It may be one of the most confusing episodes in a long line of confusing episodes as Israel treks through the desert for more than 40 years, anticipating the fulfillment of the promise of a land overflowing with milk and honey.
Moses, weary of leading, has spent those 40 years in constant communication with a mighty God, with THE mighty God. Unlike almost anyone else in the history of mankind, Moses has conversed with GOD ALMIGHTY as close to face-to-face as a mortal being can get. He’s even come down from one of these conversations glowing in the face so that he has to cover himself to avoid freaking everyone else out.
But even Moses can make a mistake.
Near Moab, the people get grumpy–again. Is anyone surprised? They beg for water, whine that in Egypt they were never thirsty. God tells Moses exactly what to do to provide the needed water for the Israelites. But Moses, being human, gets angry with the people, striking the stone to bring forth water instead of speaking to it as God had commanded him to do.
God never changes. His constant character is underscored in what happens next. Being merciful, He doesn’t discount everything good that Moses has done for Him in the past by striking Moses dead for disobeying Him. But, He also doesn’t overlook Moses change of plan. As punishment for failing to follow His orders, God tells Moses that the prophet will not indeed enter the land of promise he’s spent the last forty years wandering in the desert trying to lead a stubborn people toward home.
I find this episode in Numbers most chilling every time I read it. It reminds me how easily I can take for granted God’s merciful and forgiving character. If Moses, who saw God face-to-face, could fail to live up to God’s complete and clear instructions, what does a simple girl from West Texas stand a chance in accomplishing?
Of all the verses I will ever read, those that concentrate on God’s grace as exhibited through the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood for my sins will always be the most important, especially on those dark nights when all my sins swirl around my mind like a heavy cloak threatening to suffocate me. Only because of that mercy can I go forward with the challenges of each new day, knowing that forgiveness is real, that someday I will join my Savior in heaven, the ultimate Promised Land.
In my pile of notes that I keep stocked away in my old desk drawer, I found a list today that I’m sure I copied from somewhere. I don’t have the original reference, but it’s too good not to share. When it comes to trying to figure out what God would say to me, I too often come up with my own solutions, just as Moses hit the rock in his anger instead of speaking to it, especially when I forget to remember what the Bible actually has to say about anything that might be bothering me.
So, here’s a list of what my feelings, like anger, might say inside my brain instead of what God’s voice would really say if I would just take the time to listen for His true Word, as revealed to me through scriptures.
WHAT FEELINGS SAY:
- You deserve it.
- Just one more.
- You only live once.
- Did God really say __________?
- What can it hurt?
- Today, or for once, it’s going to be all about you.
- She/he started it, and you must finish it.
- Nobody loves you.
- You are too weak to control yourself.
- If it feels good, do it.
- The end justifies the means.
- You are worthless.
- You can just ask God to forgive you after.
- If you do this, you will feel so much better.
- Revenge is sweet.
- Do whatever it takes to get what you want.
- Second place is just first loser.
- You feel so bad, you’re gonna die.
- Being alone is the worst thing in the world.
- God can never forgive you.
- You’re not good enough for God.
Paul offers a different approach for our minds than giving in to the impulses of feelings. In his letter to the Philippians, he admonishes them,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (4:8-9)
The prophet Jeremiah says, “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” (17:7-8).
Faith in God involves a daily commitment to communicate with Him through prayer and through time in His Word, building each for our own purpose a set of verses we are glad we have read, those holy words that will keep us on the straight and narrow path that pleases a loving, patient God.
Looking for your own list of verses you are glad you have read? One of the easiest places to begin your search is the book of Psalms, a collection of many writers openly communicating with a loving God. The poems are raw and real, painful and uplifting. They beseech God for mercy, lament the tragedy of the human condition, rant against the seeming unfairness of a fallen world, praise God for His glory and giving nature.
Here are two of my favorite Psalm verses to get you started:
The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid? (27:1) For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may last for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (30:5).
May rejoicing in the morning be part of your life in the trying days ahead, no matter what challenges you may be facing. I hope my verses I am glad I have read have helped you find or remember some of the wonderful benefits of spending time in the Word of our most Holy God.
It sure makes more sense than beating a rock, even if you are as smart and wonderful as Moses.