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Choose This, Not That

Choose This, Not That – Don’t Strike when you’re supposed to Speak (Numbers 20:7-12)

Today’s Reading: Numbers 19-20

Today’s Reflection: Numbers 20:7-12

7) and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8) “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9) And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him.  10) Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11) And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12) And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

For nearly 40 years Moses had led the children of Israel through the wilderness, as he was guided and led by God.  But because of Moses disobedience in this situation he lost the opportunity to complete the commission God had given him: leading Israel into the Promised Land of Canaan.

It is often as we are just about to reach our God-given destiny that our strength falters and we make a crucial, or even fatal, mistake.  Moses example offers guidance to help us avoid making the same mistake he did.

1) Listen carefully to God’s instructions and do only what He says.  If we go back to Exodus 17:6, we see that under similar circumstances God had previously instructed Moses to strike a rock to produce water for Israel.  You may think this excuses Moses for his mistake, but bear in mind that incident had occurred nearly 40 years earlier.  The fact that this had worked in the past did not automatically make it right for the present (a point many church leaders would be wise to take note of—tradition doesn’t automatically make a practice appropriate for all time).  God was building a relationship with Israel through their wilderness experience and the difference between striking the rock then and speaking to it now was meant to be a sign of the growth in that relationship.  Instead this teachable moment for Israel was ruined by Moses doing as he felt instead of what God had instructed.

2) Don’t let your emotions get the better of you.  For 40 years Moses had led Israel.  For 40 years he had been subjected to complaining, unjust assaults on his character, and even outright rebellion.  Finally these frustrations made Moses lose sight of the bigger picture for just a moment.  Unfortunately often a moment is all that it takes.  Sometimes you may have to step away from your circumstances to allow your emotions to calm down.  Perhaps like Joseph you might have to run from the situation (Genesis 39:7-12).  Whatever you do, make sure that your actions are led by Godly wisdom rather than human emotion.

3) Refrain from judgment.  Because of his emotional state Moses saw a rebellious challenge to his God-given authority instead of a crowd grumbling because of their thirst.  This caused him to unfairly characterize Israel and unjustly judge their motivations.  While Israel’s behaviour was unacceptable, Moses misperception of it only made the situation worse.  We have to avoid making judgments in the conflicts we find ourselves in.  A good rule of thumb is to assume that people have the best of intentions, even if they don’t have the best way of expressing those intentions.

4) Give credit where credit is due.  Moses said “shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”  It was the first time he took credit for something only God could have done.  When pride takes hold and we begin thinking we’re responsible for things that only God can do it is a sign that we have completely lost perspective and challenges our ability to lead or make good decisions.  Faith and prayer become replaced by human effort.  Outcomes are judged by appearance and human perceptions of excellence rather than devotion and fidelity to God.  People destroy themselves when they try to claim the praise and honour that should only go to God.

At issue here is the question of who fights the battles that we face.  If we believe it is us, we’ll try to use our wisdom and be driven by our judgments and feelings when we act.  But we need realize it is God who fights our battles for us, and understand that the fight we must win is the fight to trust God’s leading over our own.  So when you’re in a battle, instead of striking out at your perceived enemy, speak out to your God.  He’s the only one who can win.  In fact He already has.

Chose This: Speaking out with faith and trust in God

Not That: Striking out in emotion, judgment and pride

2 Chronicles 20:15(b) – Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.

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