Numbers 20:1-13 “God is Still on His Throne” Aug. 18, 2013
Intro: What did you complain about this week? Worry about? Get angry about?
1. We complain because we don’t believe that God is on His throne (vv. 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!”
More complaining from the people, irrationally blaming Moses and Aaron, for it was their own sins that put them in this situation. This complaining about having no water takes us back to their original complaining, almost 40 years earlier, in Ex. 17:1-7. They failed to see that the Promised Land, which they were soon to enter, had all the blessings that they didn’t have yet.
“Their complaint about the figs, vines, and pomegranates drips with irony, for those are the very foods that the spies brought back from the Promised Land (13:23-24). They forget that their own rejection of the land, their own refusal to believe (14:11) and obey (14:22) God, is the reason they are not enjoying those foods.”
“The people’s sin is their almost willful forgetfulness and lack of gratitude for what God had done for them, their lack of seeing their own sin as part of the reason for their problems, combined with their lack of trust in God’s ability and desire to provide for their basic needs.”
“Longing for what we want, we ignore what we have received”.
They forgot His mighty acts of deliverance. They ignored the daily evidence of His presence and the nightly assurance of His protection. They despised His unfailing gift of nourishing food, the ready supply of water and the restful locations where they enjoyed shelter. They disregarded the blessing of being kept free from disease and sickness, and even not having their clothes wear out! During all those long years in the desert, they had not lacked anything! (Deut. 2:7; 8:4; Neh. 9:21) But in all this, they were not remotely grateful.
“Oh Lord, am I like that sometimes?” Do we also sometimes blame God or blame others for our circumstances, when it was our choices and sins which led us into them?
Their worry became an opportunity for renewed complaining, rather than for dependent prayer.
When things are not going your way, do you complain, or do you go to God in prayer?
2. Yet God is still on His throne, patiently providing for all our needs (vv. 6-8)
6 “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. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “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.”
Despite all their sinful complaining, God does not punish them here; He actually provides for their needs and is patient with them, a clear sign of God’s compassion and merciful restraint.
Now God’s solution to the needs of the people was that Moses was to take the staff (Aaron’s staff that blossomed), and simply speak to “that rock, before their eyes, and it will pour out its water.” This was different than Ex. 17:6, where Moses was instructed to strike the rock.
The reasoning: If he had Aaron’s staff in his hand, that staff was the symbol of the Lord’s authority; so all he had to do was to speak, and God would do the rest; by striking the rock, it appeared that it was Moses’ strength that had produced the water.
The rock had already been struck, once for all time (Ex. 17), this second time Moses was simply to confess with his mouth. (Like Christ’s death and then our confession of faith)
3. We distrust God’s Word because we think we should be on the throne. (vv. 9-12)
9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’S presence, just as he commanded him. 10 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?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 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.
This was a case of success in the eyes of man (abundant water produced from a rock), but failure in the eyes of the Lord.
When Moses struck the rock, he was striking Christ: 1 Cor. 10:3-4 “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”
We might ask: Why did Moses strike the rock, twice, instead of just speaking to it? Perhaps it was his anger and frustration with the people. Whatever the reason, his disobedience made things worse.
i. He disobeyed God’s Word.
ii. He misused God’s gift of leadership; he did what he wanted rather than what God demanded.
“A visible display of God’s astonishing mercy was spoiled by the angry rebuke of a self-willed speaker (Moses).” [Application for preachers and evangelists and parents.]
iii. He obscured God’s glory (v. 12) He hindered God’s people, from seeing God’s grace and mercy more clearly.
“He thundered at the people with his own words, when the Lord had planned a quiet demonstration of His unique power. The people’s thirst was quenched, but the Lord was robbed of an opportunity for His name to be exalted as holy, merciful, and generous.”
Application: Do you carry out God’s commands as they are given, or do your tweak them and bend them to fit your purpose, as if you were on the throne?
If you say you believe God, then you also need to obey Him. Take heed that in meeting the needs of others we fail to give God the glory.
4. Yet God is still on His throne, making known His Holy Character. (v. 13)
13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.”
Though Moses and Aaron did not trust in the Lord enough to honor Him as holy (12), the Lord still showed Himself as holy among the Israelites. How so? In two ways:
One, through judging Moses and Aaron, showing His righteousness, and
Two, by giving water to His thirsty people and their animals, showing His mercy.
Consider what happened in Lev. 10:
Lev. 10:1-3 “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: “ ‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’ ” Aaron remained silent.
God is still on His Throne of Grace
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Heb 4:16
In Jesus there is One through whom we can receive “rivers of living water” (John 7:38, 4:10-15), enabling us to enter the rest promised to God’s people (Heb. 4)