God’s Way?: Better Off Dead?

“Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, ‘If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD!’ ” (Numbers 20:2-3)

We’re going to spend a few days with the ancient Israelites in a place called Kadesh. It’s been 40 years since this community escaped from Egypt. When they had the chance to go straight into the Promised Land, they did not believe God could pull it off. In spite of seeing him part the Red Sea and send those scary plagues on Egypt, they didn’t believe he was strong enough to help them conquer the land.

rockwater_350Remember their penalty? God sent them back into the wilderness to wander around for 40 years until everyone 20 and older died off. Now, 39 years later, it’s almost time for their grown-up kids to finally enter the Promised Land. But—like all of us—they still have issues with trusting God.

When things went bad, they threw a fit. There was a well-known spring at Kadesh which provided much-need water. They’d been there before. When they showed up this time, though, it was dry. They panicked, apparently, and got mad at Moses and Aaron, both well over 100 years old: “We’d be better off dead than here now with you and God,” they might as well have said.

Think: How do you react when things go wrong? Do you look for someone in charge to blame? When you get scared or find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, are you more or less likely to trust God? Why?

Pray: Ask God to help you to make the choice to trust him more, not less, when things go wrong. Ask him to give you the wisdom and faith not to look for someone to blame but to wait for him to provide.

Do: Notice this week how you and others react when things don’t go according to plan.

God’s Way: Which List Will You Make?

“Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 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!” (Numbers 20:4-5)

With no water to drink, people get scared. Unless something changes, they’re about to die – or, at the least, to suffer a huge economic loss when all the livestock die. It’s hard to blame them for being frightened.

rockwater_350It’s easy, though, to blame them for doing what we all so often do – making the wrong list. When faced with a disaster – or even just a lousy day – we always have a choice about what list to make. On the one hand, we can make the “last straw” list in which we itemize how this new bad thing fits along with all the other bad things in our lives.

For example: “I’ve got no car. My mom is mad at me. I just flunked that English test. And now I get dumped! Great! That’s the last straw, God. I give up!”

Or we can make the other list, the one where we remember how God has provided for us so often before. That’s the list the Israelites chose to ignore at this point: “God has always provided water and food when we needed it. Our shoes have never worn out. As kids, we saw him part the Red Sea to save us from the Egyptians! Our God is good. Let’s ask him for water again.”

Think: When faced with something bad, which list do you usually start to make? How hard is it to stop thinking about one list and start thinking about the other?

Pray: Ask God to help you to remember how he has provided for you and proved his love for you, especially when the next thing goes wrong in your life.

Do: Make your own quick list of five examples of God’s love and goodness in your life.

God’s Way: Fall Face Down

“Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.’ ” (Number 20:6-8)

So what should you do when disaster happens – or even just when you’re having another lousy day? The Israelites complained, wished they were dead, told off the guys in charge. Moses and Aaron made a more productive, more logical choice: They went to God for help.

rockwater_350It’s not that they weren’t scared. We’ll see in the next few days that Moses was really angry, even. They didn’t pretend like this life-threatening catastrophe of having no water didn’t matter to them. They just went to the Person who could do something about it – and fell face down in front of him.

And God did what God does: He promised to help his needy children, the ones willing to turn to him, to trust him. That’s what he wants from us. That’s why James said to call it joy when stuff goes wrong – because it sends us back to the God who fixes stuff and loves to have us lean on him.

Think: Do you get closer to God when things are going well or when they’re not? Why do you think it takes a problem to turn our attention fully on him?

Pray: Ask God to help you to turn to him for help first when things go wrong.

Do: Read James 1:2-8 and notice what James says is the benefit of hard times.

God’s Way: God Provides

“The LORD said to Moses,’Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.’ ” (Numbers 20:7-8)

If you’ve been following along in Numbers 20 this week, here’s a question? Did the Israelites earn a miraculous salvation from God? Did they deserve for him to give them water out of a rock? Remember how they responded to the crisis of dryness? They panicked, blamed, complained, wished they were dead, and told off their leaders (indirectly telling off God himself).

rockwater_350As a group, they had responded that way before, sometimes resulting in harsh consequences or even death. This time, though, God apparently responds to the nation at large only with mercy. Moses and Aaron came to him in humility, and he promised to provide. He would save his people.

Why? Because that’s who God is. He is patient. He is merciful. He does not easily turn away even his rebellious children when they need him. He loves to give good gifts to his own. And he longs to show us why we should keep trusting him.

