Monday, August 10, 2009

Moses Disobeys Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending August 16, 2009

Purpose: To warn us how sin and disobedience can block or delay the abundant life God offers to us.

Scripture Text: Numbers 20:1-13 (NRSV)

Numbers 20:1-13
1)The Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and was buried there.
(2)Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron.(3)The people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! (4)Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? (5)Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.’ (6)Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. (7)The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: (8)Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.

(9) So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. (10)Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?’ (11)Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. (12)But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.’ (13)These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which he showed his holiness.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

I don't know about you, but I have often attempted to assemble Christmas toys or tools or even electronic equipment without reading or following the instructions. I recently bought a new washing machine. I did not want to wait for the delivery so I took it home and hooked it up myself, knowing, since I had sold washing machines years ago while working at Sears, I knew how to hook up a simple washing machine. To my surprise during the first load the machine started to bounce, and jump around and took off across the floor like a runaway Rota tiller. Then, with my wife's encouragement, I read the instructions, and sure enough there was a special packing device that I had failed to remove. I confess my stupidity to make a point, obeying instructions is very important.

Our text starts with a very sad note, Moses and Aaron's sister Miriam had died. Since it was probably Miriam that had helped save Moses when he was left in the bulrushes, it was no doubt a sad time for Moses and Aaron, as well as the entire congregation. However, there seemed to be an even greater problem, there was no water for the livestock or for the people and they were starting to panic. As was normal the congregation started to blame Moses and Aaron for the dilemma. Why do we always recall the good things about the “good old days”? We forget or don't want to remember the hard times and struggles we went through. Sometimes I feel the reason we have so many repeat visitors in our penal system is because there is a certain amount of security in being in prison; we have a bed, a roof, and three square meals a day (three squares and a cot).

The children of Israel were in the same boat, why did they have to come this far to die, this desert could not grow anything, and there was no water, they were certainly better off as slaves in Egypt, than free in this desolate place. The action that Moses and Aaron take is what you would expect from a dedicated servant and follower of all the Lord had taught them. They were obedient and humble and sought God's counsel. God responded with very precise instructions, but unfortunately, like me, they did not follow the instructions exactly like God had given them and they added a few remarks of their own. Verse 8 gives God's instructions, verses 9-11 describes Moses actions. Notice the difference, God said “command the rock”, Moses makes at least three mistakes, first, he judges the congregation, by calling them rebels. Second, he strikes the rock twice with his staff. Third, he takes all the credit, “shall we bring water for you out of this rock”.

Moses disobedience left God in a very perilous situation. God had for more than a year tried to teach both the children of Israel and the rest of civilization, about himself, and His ability to provide and protect His chosen people. Now, His chosen leader had failed to be obedient. He had judged God's chosen people as “rebels”, which only God can judge. He struck, instead of spoke, and he failed to make sure the people understood it was God that would cause the water to pour out of the rock, and not Moses or Aaron. How was all of this going to bring honor and glory to a loving and faithful God? Why do you think God was so harsh with Moses? Did Moses deserve to be disqualified from entering the Canaan rest? How do you relate this story to the third and fourth chapter of Hebrews?

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