HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, June 13, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Don’t Presume”
Text – Exodus 17:1-6, Numbers 20:1-13, Deuteronomy 34:1-4
Call to Worship – Lamentations 3:17-26 – “His Mercies Are New Every Morning!”
We make presumptions daily without even realizing it. I sit down on a chair because I presume it will hold me up. I flip the switch, presuming that it will turn on the light. I don’t give it a second thought except on the rare occasion when I discover I have a burnt-out bulb. Some presumptions are normal and good.
Can you imagine how strange it would be for a person to mistrust a chair every time they sat down for fear it was going to collapse? Or imagine the person who breathes a sigh of relief every time the light comes on in response to having flipped the switch? For the most part, these are realistic and healthy presumptions. We shouldn’t go through life paranoid!
Unfortunately, we also make presumptions that we have no business making. We may not be quick to express them or even recognize them, but they come out nonetheless. Have you ever said or thought any of the following?
· ‘I’ve experienced this before. I know exactly what to do.’
· ‘Meh, close enough.’
· ‘It’s not my fault. I was having a bad day.’
· ‘Give me a break! I said I was sorry.’
· ‘My life sucks. Why does God hate me so much?’
Each of these sentiments is indicative of the fact that you and I may hold to some common underlying and problematic presumptions.
And today we are going to find hints of each in Moses’ life as well…now at the ripe old age of 118 years. It appears that no matter how old we get, or how long we have lived as a faithful follower of God, we are never immune from making false presumptions that can leave us vulnerable. But first, we must go back to where we left the Israelites last week, with God providing for the people in the middle of the wilderness, and Moses still just a mere 80 years of age.
BACKSTORY – WATER FROM A ROCK
Exodus 17:1-6 - “At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. 2 So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded. “Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”
3 But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”
5 The Lord said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. 6 I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.”
This miracle happened within the first two months of the Israelites having escaped Egypt. The people are desperate for water…again. The people accuse Moses of bringing the Israelites into the desert only to kill them, their children and their livestock with thirst…again. Tensions are running so high, Moses fears for his life. God directs him to strike the rock of Mount Sinai and water comes gushing out for the people and their animals. Chaos averted. But this is not the first or last time that the people will experience a shortage of water during their time in the desert.
Fast forward 38 years and we come across an almost identical situation, but with a twist.
SAME OLD PROBLEM…NEW SOLUTION
Numbers 20:2-8 – “2 There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The people blamed Moses and said, ‘If only we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers! 4 Why have you brought the congregation of the Lord’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? 5 Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!’
6 Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord said to Moses, 8 ‘You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.’”
Thirty-eight years later and nothing has changed. The people again find themselves desperate for water and once again Moses finds himself in the line of fire. Moses is blamed once more for having brought them out of Egypt into the desert to die—the same old tired accusation since day one. Thirty-eight years have done nothing to change these hard headed and hardhearted people. Moses goes before God and he is given a new set of directions for this same problem he faced nearly four decades earlier. Now, rather than hitting the rock as he had done so many years ago, God instructs him to simply speak to the rock with his staff in hand.
Same old problem…new solution. Simple enough. But this is exactly where things go wrong for Moses in a single, unguarded, moment.
AN UNGUARDED MOMENT
Numbers 20:1, 9-13 - “In the first month of the year, the whole community of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Zin and camped at Kadesh. While they were there, Miriam died and was buried…
So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. 10 Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!’ 13 This place was known as the waters of Meribah (which means “arguing”) because there the people of Israel argued with the Lord, and there he demonstrated his holiness among them.”
Moses has just lost his sister, Miriam, and would have been grieving her loss. Just once, couldn’t these people have held their tongues…recognized the pain that Moses was in…allowed him to grieve the loss of sister in peace? Nope!
Moses goes before God, receives his instructions and appears to be intent on obeying God as he has so many times before. But there’s a ‘hiccup’ in Moses’ long history of unwavering obedience to God, a hint of a presumption that Moses held to.
PRESUMPTION #1 – “GOD IS PREDICTABLE” – Moses had been here before and in the almost exact same situation. Surely, when God told him to speak to the rock and take the staff, the staff was to be used as he had used it before…to strike the rock. But when he does, God accuses Moses and Aaron of not trusting Him to bring deliverance. It didn’t matter how God had worked in the past; God had intended to reveal Himself in a new way.
As much as we might like to think we understand God and how He works, we cannot predict how God will choose to act at any given time. He must be treated as the limitless Sovereign that He is…always. We must avoid putting God in a box, expecting Him to always answer in the same predictable way. In our sinfulness we try to ‘figure God out,’ to make Him understandable to our finite human experience, but in so doing we reduce the person of God and what we believe about Him. When we put God in a box, we limit the ways that we will accept His help and in the way we will serve Him…to our own detriment!
PRESUMPTION #2 – “GOOD ENOUGH IS GOOD ENOUGH” – Notice, too, what Moses says to the people, “Must we bring water from this rock?” God accuses Moses of not honouring Him before the people. The way I read this is that Moses misrepresented God. Yes, the people were going to receive water through the instructions provided to Moses, but it was God who was going to perform the miracle…through His servant. Even if Moses hadn’t hit the rock, had simply spoken to it and water come pouring out, he would still have been guilty of not giving credit where credit was due, of not honouring God and demonstrating His holiness. God expected full obedience and humility from Moses; but, Moses only ‘mostly’ obeyed God and it cost him.
PRESUMPTION #3 – “A ‘BAD’ DAY EXCUSES BAD BEHAVIOUR” - Most of us would be tempted to excuse Moses. Afterall, his sister had just died, he’s grieving. Give the guy a break. But that’s the world’s thinking, not God’s. Problem is, we’ve all been there…and none of us wants to be held accountable for the things we do in our ‘knee jerk’ reactionary moments.
