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Our God is a Consuming Fire

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Moses was unable to enter the promise land. Some have thought it strange for this to happen in light of previous commands that God have him. In trying to understand this issue, we need to look at two passages of scripture very carefully. Those two passages are Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13.

You will have to pay close attention to what God tells Moses to do in both of these passages of scripture. It will mean the difference between Moses entering or just seeing the promise land. We will start in the Exodus passage first. The plagues and the Passover have occurred in Egypt and the Hebrews have left that place under the leadership of Moses.

They have crossed the Red Sea on dry ground in chapter 14 of Exodus. God provided water for them to drink in Marah by turning bitter water drinkable in chapter 15. They continue on their journey and God provides Manna and Quail for them to eat in chapter 16. They had not yet had the Ten Commandments, which were given in chapter 20 or any of the rest of the law of Israel.

The Exodus passage shows that Moses was faithful. He asked the Israelites why they were testing the Lord. He knew that God would take care of them. These people had no idea how to survive in the desert. They were slaves in Egypt and all of their food and water was taken care of for them. Their food was grown in agricultural areas and the water was taken from the Nile River or some other permanent source of water.

One of the things that they would not have known was where to get water. In the Sinai area of the Middle East there is an interesting thing that happens in the rocks. Many of the rocks have cracks in them and some of those cracks run from the top of mountains to the bottom of valleys. When it rains on the tops of the mountains, the water runs down these cracks and then spills out at the bottom.

It does that until it begins to get blocked by calcium deposits. If you have ever seen hard water stains, you will understand what I am talking about. Now, where the water runs out the calcium gets deposited and it continues this process until the crack is sealed most of the way up the mountain. That means that there are huge amounts of water rapped in these rocks. If you were to go and break the deposit from the bottom of the rock, water would pour out for quite a long time.

So you can see that God showed them a way to get water from the rock. Then we move on to Numbers chapter 20. It is coming near the end of the forty years of wandering and slowly the generation before is dying off. Moses and Aaron are still leading the people at this point and God is about to bring them into the promise land.

What a totally different outcome from an event that is so similar. The difference though is the fact that these events are separated by about forty years, the Ten Commandments, and all sorts of ceremonial and moral laws that God has revealed to them. Throughout this process, Israel should have grown spiritually. What we see here, though, is something different.

Moses didn’t really listen to what God was telling him and it cost him dearly. He relied on what he knew worked in the past rather than what God wanted him to do right now. What a huge mistake he made. The cost was great. Look at what God told him to do in verse 8 which says “8 “Take the staff and assemble the community. You and your brother Aaron are to speak to the rock while they watch, and it will yield its water. You will bring out water for them from the rock and provide drink for the community and their livestock (HCSB).”

In the exodus passage, God told Moses to hit the rock. Moses hit it and it produced water. In this passage God said to speak to the rock and it will yield it’s water. Moses hit it. Was he really paying attention? I’m sure he said in his mind, “Oh yea, I remember that. I know how to find water.” The whole time probably ignoring exactly what God was saying.

If you go back and read through the Old Testament narratives, you will find that God brought people on a journey with the purpose of getting them to trust him completely. Remember Gideon, who didn’t even bring a weapon to fight the Midianites. What did Moses do though? He relied on his instincts. He knew that hitting the rock would produce water. What God wanted was for Moses to show the people another miraculous event. He wanted them to see that He could do it without someone physically doing anything.

The problem is that Moses went ahead of God. He was the one who caused the water to flow instead of God. That is not what God wanted. Because of that in verse 28 of this chapter Aaron died and Moses died before being able to set foot in the promise land. His purpose was to lead Israel into that land, yet he himself would not get to go into it. God was not happy about what they had done.

They showed trust in what man could do rather than what God could do through them. Look at verse 12 which says “12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust Me to show My holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them (HCSB).” He no longer had the privilege of taking them to the promise land. That must have been devastating after waiting forty years, to have it messed up by a lack of faith in God’s providence.

My question today is: how many of you are wandering around in the wilderness? Ask yourself that question. Are you relying on God’s strength or your own? He is not going to manifest himself when you think that it is all due to your own power. He won’t do it until you completely rely on Him. You have to submit to Him that you are the weaker one and you need Him to be your strength.  Are you hitting rocks in your life hoping for water? Is it the water that God wants you to drink? 

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