Monday, March 13, 2017

March 13

Numbers 19:1-20:29; Luke 1:1-25; Psalm 56:1-13; Proverbs 11:8

Don't you just feel for Moses?  Doesn't Numbers 20:1-12 feel like "the same song, second verse, same as the first"?  The Israelites complain about water; God provides.  Yup, we know this story.

Except we don't.  The Israelites are fussing about water, but it's a reasonable desire.  They have flocks and herds, and they've come to Kadesh which was "normally a well-watered oasis" (according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary).  They could - and did - expect the much-needed water.  But it's not here.  And, all of a sudden, death by plague or fire from heaven sounds better and better (see Num. 20:3), at least compared to the slow death of dehydration.

So God provides.  He doesn't chastise Israel for their complaint, nor does he decry their lack of faithfulness.  He doesn't indicate a desire to wipe out the nation and start over.  God's glory appears and he speaks to Moses.  He will give the essential water.

Then the story takes a hard turn.  Moses takes matters into his own hands.  He's got to be so frustrated by this group of people (he calls them "rebels" in vs. 12) and likely grieved by Miriam's death.  Rather than operate by God's instructions, Moses cuts to the chase and strikes the rock twice.  Water comes forth, but it appears to have come by Moses' action and agency, not God's.  Moses, like so many before him, has failed to take God's holiness seriously.  "You did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy" (Num. 20:12).  Such sad, sad words.  What a consequence for Moses' impetuosity.  

Zechariah, too, doesn't take the message from God as certain as God means it.  "How can I be sure of this?," he says in Luke 1:18. Gabriel offers his credentials (can you imagine challenging a heavenly being?), and declares a sentence for Zechariah's lack of faith.

A recent sermon hinged on Peter's words to Christ: "Where else do we have to go? (Jn. 6:68)"  "We have left everything to follow you" (Mk. 10:28). I was uncomfortably reminded of how I'm always looking for something else to help me achieve a good goal.  Something besides just God and his word.  Something other than speaking with honor at all times.  Something other than turning the other cheek.  I'm willing to leave almost everything to follow Jesus.  Everything except financial security.  Everything except my right to choose how I use my body.  Everything except what I look at on the computer.  

Moses relies on the spirit of God's provision.  Zechariah wants proof and certainty before he believes the angel.  In each case, these men are looking for somewhere else to go, some other way to do it, some iron-clad guarantee, rather than simple obedience and trust.

Guess I'm in good company!

- Sarah Marsh

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