When I was preparing my notes, I couldn’t help but think back to a ‘knee jerk’ reaction of my own from Bible college days. I awoke in the middle of the night to an incredible pain in my lower back and side. My dorm roommate drove me to the hospital where I spent the next few hours in pain as the medical staff attempted to ascertain the source. It became clear that what I was suffering from was a kidney stone…which put me in hospital for a week and regularly sedated on pain killers.
Prior to my admission, however, I was repeatedly asked if I knew why I was there. Apparently, there was some concern over my ability to recollect events during this painful episode under minimal pain medication. At one point, under non-stop pain, I became overly frustrated with this question. About the sixth time I was asked, ‘Do you know why you’re here?’ I responded in a loud and clear voice, “I’m here to piss out a rock.” I was not asked the question again.
But my poor roommate. She was utterly shocked by what she had just heard. I didn’t talk that way normally, but it’s amazing what the combination of pain, exhaustion and frustration will bring out in even a normally well-spoken Bible college student. All excuses aside, it was not a good response, even if it brought about the desired results. My poor choice of words, despite providing a somewhat relatable story today, should not be excused just because I was having a bad day.
PRESUMPTION #4 – “SAYING ‘SORRY’ REMOVES CONSEQUENCES” – I am certain that Moses was immediately repentant when God pointed out his error, quick to confess his sin and humbled by God’s rebuke. That attitude of repentance did not, however, remove God’s judgment, “You will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” We don’t read in Scripture that Moses tried to change God’s mind, though some of us might be quick to argue Moses’ case: “Give him a break, God. He said he was sorry. He won’t do it again.” Some of us are working from a false presumption.
Let me ask a question. Why do we say ‘sorry?’ We may be genuinely apologetic; we’re sorry we got caught; or to get out of consequences. The presumption that consequences can be reversed, for wrong choices made, simply because we regret the consequences, is wrong. I am convinced that God forgave Moses, yet at the same time He didn’t change His decision to bar Moses from entering the promised land. The same is true for us. God will forgive us when we repent, but there are often consequences that we must live with for our wrong choices—needed restitution, broken relationships and damaged reputations.
PRESUMPTION #5 – “CONSEQUENCES MEAN GOD DOESN’T LOVE ME” – Nothing could be further from the truth! God uses consequences for wrong doing to ‘discipline’ us as our loving heavenly Father. God forgives us and He extends His grace and mercy to us, but He has no interest in having His children develop into spoiled and entitled brats. Even though Moses had committed an act God deemed worthy of barring him from the promised land, Moses continued to hold a special place in God’s affections. Before he dies, God gives him one final gift.
GOD’S GIFT TO MOSES
Deuteronomy 34:1-4 - “Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab and climbed Pisgah Peak, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him the whole land, from Gilead as far as Dan; 2 all the land of Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; all the land of Judah, extending to the Mediterranean Sea; 3 the Negev; the Jordan Valley with Jericho—the city of palms—as far as Zoar. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, “I will give it to your descendants.” I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.’”
Moses is given an opportunity to see the promised land before he dies in the wilderness. Moses is the only Israelite who is refused entry into Canaan, who God permits to still see it with his own eyes (aside from the ten spies who have toured the land for forty days and then died of plague when they discouraged the people from obeying God). This was a final gift from God to His friend, Moses.
So why not just let Moses enter and retire? Because to do so would have been to deny the severity of what Moses had done. Rebellion against God had cost the original Israelites who had been brought out of Egypt their chance to enter into the land—everyone twenty years and older had died in the wilderness. Joshua and Caleb—the two spies who encouraged the people to enter God’s promised land four decades earlier—were the only ones left of the original adults who were permitted to enter into Canaan.
What Moses and Aaron had done at Kadesh may not have appeared like such a big deal, but God had expected more of the two men chosen to represent Him to the people. He couldn’t let their disobedience simply slide. Jesus pointed out this principle when he taught that, “But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (Luke 12:48). Moses had been entrusted with much, had enjoyed a privileged position in his relationship with God, but when it came time to prove his loyalty once again, he had failed.
God forgave Moses, but the consequence remained. He had lead the Israelites for forty years and like all of them, apart from Joshua and Caleb, he would die in the wilderness as one of them.
So what can we learn about the wrong presumptions we make from this brief moment in the life of Moses?
· Even faithful Christians, those who are considered spiritually mature, can be vulnerable to making mistakes. No one is immune.
· It is important that we consistently represent God well to others. We must give Him credit for the things He does. We must remember who is in charge and responsible to give the orders that we are called to obey.
· We have to resist the urge to define the parameters within which God can and will work. We must be willing to have Him surprise us…to reveal Himself in new ways.
· Partial obedience still contains within it the act of disobedience. When God gives us a task, we need to obey it fully.
· Always be on the defensive against ‘knee jerk’ reactions. One of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to us is self-control…a gift needed every day, but especially when our natural defenses are down.
· God will 100% forgive us when we ask Him to, but that doesn’t mean that He eliminates the consequences that result from our wrong choices. And because of His great love for us, He will help us manage the consequences when we seek His help.
· Always be willing to check your presumptions. Do they have a basis in reality or wishful thinking or any other source? Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you with His knowledge and wisdom each and every day.
References & for Further Study
Sunday, June 20, 2021- “Accept Help” (Exodus 18) – In-person and Online – Father’s Day
Weekly lessons are now being made available on Youtube – “Pastor’s Study” - Go to our website: hopechapelcollingwood.ca and click on the Youtube icon or click on the link below https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrF8GWFnLjTmRyXjYnq1Ytw
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!