As we come to Numbers 20, the years of wandering through the wilderness are now at an end.
1Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, & the people stayed in Kadesh; & Miriam died there & was buried there.
Where are they? This is Kadesh Barnea.
This is the same place they were 38 years
before, when just a little over a year after the Exodus from
Now, here they are back at Kadesh, after having wandered literally in circles for nearly 40 years.
That’s what happens to a person when they balk at following the Lord’s guidance & refuse to deal with those doubts & fears that stifle their spiritual progress; they end up wandering in a kind of spiritual wilderness until that which would hinder them from moving forward dies off & falls away.
Don’t forget that for the 38 years they spent in the wilderness, they were being led by the pillar of smoke & fire.
God had wanted them enter Canaan but when they
refused, then He led them through the
And every circuit they took on the merry go round of Sinai saw more & more of the elder generation die off.
Oh that we might learn from this! If we balk at following God, & dig in our spiritual heels & say, “No!” to His plan for us, then God will honor our choice.
He will not leave us nor forsake us, but He will engineer our course in life so that which keeps us from yielding to Him falls away.
If it seems like you’re just going round in circles & not really making any progress in life – it may be that you’ve balked at following the Spirit as God wanted to bring you into some new place of maturity.
Fears & doubts rose up like a brick wall & instead of pushing through, you backed off.
God has been at work in you to bring you to the place where that which hindered you before is laid aside.
& 3 of those 5 chapters deal with religious rules. So really, only 2 chapters are given to the 38 years of the wilderness wandering.
Why? Because nothing was happening in terms of spiritual things!
Oh sure, there was all kinds of news from an earthly perspective.
The Israeli Times was chock full every day of articles about this & that in the camp.
But from the divine, the spiritual angle – nothing was happening.
They were just killing time as time was killing off that which was keeping them from entering in to all God had for them.
2Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses & Aaron.
If the people were walking in faith in God, when there was no water, what would they have done?
Prayed, & expected God to provide, as He so faithfully every day for the last 40 years.
3And the people contended with Moses & spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! 4Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we & our animals should die here? 5And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.”
Though this is a new generation – they repeat virtually the same complaint as their parents in their day.
The harshness of their bondage in
One of the things that’s a bit distressing in listening to some people’s testimonies, is how they glamorize their past.
Here they are – lamenting a simple lack of water & making all kinds of wild & false accusations against Moses & Aaron, blowing things horribly out of proportion, while at the same time painting their past as slaves as a relaxing Summer vacation.
6So Moses & Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, & they fell on their faces. & the glory of the Lord appeared to them.
Moses & Aaron do the right thing – they go to God with the problem, which is exactly what the people ought to have done.
Look – yes, they needed water. That’s a given. Water is an essential & they had every right to be concerned with its provision.
But rather than complaining, they ought to have recognized that God would provide in His way & time & simply gone to Him to ask.
Rather than hurling silly accusations at Moses & Aaron, they ought to have said, “Mo – listen, don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there’s no water. Shall we gather & pray about this? What’s the plan Mo?”
Folks, let’s learn from this in our personal lives, our family, & our church.
It is so easy, as soon as some need presents itself, to start complaining & making all kinds of wild accusations.
What we ought to do is realize that when a legitimate NEED arises, it’s God’s way of preparing the stage for the manifestation of His blessing!
Our response ought to be to pray in simple yet confident faith.
What M&A did in seeking the Lord is exactly what all of the people ought to have done.
7Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8“Take the rod;
What rod? The rod of Aaron’s that had budded.
You see, M&A’s leadership is being challenged yet again.
Since it’s been decades since the events of ch. 17 when God made it crystal clear to the nation who He had ordained to lead the nation, the people need to be reminded.
Aaron’s rod with its branches, twigs, flowers & almonds would remind the people that God had placed His seal of approval on M&A as the leaders of the nation.
The rod was to act as nothing but a memorial – a sign pointing to their authority & call.
7Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8“Take the rod; you & your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes,
There at Kadesh where they were camped was a large rock.
Speak to the rock before their eyes, & it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, & give drink to the congregation & their animals.”
M&A were to simply speak to the rock & the water would flow – enough to water every soul & beast in the camp.
The average 150 pound person should drink 3 qts. of water a day.
That’s 2¼ million gallons of water! 45,000 – 50 gal. drums.
If a truck can carry 30 such drums, it would take 1,500 truck to carry the water.
If you put those trucks on the FWY & give each one 30 ft., the line would stretch for 8 miles. We’re talkin’ a lot of water.
9So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. 10And Moses & Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; & he said to them,
Wait a minute, what had God told Moses to speak to? The rock.
But here he is speaking to the people.
“Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”
We’ve never seen Moses speak this way before.
When being accused & criticized by the people, he’s always taken it to the Lord & then returned with the simple directions God had given him.
But now his frustration & anger is showing through.
And we can probably understand it.
