Last week we saw 12 spies sent to explore Canaan and how they brought back a divided report. This chapter brings us to the last year of Israel’s journey. It begins with the death of Miriam and ends with the death of Aaron. In the middle of the chapter we see the failure of Moses and Aaron causing God to not allow them to enter the Promise Land. Years have passed and now there is a new generation. They are complaining and grumbling to Moses just like their fathers.
Numbers 20:1 – Miriam’s Death
The Israelites arrived at the Desert of Zin and stayed in Kadesh. There Moses’ sister Miriam died (Num. 20:1). Only a few words are said of her here. I am sure Moses and Aaron were very sad about her death. We know some of her history from our past studies. When Moses was a baby, she saved him from death (Ex. 2). She led the women to thank God after they escaped Egypt and crossed the Red Sea (Ex. 15). She helped Moses and Aaron lead the Israelites on their journey in the desert. She spoke against Moses, but God forgave her. However, she suffered punishment from God (Num. 12).
Numbers 20:2-13 – Moses’ Sin
Again the Israelites had no water to drink and cried out to Moses and Aaron. They wished they had died suddenly like the some of the others had done. They had not learned anything from their fathers during their 38 years. They still didn’t go to God with their concerns, but complained to Moses. This was similar to Ex. 17:1-7 when they complained about no water and God told Moses to use his staff to strike the rock and water would come out of the rock.
How are you influencing your children and what sins are they picking up from you?
Where do you turn when you need help?
Do you simply complain or do you turn to God for help?
Again Moses didn’t argue with the people, but took Aaron and together they prayed to God. As we would say, “take it to the Lord” and that’s just what they did.
Do you take your problems and concerns to the Lord?
This time God didn’t tell Moses to strike the rock, but to speak to the rock and water would come out. However, Moses said to the people, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” – Num. 20:10. Then Moses struck the rock 2 times and water gushed out. Then God said, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” – Num. 20:12.
Do you take credit for what God has done or do you give Him all the glory?
Do you trust God in a few things or in all things?
I feel sorry for Moses. He had waited so long to enter the Promise Land and now he would not. He had put up with all the peoples’ complaints and was probably frustrated with them. His patience finally broke. His response was only human. It was still a failure and a sin. It was unbelief. Moses spoke to the people out of anger instead of the rock as God commanded. He didn’t follow God’s instruction and he didn’t glorify God. He said, “Must we bring you water out of this rock?” He wasn’t giving God the credit. He didn’t fully trust God. Moses spoke rashly and thoughtlessly. “By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God and rash words came from Moses’ lips.” – Ps. 106:32-33.
Maybe you think Moses punishment was somewhat harsh, but remember the next generation was watching. God wanted them to see how important it was to obey. God didn’t kill Moses. He took him home.
When has your failure to trust God harmed the faith of others? They are harmed when others see us worry instead of trusting God, when we try to fix things on our own instead of taking it to God, and anytime the choices we make cause those of weaker faith to stumble. Remember, others are watching and as Christians we need to set a good example.
Principle: Trust and glorify God in all things.
Numbers 20:14-21 – Passage Denied
Moses sent a message from Kadesh to the king of Edom asking him if they could cut across his country on their way Moab. If you remember, the people of Edom were descendants of Esau in Gen. 26. The Israelites were descendants of Jacob, Esau’s brother. In the message Moses reminded the king they were his relatives and not to consider them as enemies. If the king would let them pass through, they would not disturb their fields or take any crops or water. The king refused. Moses asked him again, but he still refused and sent his large and powerful army to stop them. The Israelites could have fought, because God and helped them fight their enemies before. This was not God’s plan so Moses decided to go another way.
Numbers 20:22-29 - Aaron’s Death
The Israelites then traveled to Mount Hor. God told Moses, Aaron and Aaron’s son Eleazar to go up on Hor, because it was time for Aaron to die. God didn’t kill him. He died of natural causes and was blessed with a long life. He was 123 years old. Even though Aaron wouldn’t enter the Promised Land because he and Moses didn’t follow God’s instruction, before he died God blessed him by letting him see his son be made high priest. The high priest wore special garments. God told Moses to remove these special garments from Aaron and put them on Eleazar showing he was now the new high priest. This was an important act and is in anticipation of the coming of Jesus, our one and only High Priest.
Moses and Eleazar came down the mountain and the whole community learned of Aaron’s death and saw that Eleazar was now the new high priest. This was probably an encouragement to the people that God was still with them and that He was faithful and would not leave them. They mourned Aaron’s death for 30 days.
How has God blessed you throughout your life?
Has God blessed you when you were disobedient?
Principle: God is faithful and will not leave us.
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