Archive for category Testing
The book of Judges records the many cycles of the nation turning to idolatry, God sending an oppressor to test them, Israel crying out to God for deliverance, God sending a judge to deliver them from the oppressor, then they would have peace until the judge died, and then the cycle would repeat. This period lasts about 400 years from approximately 1400BC to 1100BC.
The part of today’s reading that struck me is the story of Moses and Aaron providing water for Israel at Kadesh. Not the story itself, I remember the basics pretty well, Moses and Aaron are frustrated by the people and their constant grumbling and complaining. When the people complain again about no water, Moses hits the rock God told him to speak to. I think most of us can relate to Moses frustration because of kids, parents, work, etc.. One thing I did not remember about this incident is that it happened in the last year they were in the desert. But, that’s not the thing I found so interesting today.
I was struck by how far above us God is, and it emphasizes that God shows no partiality. Moses, we could argue, is one of the two or three most godly people to live, yet he was overcome by his anger and frustration then he displayed pride and arrogance towards Israel. When we puff ourselves up we usually do it in opposition to other people, but the reality is we puff up against God as Moses did. When God punished Moses and Aaron, he says they lacked trust (or faith) in Him and they did not honor God as holy. Even though we might not have seen this incident as a big deal, God held Moses accountable for his sin, and this ought to remind us of what James writes in chapter 3:1, that teachers shall receive a stricter judgment. Spiritual leaders need to be especially aware of anger, frustration and pride creeping into their thoughts as they work with many people like Israel, spiritually immature, often lacking faith and godliness. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as more important or better than others. I think it is the most common sin and temptation for spiritually mature people, PRIDE. And we need reminding that God is Great and Awesome, provides for all, loves all, desiring that all would come to repentance. We are not great if we become spiritually mature, God is great because we are His workmanship.
So much happens in these chapters, but the Golden Calf, made by Aaron approximately a month after Israel agrees to make no idols, highlights the nature of Israel. They appear to be ruled by the emotion of the moment, especially when it comes to fear, even their agreement to God’s covenant came after they were terrified by hearing God speak from Mount Sinai. They make the golden calf after Moses has been gone for too long by their measure.
God’s anger with Israel is expressed and we hear God describe the people for the first time as stiff-necked, which carries the idea of stubborn or rebellious. But God tells Moses he wants to destroy them and make Moses a great nation, prompting Moses to intercede on behalf of Israel. This is clearly a foreshadow of what Christ will do for all people who will trust him and come to him on the holy mountain. It’s a good thing Moses pleaded with God before he witnessed what they were doing or he might have agreed to kill them. His anger burned so hot he broke the two tablets of stone on which God had written the covenant. Unfortunately for Moses God will require him to make new stone tablets that God will write on a second time, giving Israel a chance to repent from breaking the covenant. Israel will continually break the covenant with God throughout their history, the story of the prophet Hosea will show to Israel what they have been like to God, a wife that continually is unfaithful yet her husband will show mercy and bring her back.
The glow of Moses face after witnessing the glory of God passing by him apparently does not fade away, it will glow like that for the entire 40 years in the desert which I usually forget when reading about him later on.
I have no doubt that having no water for three days would cause most of us to worry and be tempted to grumble or complain, but the circumstances tested Israel. Would they overcome the temptation to complain through faith in God? No, unfortunately they failed, they continued to accuse God of trying to kill them in the desert.
God miraculously provided water, bread every morning (manna means “what is it?”) that tasted like wafers of bread with honey (that sounds good), and meat in the evening. By the way that lasted all the years they wandered in the desert. I probably would have gotten tired of the same thing to eat everyday for 40 years but the alternatives were worse. Either no food or still a slave in Egypt. They didn’t have to work hard for any of them, yet they found more things to complain about rather than be thankful for what they did have. This is why the New Testament tells us when we pray asking God for something we do it with thanksgiving, that we never forget what we have been given even when we are asking for more.
There is another lesson for us as well. God delivers us from our bondage and takes us through the wilderness of testing, not straight to heaven. When we are delivered from the bondage of sin by Christ we will still encounter trials and temptation before we enter into the eternal kingdom. That’s why James writes in chapter 1 that we should count it joy when we fall into trials, and why 1Peter 5 tells us that after we have suffered awhile God will strengthen and establish us. Periods of trial should be expected, especially for God’s elect. However, if we continue in the faith of our Lord we will overcome and grow in strength and godly character. Then some day we will enter the promised land where God will wipe away all tears.