SPEAK TO THE ROCK


Moses had to deal with difficult people.  Some things never change, because we all find ourselves dealing with difficult people.  In dealing with those people, our own flesh always wants to  rear its ugly head. Let's remind ourselves to speak to the Rock and not the people during these times of difficulty.

Scripture readings: Exodus 3:1-4:17, Acts 7:22, Numbers 12:3, Exodus 17, Numbers 20:1-12, Deuteronomy 3:23-29, 4:21-22


Moses. What a fascinating character. Definitely one of the most amazing men of God. Yet, I'm intrigued by the fact that he didn't get to go into the Promised Land, even though he knew the Lord intimately and the Lord spoke to him “face to face as one does a friend.”

As I was reading in Deuteronomy where Moses is coming to the end and is giving the instructions to the children of Israel, I was struck by his words, “Furthermore the Lord was angry with me for your sakes and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance”  (Deuteronomy 4: 21 NKJV ). I decided to look up the Hebrew words and made a very interesting discovery. The word for “with me for your sakes” is dabar (pronounced dä·vä' ). The Blue Letter Bible in the Outline of Biblical usage gives the definition 1) speech, word, speaking, thing. a) speech b) saying utterance c) word, words, d) business, occupation, acts, matter, case, something, manner (by extension). I looked this up on blueletterbible.org  and my eye caught an entry from the Gesenius's Lexicon: an eloquent man, Exodus 4:10.

So I looked up Exodus 4:10: Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I (am) not eloquent; neither before nor since you have spoken to your servant; but I (am) slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

There was that word again, dabar, used both when Moses was explaining why he wasn't going to get to go into the Promised Land and the excuse he used with the Lord that his speech wasn't good enough to do what He was calling him to do. So let's take a little trip.

We all know the story of Moses and how his mother made an ark of bulrushes to save his life. How Pharoah's daughter found him and how Moses' sister, Miriam was watching and asked Pharoah's daughter if she wanted her to get someone to nurse him, and how she got their mother. Most likely, his mother instilled in him at a very early age his calling. What a beautiful picture of Providence. The Lord had a plan.

Fast forward...Moses has spent some time in the backside of a desert and he encounters the Great I Am in the burning bush. The Lord tells Moses He wants to deliver His people from the Egyptians and He wants to send Moses to do it. So there's some conversation about what this is going to look like and then we come to that word “dabar” in Exodus 4:10. Here's the verse again: Then Moses said to the Lord, "O my Lord, I (am) not eloquent; neither before nor since you have spoken to your servant; but I (am) slow of speech and slow of tongue.” The Lord then reminds Moses that it's not about him: So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Or who made the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else you may send.” So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you he will be glad in his heart” (Exodus 4: 10-14).  There are two more verses we need to look at. Acts 7:22 says, “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” Numbers 12:3 says, “Now the man Moses was very humble more than all men who were on the face of the earth.”

We have a picture of a very interesting man who was raised by Pharoah's daughter, so he was very learned in wisdom of the Egyptians, and yes, mighty in words and deeds. But he was a very humble man. We don't know exactly when the humility came, but we do know he had been in the desert for about 20 years. That would teach some humility. So his reluctance with the Lord could probably have come from a place of true humility. But was the problem that he was looking at himself and not believing the Lord? Trusting in himself and his own abilities and not the Lord?

It makes me wonder what the story would have looked like if Moses had believed God and fully trusted him from the very beginning? What would OUR lives look like if we fully believed and trusted Him from the beginning? But wildernesses are necessary for our growth and allow opportunities for the Lord to not only teach us, but to display His glory and grace.