Of course, sometimes he lets us follow our rebellion to our own pain. Sometimes, he answers our faithlessness with discipline. But his heart is for his people. He finds joy in providing what we need, especially as we learn to trust him more. His grace toward us reveals his true heart: he loves us even when we don’t deserve it.

Think: Have you ever been aware that God came through for you even when you didn’t deserve it? Do you think of God as someone who owes you something or someone who has given far more than you could ever pay back?

Pray: Thank God for giving you mercy and grace in spite of your wrong choices and lack of trust in him.

Do: Read what Jesus said about the Father who gives good gifts in Matthew 7:7-12.

God’s Way: Listen You Rebels

“So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ ” (Numbers 20:9-10)

Moses sounds mad, angry, ticked off. He had been shepherding the Israelites around the wilderness for 40 years, and they never really seemed to stop questioning everything he did. God had made him their leader, but they almost always found a reason to doubt him – and to doubt God. It probably didn’t help that Moses’ sister Miriam had just recently died.

rockwater_350So with the power of God in his hands in the form of that holy staff, Moses tells them off for a change, calling them rebels. His anger would be understandable, but he made a critical error. He allowed his feelings to derail his trust in God.

His first mistake seems to be that he’s about to take credit for giving the people water, even though that’s obviously something only God could do. Having taken their abuse and blame for the lack of water – something beyond his control, as well – he apparently wanted to take credit for giving them water (while pointing out that, as “rebels,” they didn’t deserve it).

Think: Has your justifiable anger over someone else’s wrong actions or attitude ever caused you to sin, as well? Why does anger make us vulnerable to making foolish choices? What do you do to try to control your anger and keep from sinning?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to allow your anger to lead you into foolish and sinful choices.

Do: Read what Paul wrote about anger and sin in Ephesians 4:26-27.

God’s Way: Hitting the Rock

“Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” (Numbers 20:11)

Yesterday, we saw the Moses’ crucial mistake had two parts. First, apparently angry with the people for their rebellion, Moses seems to take credit for bringing the water from the rock. Next, he doesn’t do what God told him to – talk to the rock. Instead, he hits it. Twice.

rockwater_350We could spend a lot of time looking at why Moses did it his way instead of God’s. His sister had just died. He was fed up with the people. God had, in fact, told Moses to use the staff for hitting the rock 40 years earlier. Was Moses tired? Confused? Was it a crime of passion?

I think it tells us something that the passage tells us nothing about why Moses did it. He just did it. He just disobeyed. Period. And God held him responsible. Too often, I think, we let ourselves off the hook for disobedience because we think the reason for our wrong behavior was understandable – as if understanding the circumstances should maybe relieve us of the responsibility.

Moses was God’s most trusted servant, but his disobedience was not overlooked. And neither is ours.

Think: Do you sometimes excuse your wrong behavior because of the circumstances? As Christians, our sins are forgiven in Christ, but does that mean those sins don’t matter? Should we take them seriously? Does God?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be honest with yourself about what is sin in your life, even when you can see how the circumstances contributed to you choice.

Do: Notice this week how people deflect responsibility for sinful choices by blaming their circumstances.

God’s Way: Because You Did Not Trust Me

“But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’ ” (Numbers 20:12)

Two things about disobeying God:

rockwater_3501) It always brings a negative consequence. For Moses and Aaron, the result was obvious, and I’m sure it was painful. For us as believers, Jesus paid the ultimate price for our disobedience to God – whatever form that takes. Our sin is forgiven eternally, but the fallout of ignoring God’s instruction not to ram your head into walls is that you get hurt in this life – because you rammed your head into a wall.

2) Obeying God is, above everything else, a trust issue. Someone might say, “I trust God. Really! I just don’t want to do what he told me to do.” That’s false. Trusting God means doing what he tells us to do – even if it doesn’t makes sense to us. Even if we don’t want to do it. Trust means being willfully convinced that he is right and His way is best.

So He said to Moses and Aaron: “Because you did not trust me enough . . .”

Think: Are you ever tempted to think that your disobedience doesn’t hurt anyone because your sins are forgiven? Why is that not true? Is it possible to trust God and disobey him at the same time?

Pray: Ask God to help you to trust and obey him because he is a trustworthy Father who would never steer you in the wrong direction.

Do: Next time you’re tempted to disobey God, notice in your heart whether you are doubting that he is right or that he loves you or that he is powerful enough to provide for you.