About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 20

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ch. 20:1-15   ch. 20:15-21

The Water From The Rock (ch. 20:1 - 15)



Most Bible teachers suggest that this chapter is in the fortieth year of Israel 's wondering in the desert.  The days of wandering are pretty well over. Therefore, those who are complaining in this chapter might well have been born in the desert, and not the original Israeli's that left Egypt.  You will remember that God told that generation that they would not enter the land of Canaan because of their complaining.   


In verse 1 we see that Miriam died.  Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron.


The cycle of complaining continues with Israel in verses 2 and 3.  The people complain to Moses because they had no water to drink.  They said to Moses that they might well have been better of if they were killed  "when their brothers fell dead before the Lord".  This is the event found in Numbers 16 when 14,700 people died from a plague that God had put in Israel.   Israel continues to complain and they always look back to the past.  This new generation of Israeli's have just learned what their parents taught them.  Either they say that they would be better of dead, or better off back in slavery in Egypt .  Whatever the case, they were backward thinkers.  They should have been well into the promised land by now.  The only reason why they weren't doing well in the land God promised is that they did not obey God and enter the promised land.  It is their own fault that they are stuck in this desert.  It's not Moses' fault, but they continue to blame him anyway.


In verse 4 Israel asks Moses why he brought "the Lord's community" into the desert to die.  This is the first time that Israel actually call themselves, "the Lord's community", although they seldom act as if they belong to the Lord.  They should have known by now that it was not Moses' idea to leave Egypt.  It was God's idea.  This is typical human nature.  When things don't go well, we complain, and we often complain against those God has place in authority. 


When we complain, as we've seen before, we are actually demonstrating a lack of trust in the Lord.  We're not content in the place He has put us.  As we have also seen before, God views this complaining as rejection of Him. Much of the things we complain about are a product of our own doing.   If you feel the need to complain, you  should be complaining to yourself, not to God or anyone else.


In verse 5 Israel mentions Egypt again.  They ask Moses why he brought them from Egypt to a place where there was no food or water.  The answer is simple.  This desert was simply the route to get to the promised land, the land that they should have arrived in long before now.  It was not God's idea for them to stay in the desert.  It did become his idea after they refused to enter Canaan.  Again, all this is a product of Israel's own choosing, although they refused to admit it.  Again, that is the human condition. 


In verses 6 through 8 Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the Lord again, as they have done countless times.  I've said this a number of times, but the main ministry that Moses had concerning being leader of Israel was the ministry of intercession.  Much of his time was spent in prayer, on his face, pleading with God to intervene into the affairs of a rebellious people.  I'd suggest that church leaders today should have the same ministry.  The church is not that much different than Israel of old.  We certainly could use many more Moses'  in the Christian community. 


God had compassion on these people again.  This has always been the cycle.  God promises something.  God says to Israel, "obey me'.  Israel does not obey.  They complain.  God gets angry and judges them.  Then He turns around and shows love to them, and then, the cycle begins again.  God was nice to Israel again here by having water come out of a rock when Moses struck the rock with his staff.  Another miracle to a selfish complaining people.


Verses 9 through 11 explains how Moses struck the rock and water gushed out of it for all to drink.


Verse 12 needs some consideration.  God was not happy with Moses and Aaron.  He was so upset with them that He told them that they would not lead Israel into the promised land.  That would be left for someone else. 


You might ask, "why was God upset with Moses and Aaron"?  They appeared to do as God asked, but that is not exactly so.  God told Moses to "speak" to the rock and water would come out of the rock.  What did Moses do?  He hit the rock twice with the staff.  We might wonder what the big deal is.  The point is simple.  God is God.  He specifically said, speak, and Moses struck.  Many Bible scholars feel that Moses was very upset, and that is partly why he hit the rock.


There might well be another point to consider.  In Exodus 18 God had Moses strike a rock and water came from the rock.  Moses might have had this in the back of his mind and striking the rock might have been a subconscious thing. Many people feel that God was really harsh on Moses, and that He was.  This leaves me with  the feeling that we can do nothing but fall on our faces before the Lord and ask for mercy.  


God tells us why He was upset with Moses in verse 12.  He said that Moses had a lack of trust, and he did not honour God before Israel.  However, and whatever, Moses did what was done from a lack of trust and honour, at least in the eyes of God.  For this, God ended the ministry of Moses.  


The question then is asked, "what did Moses do that demonstrated this lack of trust and honour"?  Trust and honour are matters of the heart and we don't see the feelings and motivation of Moses' heart very clearly here.  By striking the rock, when he was to speak to it, he might have been both upset with God and Israel .  If so, this would have been an action on his part showing a lack of trust and honour for God in front of God's people.


