Sunday, December 9, 2007

more Numbers

My Sunday School lesson this morning featured buds and bads: Aaron's budding rod (in Numbers 17) and Moses' bad decisions driven by his anger (in Numbers 20).

God's miracle with Aaron's rod was driven, in context, by God's desire to make clear that Aaron was his man/priest after the various rebellions of chapters 13-16. A change of pace-- compared to plagues and His overwhelming presence-- the results were apparently more productive, since no other rebellions against the office of the priest are recorded. The miracle itself is beautiful and imaginative, indicative of the fruit which should accompany ministry (Ps 1:1-3), and acts as a two-fold type of Christ (Zech 6:12, Is 53:2; and the reference to resurrection-- as life comes out of death).

In Numbers 20, Moses' anger is in response to the people's grumbling at the end of their 40 years in the Wilderness (20:1-5). At Kadesh Barnea, again on the verge of entering the Promised Land, you can picture Moses seeing this irritating sequel playing out, amazed at their faithlessness, and wondering if everything he has done will go for naught. (We could cut the people some slack since the absence of water would be a crisis. But God had delivered on this precise issue earlier-- and their complaints indicate both distraction [5's figs, etc.?!] and a selective memory about Egypt.)

Moses is told to speak to the rock-- so that water would come out. He delivers an uncharacteristically harsh and proud speech to the people. And then he imitates what he did (successfully) in Exodus 17-- by striking the rock. As a result, God tells him that he will not get to go into the Promised Land. Ouch! If anyone "deserved" to go in, it was Moses! Why such a severe punishment?

-Whether Moses or a murmurer, any sin separates us from a holy God. Romans 3:23 says "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". And Romans 6:23 says "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." We cannot earn salvation on the basis of our "good works". It must be accepted as the gracious, unmerited (and free) gift of God. While we look at Moses-- or ourselves-- and conclude that he/we are "good people", the point is underlined that one cannot be good enough.

-Scripture talks about a higher standard for leaders. James 3:1 is most clear on this. Moses has fallen, publicly-- and caused much damage-- so the consequences should be greater.

-Ian Thomas points to Jn 4:14 and Jn 7:37-38 on the "springs of living water" that result from walking with Christ. Then, he cites I Cor 10:4-- "they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them and that rock was Christ." From there, he argues that God had already given the picture of the rock being crucified (struck) in Ex 17. Now in Num 20, the picture was to be speaking to the rock-- not to "re-crucify" Christ, but to model the impact of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. A cool picture, underlining yet again, the exquisite beauty of the Bible.

May you also participate in the striking and the speaking of the Rock.


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