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.”] Interesting information.
Let’s move into the commentary section here. So here in Numbers chapter 20, verse 1, what’s the first thing that we really see happening here of import. We see that Miriam, the older sister of Aaron and Moses, dies. This is a significant event. It says she died there and was buried. [Numbers 20:1, “Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there.”]
Now you may recall that Miriam, the prophetess, had been the one who had led the musical celebration when the Israelites passed through the sea and the Lord rescued and delivered the people of Israel and also eliminated the Egyptians. She was so excited she grabbed her tambourine and led a bunch of ladies out ant they started a dance party. I don’t think it was a dance off, a dance party, that’s a little different there. You also recall that Miriam is the one who led Aaron in sibling rivalry against Moses in Numbers chapter 12. Now some people like to say well wait a minute, Jim, I don’t see that in the text; prove to me that Miriam was the leader. Well, let me give you a couple of things that you might not be aware of. It’s pretty clear that she was the leader in that incident, both from the priority of her name appearing over Aaron’s in the text, and also, and you have to know a little Hebrew here to get this, the use of the feminine gender of the verb “spoke” in that passage is feminine in the Hebrew text. So it was Miriam the prophetess who was leading Aaron and Aaron being the… you know, properly obedient younger brother following in her dissimilation there.
And of course you know what happened, she was smitten with leprosy, and that’s kind of what those two lower pictures are representing there. And that was not a good thing, was it? Fortunately Aaron prayed for her and God healed her. So Miriam had been one of those that had celebrated their delivery after crossing the sea, Miriam was among those who died without entering the Promised Land due to unbelief.
And that brings us to the wilderness of Zin. So here they are camped at the wilderness of Zin; Miriam dies. I previously mentioned the fact that Kadesh-Barnea was the largest oasis in the wilderness of Zin, but you might be wondering, if you look again at verse 2,what does verse 2 say, “There was no water for the congregation,” but [can’t understand word] just said it was the largest oasis in the wilderness; what’s going on here? Right. Well, it’s interesting because if you’ll recall that the children of Israel at this time numbered somewhere in the vicinity of 1.5-2 million people and that didn’t include all their animals. So you had to have sufficient water for all of that congregation and their beasts. Now that, as you can imagine, would require a lot of water on a daily basis.
Now the text doesn’t specifically indicate that there was absolutely no water; that could have been the case. It could have actually been the case that there wasn’t sufficient water, that’s also a possibility. So again we still have to ask ourselves, well why would that be the case. I mean, after all, if they were using this as their base of operations they apparently hadn’t encountered this problem before, at least not in a recent period of time, so what’s going on here. Well, it’s very interesting that you’ll discover that in these oases that it’s not uncommon for the water table to drop. So from time to time the rains have been good in other parts of the area that water table will come up and there’s an abundance of water and other times the water table goes down and you don’t have as much water.
As I was thinking about this it reminded me also that there might have been another issue going on here, although the text doesn’t say so; I had the opportunity to go to Africa on a mission trip one time and once we got all the work done it was play time and so we decided we were going together to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and unfortunately that didn’t pan out. So they said well, we’re going to substitute another trip for you, we’re going to take you over to the ark, and if you’re not familiar with this resort (I guess I’ll call it that) I’d encourage you to go look it up on the internet, it’s pretty fascinating, somewhere back, I think in the 1800’s some wealthy individuals went out in the middle of the jungle and they constructed a facility that is designed after the ark, Noah’s ark. And there was a place where they lived for years, and then finally they sold it, I think to Kenya, and they turned it into an animal viewing location; very fascinating.
And to bring it home here one of the things that I noticed when I was there, staying up all night long watching the animals come in, you know, animals are not very discriminating. Have you noticed that, when they go to the water hole they… I don’t want to gross anyone out but they don’t mind drinking and defecating and urinating all in the same place. And this went on over and over all night long. The elephants would come in and they would do that, the rhinos would come and they would do that, the little gazelle animals would come in and they were all doing this, the water buffalo’s. And I’m just wondering, can you imagine if you had all these animals that had to have water if maybe there wasn’t a possibility that part of the reason they didn’t have any water was the water table had dropped and the water had gotten kind of foul. I don’t know, that’s a freebie, do with what you want to with it.