I think the thing that God had trouble with here was Moses' attitude that all Israel could see.  If Moses had been frustrated with God and came to Him privately, then God might not have been so upset with him, but since Moses showed his feelings to God's people, he was not properly representing God to Israel.  This is somewhat speculative because the text is not really clear on this.   


Verse 24 of this chapter gives some more information on why God was unhappy with Moses and Aaron  He tells Aaron that he will die and not enter Canaan because both he and Moses "rebelled" against God.  God viewed Moses striking the rock as rebellion, as well as a lack of trust and honour. 


This is heavy stuff.  If leaders of God's people don't obey God as he actually states, and if they don't properly represent Him, God will take the ministry away from the leader.  I believe he does the same today.  I think we have many church leaders today that are leaders, but leaders in the eyes of men only.  God has taken their ministry away, but they are still acting and working as if they had God's ministry. 


Again, this event shows us the frailty of man.  We are at God's mercy. 


When church leaders today lean on their own abilities, and not God's ability, these leaders are not honouring God before the people of God as they should.



Edom Denies Israel 's Passage (ch. 20:14 - 21)


We see Edom mentioned in verse 14.  Abraham had a son named Isaac.  Isaac had two sons named Jacob and Esau.  The descendents of Esau are Edomites. 


Also in verse 14 we see Moses calling themselves a brother to the Edomites.  This is true.  The children of Israel are the descendents of Jacob.  The Edomites are the descendents of Jacob's brother Esau.


In verses 14 and 15 Moses reminds the king of Edom about Israel going to Egypt generations ago and being enslaved in Egypt.  He also reminds the king that an angel of God led them out of Egypt and now they are in the place where they are at.  Even back in those days, word got around concerning various nations, and Israel was no exception.


In verses 16 and 17 Moses requests permission to pass through the territory of Edom.  He guaranteed the king that Israel would stay on the king's highway.  They would not eat or drink anything belonging to Edom. Israel simply needed to pass through  Edom in order to get toCanaan.


In verse 18 we see that Edom denied the request for Israel to pass through the territory in which they held.  Many Bible teachers suggest that Edom suffered by God greatly for this refusal, and that is what the book of Obadiah is all about.  Edom is one of those nations in the Bible that prophecy teachers talk much about.  There is a fair amount of debate over the significance of Edom in prophetic history, even up until the end of this present age.  Edom is one of three countries at the end of the age that seem not to be affected by the anti-Christ.


In verse 19 Moses repeated his request and in verse 20 the king of Edom denied their request again.  This section ends in verse 20 with Edom sending out an army to meet Israel and at that point, Israel changed their minds about passing through Edom.  So we see the dispute between Jacob and Esau that took place hundreds of years ago having affect even at this stage in history.


The Death Of Aaron (ch. 20:21 - 29)


In verses 22 to 26 God tells Moses that Aaron will not enter the promise land since both he and Moses rebelled against Him.  We noted in the last section that God was unhappy with Moses and Aaron showed a lack of trust and honour when Moses struck the rock.  Here we learn that God also viewed that as rebellion.  Moses already knew he would not enter Canaan.  God told him that earlier, but what God didn't tell him earlier, but told him now, that Aaron would now die.  How often do we actually know just when we will die.  God for some reason, made it known that Aaron would climb Mount Hor, and once at the top, he would die. 


In verse 26 God tells Moses to have Aarons clothes removed and given to his son Eleazar.  Eleazar would now take Aaron's place in the priesthood.  The passing down of the clothes suggests the passing down of the mantel of the Lord, the ministry God gave Aaron, from one generation to the next.


The passing of ministries and our faith from one generation to the next is always a hard thing to do for various reasons.  A father and mother can have a strong faith in the Lord Jesus, while their children seem to be weak in faith or have no faith at all.  That being said, it is God's desire that what we as parents receive from Him be passed down to the next generation.  This is why we see God over and over again asking Israel to make memorials of how He dealt with Israel so future generations would not forget.


The phrase "gathered to his people" is used twice in verses 22 to 26.  This is a Jewish idiom that portrays death.  When Jewish people died, the Jews understood that the one who died would be reunited with family who had already passed on.


From verse 27 to verse 29 we see Moses doing just as God commanded.  Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar went up the mountain.  Aaron gave his clothes to his son Eleazar, and then he died.  Just like that.  It's stories like this that make the liberal Bible teacher skeptical.  But, if God is God, He can certainly do what ever He wants. 


Verse 29 tells us that Israel mourned for thirty days because of the death of Aaron.  This is a bit ironic due to the fact that so many times over the years they were in opposition to him.  It shows you how fickle they were, but we're not all that different today.  Humanity is the same wherever you go.  There is no difference between the Jew or the Gentile.  We are al human, and we are all sinners in need of a Saviour.


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