I mean, this is the new generation; they’re back at the same place the whole thing started nearly 40 years before, & they’re saying the same silly things their parents had said.
Moses is probably thinking – “Oh great! Here we go again.”
He’s had it & his anger comes out in his words – “Hear now, you rebels!”
Then he says something that doesn’t appear at all characteristic of Moses, “Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”
This is just wrong on so many levels.
First of all–Moses is taking a very uncharacteristic place for himself here by making himself a partner with God in the miracle.
Second–It was precisely his duty as the leader of the nation to provide for them. So what’s he getting all bent about?
Anger is a dangerous thing because it can drive us to say & do things that we ought not say & do.
While we may sympathize with Moses’ anger here & understand why he would be so hot with the people – we must also see that when anger becomes the motivating force behind our words & actions, we’ve erred.
In Ephesians 4 we read, “Be angry, but do not sin.”
Anger itself, as an emotion, is not wrong – but it can move us to wrong.
When we find ourselves angry, we need to ask “Why?”
If we’re angry simply because we didn’t get our way- which is the cause of most anger, then we ought to simply repent for being selfish.
But if our anger is righteous, even then we must make sure we do not lose self-control but that the anger fuels a righteous response.
Moses was ticked & it came out in his words of hostility at the nation.
“Hear now, you rebels!”
It also confused his own sense of self-importance because anger has this trait – it makes us feel righteous & justified in why we’re angry.
“Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”
But the real tragedy is what Moses anger caused him, not to say, but to DO . . .
11Then Moses lifted his hand & struck the rock twice with his rod; & water came out abundantly, & the congregation & their animals drank.
God had never told Moses to strike the rock. The instructions were quite clear; he was to speak to the rock & it would flow.
Moses struck the rock – with what? Aaron’s budded rod!
What happened to the branches, blossoms & fruit on it? Broken, torn, stripped off.
A precious memorial to God’s miraculous power & M&A’s calling was shredded. & in that shredding – their calling was ended.
the Lord spoke to Moses &
Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the
I have to admit that this seems like an awfully harsh judgment God is meting out on Moses here.
I mean, he’s been so faithful for 40 years in the face of incredibly trying circumstances – & now, he won’t be allowed to complete the mission of taking the nation into the Promised Land.
And all because, as God says in v. 12 - “Because you did not believe Me.”
Wow – the rest of
Yes, it is fair – totally fair; because God’s judgments are always the epitome of perfection & He sees all kinds of things we do not in our judgment.
Moses’ error at the rock in Kadesh is a really serious one for this reason: He knew what God had told him to do, & he did something else.
If there was anyone who ought to have known he should obey God, it was Moses!
Another reason M&A faced such severe judgment was because as God said in v. 12, they had not “hallowed” or rightly represented God before the people.
God was not angry with the people. Their need for water was real & though it wasn’t presented in the right way, God wasn’t angry with them, at least not in the way M&A made evident to the people.
Moses’ words were harsh condemnations of the people – “You rebels!”
“Rebels” doesn’t really carry the flavor of these words across accurately.
Let’s say our church goes through a period of intense discord where we have some families who are going at it with silly disputes.
And the elders & staff try to deal with it & get no where.
So in frustration, I get up one Sunday & say to the whole congregation, “Listen up you pack of no good, lousy, worthless morons.”
I’d clearly be abusing my authority & badly, badly misrepresenting God.
If that’s the kind of leader I was, then I would surely never be able to take that same congregation to the heights of spiritual blessing in Christ.
M&A were charged with the solemn task of representing God to the nation; Moses politically – Aaron, religiously.
But they misrepresented God in a most grievous manner. For this, they forfeited their ability to lead.
From this we learn that there are certain sins that a leader can commit which remove him/her from ministry as a leader.
You see, God had intended to use the whole rock at Kadesh incident as a means of putting in play another picture of the Coming Messiah.
Friends, don’t forget that the whole reason God
singled out Abraham, then Isaac, Jacob & the 12 tribes of
The history of
So when they arrived again at Kadesh & cried out for water, God planned to use it as the way to install yet another picture of Jesus.
So he told Moses what part he was to play, what thread in the tapestry he was to insert.
He was to speak to the rock – & water would flow in abundance.
Moses had already struck the rock at the command of
God way back in Exodus 17 when the people arrived at
When he struck the rock, the water flowed.
But now at Kadesh–once the rock had been struck – all that was needed was to speak, & the water would flow once more.
As Paul makes clear in 1 Cor. 10, God intended the rock to be a picture of Christ.
He was smitten at the cross for our sins.
When He was struck, the blood flowed, & this provided the cleansing we need.
The spear went into His side & the blood & water flowed – by which we are made the children of God.
But now that Christ has been smitten – His death atones for our sins once for all, as it says in Hebrews 7:27.
Now, all we need to do is speak to the Rock of our salvation & the abundance of the Spirit is ours.