But whatever the reason is, if we look at verse 3, verse 3 tells us that, “The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD!” [Numbers 20:3] Great men and women of faith here, right? Have you noticed in our study of the Law and grace before how fickle the children of Israel are? They’re so… now this is audience participation when I say “Have you noticed” you’re supposed to say “how fickle were they?” No, you didn’t do it, okay… well, this is how fickle they were: here’s what’s happening. All through the story there we see that they come to Moses and they always have one of two extreme responses. Ready… here it is—number one it’s either Moses, we’re all going to die, oh no! OR, it’s Moses, we’re all going to die I hope. Isn’t that right? That’s what you have happening here.
Look at verses 4 and 5. In verses 4 and 5 notice the two very similar questions that are asked that are presented here. They say, now look at this, they say, [Numbers 20:4-5] “why then have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness for us and our beasts to die here?” Oh boohoo! Can you see it? And the next question is  “Why have you made us to come up from Egypt to bring us into this wretched place.” Oh my goodness! The thing they had forgotten here is the fact that the Lord Himself had made it very clear that He was the one who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. Is that not true? Moses was merely His agent. But instead of acknowledging that the Lord had brought them there they chose to use this as an opportunity, just another opportunity to do what? Murmur and complain.
Now it’s interesting that the only factual statement in that passage right there is in verse 5, at the end when they said, “it is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink. That’s the only thing that they said that was accurate. And we’re going to focus on that here in just a minute.
So what the children of Israel did here was a lot of faithless complaining and this, despite the many miracles and miraculous events that they had witnessed for almost forty years. Let me just rehearse a little bit of that with you. Just imagine now many of these people had seen all of the Exodus events; they had seen the parting of the sea and they had walked through on dry ground. They had witnessed what happened when the Lord closed up the waters over the Egyptians. They had seen the Shekinah glory of the Lord on top of Mount Sinai. They had heard God speak from the midst of the Shekinah cloud, in fact, they’d even said oh Moses, you go talk to the Lord, we don’t want to hear Him any more. Right? They had seen the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, daily… daily! They had seen and been partakers of the daily miracle of the manna and had eaten the quail that the Lord had provided. Their clothes and sandals did not wear out according to Deuteronomy 29:5 and they had witnessed miracle after miracle. Yet they were choosing to push all of that aside focusing on the fact that they were hungry and thirsty.
Do you think that they had had manna that morning? I bet they had. Yeah, they had had manna that morning. Interesting! So once again the children of Israel lost their focus on God’s providential care which always resulted in either a fleshly self-focused unreasonable fear of dying or a wretched irrational yearning to die. So if I were going to sum up the children of Israel’s exodus experience I would borrow from Shakespeare and I would say that the subtitle to Exodus would be “To die or not to die, that is the question.” Right? They had rejoiced that God Himself had brought them out of Egypt but now they blame Moses because they’re hungry and thirsty.
Notice that their words and their attitudes reveal that their hearts were where? Still in Egypt. This brings us to the point of a very important principle, VIP! Wherever you are and wherever you go on earth you’re always passing through. We’re indeed going to find some places and some circumstances that are better than others, aren’t we. There will be variation on how much we enjoy one situation versus another. But wherever God has you right now you will not be there forever. Our earthly journey is temporary, isn’t it. We’re just passing through. In fact, the earth is just a getting ready kind of place. Earth for the believer is a getting ready kind of place, getting us ready for what’s next, which is what? Heaven! God had promised… listen now, God had promised to bring the children of Israel into the land of Canaan. At this point they had been traveling from one place to the next for about 38 years. In the flesh things looked bleak to them. But God was not going to leave them at Kadesh-barnea in the wilderness of Zin forever. He had promised them, had He not.
Similarly for the believer, no earthly circumstance is here to stay forever. The earth is just a getting ready kind of place for us. Our earthly existence is more like a railroad station, it’s not a place to stay, we’re just passing through. What God is doing presently, right now, is getting us ready for our true home so we shouldn’t get all wrapped up in God’s process of getting us ready so much so that we lose sight of where it is we’re headed. We shouldn’t get so… let me say that again, we shouldn’t get so wrapped up in what is happening now that we lose sight of what God has in store for us. And that’s kind of the tendency, isn’t it, when we look at the news and we go online and we see all the things that are happening around the world, we kind of have a tendency (like the children of Israel) to lose our focus. Well, let’s not do that.
Verses 6-8, in these verses what we see happening is what is it that Moses and Aaron do when they’re confronted by these children of Israel? Well, they leave the presence of the assembly and they enter the presence of the Lord. I like that.. I like that! They leave the presence of the assembly and they enter the presence of the Lord. And now they’re at the “doorway of the tent of meeting” which is also called the tabernacle, and there the glory of the LORD appears and He speaks to them.