We also see the Lord's sovereignty here and how He weaves His sovereign plan throughout our failures and disbeliefs  to accomplish His will. He presents us with opportunities and those opportunities offer us a chance to be His instruments now and to enjoy the fruit of obedience later, sometimes in this life, but more importantly for us, later in His kingdom. But if we, in disbelief, or in our own flesh, say no, or even yes with conditions, the Lord always has someone else He can use to accomplish His will. His will can't be thwarted, but the loss can be ours. We don't get do-overs. Not to say that God isn't a God of second chances. He is. But presently we are confined to the dimensions of time. We can only move forward, we can't go back. Once we refuse Him for that particular thing at that particular moment, we can't go back. Psalm 90:12 reminds us: So teach [us] to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. We need to realize the uniqueness of every opportunity that the Lord puts before us and respond in belief, because the loss will be ours if we refuse.

Back to the story. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Earlier in the journey, they had no water and were thirsty. They began to groan and complain. 'Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?"  And the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses and said, "Why is it you have brought us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?"  So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, "What shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me!" And the Lord said to Moses, "Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock of Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel' (Exodus 17: 1-6).

There's much to study here, but for this study we will confine it to a few things. The word struck means to mortally wound. It is a picture of the first coming of Christ the Rock, Who would die and be our Living Water.

Fast forward about 20 years, and the Israelites are again thirsty and in need of water. The people contended with Moses again. Moses was probably sick and tired of these stiff necked, rebellious belly-achers. He had been before the Lord many times interceding for them. The Lord may have destroyed them, but for Moses pleading for Him not to. And Moses had spent much time in the presence of the Lord and on his face for the people. One example is found in Exodus 32.  Moses had been on the mountain with the Lord receiving the law, and the people saw he was delayed in coming down, so they got together with Aaron to make the golden calf idol. The Lord was ready to destroy them, but Moses pleaded with Him not to. Verse 32 says, "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin – but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." The – after the word sin indicates that Moses is choked up as he prays.

Numbers 20:2-12: 'Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. And the people contended with Moses and spoke saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Why have you brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there any water to drink.” So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the rod: you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals. So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now you rebels! Must WE bring water for you out of the rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and STRUCK the rock twice with his rod, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring the congregation into the Land which I am giving them.”' (Emphasis mine.)

Interestingly, the word used here where Moses speaks to the people is amar – to say in one's heart, to think, to command, to promise, to boast or act proudly.

Here is Moses once again, face down, experiencing God's glory. Get that? He's face down before the Lord. God tells Moses what to do. He tells him to speak to the rock and it will yield water. First of all, God wanted Moses to BE a witness here, just as He wants us to BE a witness when faced with challenges. Second, (not in importance) this was to be a picture of the Second coming of Christ. Death has already occurred. It's more than enough – it can't be added to. But even after being on his face and in the presence of God's glory and God plainly telling Moses what to do, Moses spoke to the people and struck (that same word to mortally wound) the rock twice and water came out. David Guzik has this to say in his commentary found on the Blue Letter Bible website, “Moses, after doing what God had told him to do, then did something God had not told him to do: He lectured the nation.
ii. Worse, he lectured the nation with an attitude of heart he had not shown before - one of anger and contempt for the people of God, with a bitter heart.”
Guzik goes on, “Moses’ sinful attitude and action was rooted in unbelief. He didn’t really believe God when the Lord told him to speak to the rock and not to strike it. What Moses did was an unholy thing. He made God look no different than an angry man or one of the temperamental pagan gods. He did not reflect the heart and character of God before the people.”

Moses sinned and his sin cost him. We're not talking about salvation. Moses' sin didn't keep him from being saved. It kept him from experiencing the rewards of obedience. It kept him from the Promised Land. It kept him from accurately portraying our Savior.

Moses' ministry at this point was over. His words in Deuteronomy 3:23-29 are very poignant to me:
'Then I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, “O Lord God, You have begun to show your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains of Lebanon.” But the Lord was angry with me for your sakes and your account, and would not listen to me. So the Lord said to me: “Enough of that! Speak no more to Me on this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over the Jordan. But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.” So we stayed in the valley opposite Beth Peor.'