This pretty much puts the nail in the coffin of the practice of the Mass which thinks that at each Mass, Jesus is crucified again, & that it is only this fresh offering that makes His death effective for us today.
The word of God is quite clear – Jesus was offered once, & His one offering forever atones for our sin.
John 7, Jesus stood in the
37 . . .If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me & drink. 38He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Then John added . . .
39But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Jesus was referring here to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Tonight, it may be that you’ve come to the smitten rock, to the Saving Christ; you believe Jesus died for your sins.
But have you spoken to the Rock, to the Baptizing Christ, & asked Him to fully satisfy you with His living water, & to cause to come forth from you a river of life that will deluge those around you with love, peace, & joy?
Tonight, as we sit here, ask yourself this question – “Do rivers of living water flow out of my heart?”
That is what Jesus promised to those who would simply ask of Him.
He said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me & drink.”
God intended the events here at the rock at Kadesh to be a picture of all this – but Moses threw a wrench in the works by angrily striking the rock.
was the water of Meribah, [Contention] because the children of
How was God hallowed if M&A had failed to hallow Him in their misrepresentation?
God’s judgment of M&A turned it around so that the people realized they had not been speaking on behalf of God – not at all.
The contrast revealed to them just how good, faithful, & gracious God is, while at the same time being so holy & righteous that M&A would have to be disciplined for their error.
Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of
The father of the 12 tribes of
know all the hardship that has befallen us, 15how our fathers went
been about 450 years since they went to
& the Egyptians afflicted us & our fathers. 16When we cried out to the Lord, He heard our voice & sent the Angel & brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. 17Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King’s Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’”
right through the
Moses asked for permission to take the nation along this route. Such a path would speed their journey by many days.
Plus, it was the route the pillar of cloud made clear they were to take.
Why Moses asked for permission is a bit of a mystery.
Maybe he was just being cautious after the events of the previous verses.
It seems that if the Lord was leading them, they ought to have simply followed.
But Moses sent a message to the king of
18Then Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.” 19So the children of Israel said to him, “We will go by the Highway, & if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.”
The first request is denied. So they applied again with solemn promises that they will stay on the highway pay for any damage done or supplies taken.
he said, “You shall not pass through.” So
time, not only did the king of
the children of Israel, the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh &
came to Mount Hor. 23And the Lord
spoke to Moses & Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom,
saying: 24“Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not
enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you
rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah. 25Take Aaron &
Eleazar his son, & bring them up to Mount Hor; 26and strip Aaron
of his garments & put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to
his people & die there.” 27So Moses did just as the Lord commanded, & they went up to
Moses is about 120 at this point. Aaron was his elder brother, so he’s an old guy & it’s time for him to retire.
God tells them the end is at hand & that another one must step in to take his place.
When God designs that a work continue, He will raise up a new leader to fill the shoes of the one who’s departing.
king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that
This area was the home of a petty Canaanite king who decided to take on the Israelites. This will be the new generation’s first encounter with battle.
Which means “Utter Destruction.”
While it seems a strange way
of thinking to us,
will see this time & again in the conquest of
Everything was to be burned – not so much as a shoelace kept of the spoils.
In fact, when we get into Joshua, we’ll see how the phrase “dedicate to the Lord” often refers to such destruction of cities & their spoils.
they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the
Since we covered this in depth Sunday, will leave for you to get the tape or CD if you weren’t here.
the children of
there they went to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people
together, & I will give them water.” 17Then
So here we get a little list of their journeys & where they camped. [Map]
When they arrived at Beer, it seems the people knew how to respond to the lack of water by simply waiting on the Lord.
He told them to sink a well, which when they did, produced an abundant supply, not of Beer, bit of sweet water.
Notice – the people aren’t complaining now – they’re singing!
The new generation is learning to live & walk by faith.
from the wilderness they went to Mattanah, 19from Mattanah to
Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth, 20and from Bamoth, in the
valley that is in the country of
21Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, 22“Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into fields or vineyards; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.”
the Ammonites & Moabites were distant relatives of
They were descendants of Lot’s by the incestuous
coupling with his two daughters after the destruction of
They gave birth to 2 boys, Moab & Ben-Ammi. These then gave rise to the Moabites & Ammonites who settled in neighboring regions.
he had with
Sihon not only said “No” he came out & attacked
Sihon would not allow
That was the idol worshipped by the Moabites & Ammonites.
He has given his sons as fugitives, & his daughters into captivity, To Sihon king of the Amorites. 30“But we have shot at them; Heshbon has perished as far as Dibon. Then we laid waste as far as Nophah, Which reaches to Medeba.”
ancient name of “Ammon” lives on in the name of the capital of this region –
they turned & went up by the way to
no survivor being left to him, it probably didn’t mean not a single living soul
She’s defeated the southern Canaanites, the Ammonites, & the Bashanites.