Now I’m getting excited, we’re getting to the good stuff, right? “the glory of the LORD” appears, it’s all going to be great and wonderful and exciting. You can see pictured here a real life model, in the middle picture, that’s a real life model pitched out in the desert, and then the picture on the right is a rendering that kind of gives an idea of what it would have looked like to see the tabernacle set up and all the tribes in the camp around about it so this sort of gives you an idea of what was happening there during this time.
So what happens in verse 8? God tells Moses to take his rod, now was that rod important? That was the same rod that he had used to do what? All the miracles in Egypt; same rod he used to split the Red Sea, so He tells him take your rod, and He says you and Aaron go gather the people together. And then He says speak to the rock and He says the water will flow. Now let’s see, one, two, three, four, there’s four things to do, that’s all it is. Just four things. Here we go.
Previously in Exodus 17 when Moses was providing water through the agency of the Lord there what was he told to do? He was told to strike the rock one time and he did that and the water came out. But notice this time the Lord says “speak to the rock” and so that’s what Moses was supposed to do. He told them that if they would do this there would be water for them to drink. So what happened? Well, Moses starts out well, we’re on the right track here Moses, so Moses gets off to a good start, he takes his rod just as the Lord had said for him to do, he and Aaron gather the people of Israel exactly as the Lord had told them to do. Man, we’re obeying here, we’re doing the right thing, this is good stuff. He gets a gold star, right.
But then what happens, oh my goodness, he goes from this good start and then he starts to ad lib. Instead of speaking to the rock as God had said he spoke to the people in anger, so much so that he calls God’s chosen people rebels, “you rebels,” listen you rebels…ooohhweee. Now we’re in trouble. This brings us to another very, very important principle: allowing our feelings and emotions to reinterpret God’s Word is NEVER a good idea. Remember what God had said? There were four things: take the rod, assemble the people, speak to the rock, and the water will come out. That’s all he had to do. When the people came to Moses though they were angry, weren’t they? They were upset and instead of putting his faith in what the Lord had told him to do Moses responded in-kind. At that point Moses was following his feelings, not faith in the fact of what God had just told him.
Remember, all he had to do were four things. A key thing at this point for us as believers to understand is represented in this illustration of the faith train. The railroad tracks represent the biblical facts, what does the Bible say? Faith is like the engine of the train and faith in the biblical facts represents the train running on the tracks. And you’ll notice that when faith leaves what follows? Feelings, emotions and circumstances. So it’s not just how you start; feelings and emotions took over which is a real problem because Paul tells us is in Romans 8:7, “The mind set on the flesh is hostile towards God.” [Romans 8:7, “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.”]
Instead of speaking to the rock as instructed Moses struck the rock twice and this is bad! But hold on, it gets worse. Moses misrepresents God. Moses not only didn’t do exactly what God said but he also spoke as if bringing the water from the rock was his and Aaron’s accomplishment. Can you see him sticking his thumbs up under here? WE, we’re going to do this, right. Notice what he said, “Shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock.” [Verse 10] Shall WE, at this point in Moses’ emotionally charged thinking God doesn’t even have anything to do with what’s happening. “WE” he says, “WE” Aaron and I, my older brother, WE’RE going to provide this water for you, you rebels! Wow!
That brings us to another very important principle: our best efforts and good intentions just aren’t good enough. Would you agree with that? We have to realize that our best intentions just won’t get the job done. Many people believe that they’re good enough to get into heaven on their own. Do you know anybody like that? Maybe you were like that before you came to Christ. That’s why works oriented religion draws so many people. Have you noticed that? And that’s the reason why these self-help books, even the ones in the Christian bookstore, just fly off the shelf, because by golly, we’re all going to do it, we’re going to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We’re going to make it happen. We’re going to accomplish what needs to be done. But heaven, as you know, is only accessible to fallen man by faith in God’s work through Christ, faith that Christ died for your sins, that He was buried, that he rose again, faith that Christ, the Son of God did those things for you personally, that is what saves a person. Not being good enough or as some like to say well, I’m not as bad as so and so, I’m actually better than average. It doesn’t matter, you’re still not good enough, are you ?
Guess what? Most of us sitting here as believers, we understand that, we believe that, we accept that, we applaud that don’t we. However, what I want you to keep in mind is that even after you’re saved it’s still not our best efforts that God wants. What God has in mind for us is not something we can pull off on our own. It’s not our own efforts that will accomplish God’s purposes for us; it is God’s, it is the Lord’s! It’s true that God wants to use us as instruments but not for us to rely on our own abilities and then take credit, like Moses did in this passage.