Deuteronomy 4:21: 'Furthermore the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.'  Again, that word, dabar . He spoke, but not to what the Lord told him to. God told him to speak to the rock, instead he spoke to the people.

This really speaks to me. Here was a smart, humble man who walked with God, spoke to Him face to face, experienced His glory – really had one of the more remarkable relationships with the Lord. Yet his unbelief and his own flesh kept him from going into the Promised Land. He started out not fully believing, but relying on himself instead of the Lord. And after many years with the Lord, he still had trouble believing. His eyes moved from the Lord to the people and his flesh took over. It will happen every time. Lest we be too hard on Moses, let's remind ourselves of all those difficult people we have in our lives. The ones that try us, disappoint us, hurt us, betray us, the ones that always grumble and complain. The ones that always seem to bring out our flesh.  From a human stand point, Moses had every right to be sick of these people's behavior. We all would have. But from God's stand point, he just needed to believe and obey.

I think of all the difficult people we might live with, work with, or deal with day in and day out. Maybe they are bitter, resentful or complaining people. Maybe it's very frustrating because, like the Israelites, they don't seem to be willing to grow in the Lord. Maybe we've been dealing with them for a LONG time, and in human eyes, we're justified in being less than patient with them or even in telling them a thing or two. But that is flesh and it always will be. What if we spoke to the Rock and not the people? What if EVERY TIME we were irritated that, once again, this person is disappointing us with his/her behavior, we spoke to the Rock and not the person. Nothing we say is going to have the effect we want it to when we're speaking out of our own flesh. And we all know we can speak without saying a word, too. We can use our body language and our passive aggressiveness to speak volumes without saying a word. How much better to speak to the Rock and walk in the Spirit. Then we leave it to Him to deal with the other person. Can we believe that he might be dealing with the other person without us having to step in and fill them in? Can we believe that He is on His time frame and not ours? Once we've spoken to Him, then He might show us something to say when we are in the right frame of mind, but it won't be fleshly. And what may just happen is that He will show us things in our own lives He wants to address.

If we don't speak to the Rock first, and instead speak to the people/person – flesh, sin – we immediately lose our witness and our opportunity to be His witness and our opportunity to be His instrument in modeling Christ and leading them further to the Living Water. We can also experience mini “promised land” victories when we choose to believe and obey, and we know we have rewards awaiting us in the kingdom, also.

What a challenge. If Moses didn't get it right, what makes us think we can? The starting point is moment by moment surrender. We have an advantage over Moses in that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But our flesh can still rise up. The key is found in Romans 12: 1-2, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. If we will but surrender every moment as it presents itself, it's at that point that the renewing of the mind happens, and we become transformed. It's a process and a practice of living in the presence of the Lord, surrendering to Him moment by moment, and believing Him and taking Him at His word. Jesus told His disciples in Luke 21:19 as He sent them out, “In your patience, possess your souls.” The word for patience is hypomonē. It means:

1) steadfastness, constancy, endurance

a) in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings
b) patiently, and steadfastly

2) a patient, steadfast waiting for

3) a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance.

The word for possess is ktaomai. It means
 1) to acquire, get, or procure a thing for one's self, to possess a) to marry a wife.

And the word for souls is psychē. It means:

1) breath
a) the breath of life. The vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing a) of animals b) of men b) life c) that in which there is life

2) a living being, a living soul

3) the soul
 a) the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul etc.)
b) the (human) soul in so far as it is constituted that by the right use of the aids offered it by God it can attain its highest end and secure eternal blessedness, the soul regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life
c) the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body).

This requires not self denial, but denial of self. Laying down our lives in surrender to Him.
To revisit Moses for a moment, we know God buried his body where only He knows. And we know Moses got to appear at the Transfiguration. Many believe Moses is one of the two witnesses of the Tribulation. So let's not take away from his ministry, but let's learn from him.

Speak to the Rock and not the people. Keep our eyes on the Savior and believe Him. Persevere to finish well for the Kingdom.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.



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