This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Numbers 20:10 ‘Hear now, ye rebels, shall we bring you forth water out of

This Week’s Focus Passage: Numbers 20:10

‘Hear now, ye rebels, shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?’

    This is a more than an interesting account of the repetition of ‘murmuring,’ by the people whom Jehovah had brought out of Egypt through the instrumentality of His servant, Moses. There were constant murmurings and complaints, even to the point of virtual insurrections, in more than one instance. But here, in Numbers 20, there is a ‘story’ which we believe may be said to have begun in Exodus 17, the first occasion of the provision of water for the people of Jehovah, through Moses, the servant of Jehovah. Let us, then, consider firstly, events from the Exodus narrative:

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, by their journeys, according to the commandment of Jehovah, and encamped in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.

The immediate reaction to the ‘children of Israel’ was to murmur, to register, as it were, their complaints to Moses, in rather unpleasant, forceful language:

Wherefore the people strove with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why strive ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt Jehovah?—Exodus 17:2.

The conspicuous reality brought out by the language in the denunciatory retort of Moses, amounts clearly to the charge that they are not striving against Moses, but against Jehovah. These folk had clearly not taken to heart what Moses had recently said to them, because of their complaining about having no bread (Exodus 16:4-7). 

At even, then ye shall know that Jehovah hath brought you out from the land of Egypt; and in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of Jehovah; for that he heareth your murmurings against Jehovah: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?

Jehovah responded to the continuing pleas from Moses, again, because the people now, in Ex. 17, were murmuring again, this time for water. Moses cried unto Jehovah What shall I do unto this people? They are almost ready to stone me. It was then that Jehovah told Moses what to do. Take your rod and some of the elder with you, 

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

He did precisely that which Jehovah had told him to do, and his request was granted.

    Let us now move ahead for ‘the rest of the story.’ We say it in that manner, because there is good reason to make a connection between the Exodus and Numbers accounts of the children of Israel’s murmuring, with the differing outcomes. Keeping the circumstances in our thoughts from the Exodus account, then, let us move to the similar account in our focus passage from Numbers, and chapter 20. What are some of the notable distinctions between the two events? The narrative begins with another example of the people murmuring; complaining to Moses and Aaron in words similar to those which we saw from the Exodus narrative. We are told that the congregation assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. They complained interrogatively, with such remarks, as, ‘why did you bring us into this wilderness; simply to die?’ Even going so far as to wish that they could go back to Egypt; we remember all the good food of that land. This brought Moses and Aaron to go unto Jehovah, at the door of the tent of meeting and fall on their faces before Him. Jehovah graciously and immediately gave them instructions that would satisfy the people’s thirst, saying, 

Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water; and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their cattle drink.

It would seem that these instructions, directions, were simple enough; not difficult of accomplishment. And yet, is that what Moses and Aaron did? I fear not; but rather, we must read the sad, very sad, inexplicable demonstration; they did it their way.   

Moses and Aaron gathered the assemble together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels, shall we bring forth water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice: and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle.—Numbers 20:10-11.

Jehovah had told Moses and Aaron, had He not, so thou shalt give the congregation and their cattle drink; and here we now read, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. Evidently, they must have done all right. Or did they? Does it really matter, so much, if they did it their way, and not the way that Jehovah had told them to do? What is the big difference? Everybody got plenty of water, didn’t they? Where’s the beef? Well, evidently, God had a beef with them (I say it reverently). What was His response to their failure to follow His instructions? This is His response; 

Because ye believed not in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.  

What! because of a little change in the methodology, Moses and Aaron are deprived of that which they wanted, probably more than anything in the world to be able to do, was now taken away from them. They will never set foot on the Promised Land. Why? Just because we did it our way? It came out all right; what’s the big deal? Is that our response to this episode in the lives of God’s ancient people? Maybe that’s because He is the Old Testament God that demands everything to be done His way. What would Jesus do? What did He do when John Baptist balked at baptizing Him?

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.

Jesus is all concerned about righteousness, is He not? And so is Jehovah of the Old Testament. Because ye believed not in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given. And what was Jesus’ response to Peter, in Matthew 16? Remember when Jesus began to show His disciples, that He must go to Jerusalem, to suffer, to be killed, to be raised up again; and Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall never be unto thee. Jesus swift and righteous response, wasGet thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumbling block unto me; for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men. Were not Moses and Aaron minding not the things of God, but the things of men when Moses smote the rock rather than believing God and doing it His way? What was the result in the end? In Deuteronomy 32:48-52, we read what it cost Moses to do it his way, and not God’s.

And Jehovah spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, Get thee up into this mountain of Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession; and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: because ye trespassed against me in the midst of the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah of Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; BECAUSE YE SANCTIFIED ME NOT in the midst of the children of Israel. For thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither into the land which I give the children of Israel. 

Regenerating grace not only gives new hearts, but conforms wills unto Jehovah’s, so that the people of God desire to do what God would have us to do; and do it His way.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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