So Moses called the people of Israel rebels. That wasn’t quite what God had told him to say, was it? God had told him to speak to the rock, not to the people. But not only did he speak to the people instead of the rock he spoke in anger and he took credit for the miracle that was to follow.
That brings us to verses 12 and 13. Moses’ error, after almost forty years of leading the Israelites in the wilderness, would have very severe consequences for him. As a result of his disobedience Moses would not be allowed to lead the children of Israel into the Promised land nor would he be allowed to even set foot in it. He would only be allowed to see it from afar.
Can you put yourself in Moses’ place just for a second? You have been faithful to God, you have led the children of Israel all through the wilderness, you’re literally at the point where your toes are about to cross over into the Promised Land and because of stupidity and self-will you blow it. And now you have to stand there and look at what God is going to do with the children of Israel. How disheartening that would have been. Right? Can you imagine, maybe slap yourself up against the side of the head… dumb, dumb, dumb, why did I do that? Right?
The lesson that we should learn from this is that earthly disobedience now always has consequences. Did you notice that “always”. We sometimes think that well, you know, there are little sins in our life, well, they’re not that big of a deal. I like what Lewis Sperry Chafer said. He said that “secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven.” Ouch! Well, I have good news. We don’t want to just leave on a bad note there. Hey, guess what? Moses will ultimately have the opportunity to walk the land. He’s going to do that at the same time we do it, in his resurrected body, and that’s because God is wonderfully gracious, isn’t He.
Let’s ask some quick questions. What went wrong here? What went wrong! Moses didn’t listen carefully, just doing the same things the same way as was done before was not what God had in mind at all. Perhaps, who knows, perhaps Moses was thinking well, you know, I’ve struck the rock the first time, so it was one time, hey, okay, this is the second time, well, maybe two times, it’s not that big a deal, speaking, smiting, what’s the difference. Right? Well, God had a different plan and purpose in mind which Moses would declare later in the Book of Deuteronomy and it was basically that God intended for Moses to glorify Him. But there’s even more; if you go look at Deuteronomy in chapter 32 you’ll find five times there where Moses, subsequent to this event, refers to the rock as God. So there was a little more significance here to what was happening. God hadn’t shown Moses that yet; God expected Moses to act in faith and he didn’t. Moses gets the picture later and ah, I get it now!
But that’s not all, there’s the verse, look at that, the Rock, the Rock, the Rock, the Rock, and he’s talking about God there. [Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31] I encourage you to go look at that.
[Deuteronomy 32:4, “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:15, “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked– You are grown fat, thick, and sleek– Then he forsook God who made him, And scorned the Rock of his salvation. Deuteronomy 32:18, “You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth.” Deuteronomy 32:30, “How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the LORD had given them up?” Deuteronomy 32::31, “Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, Even our enemies themselves judge this.”]
But not only that, but notice the Apostle Paul uses this very same event and he says that the rock was a picture of Christ Himself. Look at this verse, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;  and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;  and all ate the same spiritual food;  and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” The rock “was Christ,” interesting. What went wrong? Striking the rock twice in anger was not only an act of disobedience, it was an act that did not properly honor and respect God. God wants to use us, again, as his instrument but He doesn’t want us acting on our own and taking the credit.
Why, it’s a good question to ask here, why did Aaron also receive the consequences? Wasn’t it Moses who had spoken and acted in the wrong manner. I can just see all of our millennials today… “that’s NOT FAIR!” Right? But is it or isn’t it? Let’s contemplate that for just a moment. I have a question for you: how many people went to the [can’t understand words]. Two, Moses and Aaron, right. Moses and Aaron both heard what God had said. There were only how many things to do? Four things to do, and they both heard them. Aaron knew what God said yet Aaron stood by quietly saying nothing; he made no attempt to impede or correct Moses. So they were both guilty. Moses was guilty by what he did and said wrongly, and Aaron by what he didn’t do and didn’t say.
But you know God is a gracious God, isn’t He? Although Moses and Aaron both erred and in spite of the people murmuring and complaining God mercifully and graciously made the water come out of the rock abundantly it says, because God’s mercy and His grace… watch this, depend on Him and not on us. Isn’t that wonderful!
That brings us to another very important principle. The fact that the Lord may bless His people does not mean that everything that they are doing is right. How many of us can raise our hand this morning and say God is blessing me because everything I do is right. I didn’t see any hands go up, that’s probably good. The fact that the Lord may bless His people does not mean that everything that they’re doing is right. The Lord may graciously and mercifully follow through even though people have erred because God’s mercy and His grace depend upon Him (praise the Lord) not on us. Oh man, we should just stop and just pray to God for that, right? Isn’t that wonderful!
Well, it’s time for a conclusion, here we go. You ready: I’ll see if we can get it all in here. The Law wasn’t the same as grace but you’ll notice that in this event, under the Law now, God reveals grace doesn’t He? And that grace points to Christ. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:2 which we read he states that the fathers were baptized into Moses. [1 Corinthians 10:1-2, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;  and all were baptized into Moses.”] And that is referring to them having been identified and joined to the Mosaic Law. So they were literally all under the Law, as we said, but the fact that they were under the Law doesn’t mean there wasn’t grace that was demonstrated.
But notice that the same verse that states that the rock from which the water flowed was to represent Christ, notice that it says… it represented Christ I should say, God’s merciful and gracious provision of life for us all. Christ is God’s merciful and gracious provision of life for us all because we did everything right… is that correct? NO!!!! In fact, there has not ever been a single human being in the whole world, other than the Lord Himself that did everything ultimately right. Did Moses perfectly follow God’s instructions? Did Aaron do what was right? Were the children of Israel right with all of their griping and complaining and accusations against Moses and Aaron? Everyone involved in this event erred but God was gracious and merciful and that to me is just amazing. What a wondrous God we serve!
I wonder if Moses and Aaron understood that God was going to use them as living examples for us. I don’t think they did. Did they realize what was happening in their day? Not fully. Did they realize that the rock was representative of God and even Christ Himself? Not at that point they didn’t. We, like the children of Israel though are also very shortsighted. We can become depressed and distressed about all kinds of things, can’t we? We can lose our joy and we can focus on our situations and on our circumstances. The children of Israel were thinking I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m tired of manna, you know, but they had no idea that what they were living out would have HUGE spiritual significance.
1 Corinthians 10:11 says something very insightful, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” Can I say that when these events were happening they… are you ready for this? That God had you and me in mind. Sometimes we forget that God is all everything, don’t we. You know, He’s [can’t understand words] and Omni, Omni, Omni? And we forget that God is way up here and He has plans and purposes that He’s fulfilling, and we focus on what’s happening here and here and here. He sees the big picture.
So when all this was going on God is saying you know, one of these days I’m going to have a group of people at Sugar Land Bible Church sitting in that church listening to a message because this is all going to be an example for their instruction. Isn’t that wonderful. That’s how much God cares about us.
We said that the events under the Law points to Christ and we can ask this or we can say here as we reflect upon the children of Israel in this event there are some things of great importance that we can take away. This is a good one, think about that for just a moment. One of the things we should take away is that the Lord is doing amazing and incredible things in our lives irrespective of what we perceive on the surface. In fact, we often have no idea what spiritual significance our daily lives actually have, just like they didn’t. In our lives God is doing things far more significant than what it might seem on the surface. There are far more spiritual processes taking place beneath the surface than what others or even we ourselves might recognize.
I have a question: have you ever wondered what God is doing in your life? Have you, perhaps even felt a little perturbed at points because of what God isn’t doing in your life? Have you ever thought God, what’s going on? Well, I want you to know this morning that the reality is that God is indeed doing amazing things right now, this very instant, in all of our lives. And we may not become aware of it until sometime later. The Bible says that the “Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ. [Galatians 3:24, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”]
Again I would say God had you and He had me in mind when the Passover Lamb was sacrificed, when the sacrifices under the Law of Moses were instituted, with the accounts of the water and from the rock happened, all of this was leading to Christ and He had us in mind. So with that in mind let’s pray.
Father, we just praise You, we thank You so much for who You are. As we reflect this morning on Numbers 1-13 we don’t want to do like Moses did; we don’t want to improvise and ad-lib our way when it comes to our obedience. What we do want to do, Father, is to come to You, to speak to You and to give You thanks. Father, I ask that You would open up our eyes and sharpen our spiritual senses so that we might recognize the depth of what You’re doing in our lives each and every day. Abba Father, help us to see and understand that even the dreary and humdrum and exasperating and frustrating things in our lives are things that You have designed for Your good and eternal purposes. Thank You Lord that as we look at this biblical example which You have given for our instruction, we see how even though we may have moments of faithlessness and yes perhaps even error, You are amazingly merciful and gracious toward us. We pray that we might see and extend Lord the same mercy and grace in our own lives as well. In Jesus name, everyone said…Amen!