Continuing on in our journey through the Bible, this is the sermon from Sunday, January 22nd. To read last week’s head over here. Just remember that these are just notes, hearing it in person will make much better sense, and tends to be funnier (says my wife). And no sermon notes, or online Bible study takes the place of gathering together with fellow believers. If you missed yesterday, please make plans to join us (or your local church) on Sunday. Crossroads Church meets at 721 Weston Ave in St. James, MN at 10am. We’ll save you a seat!
The Death of a Dream
As we continue on in our trek through the Bible, I find it interesting how God sets this stuff up. Even if it is in a “minor” way like we’re about to see. Last week we saw how the purification of people after touching the dead applies to us, and as we get into Numbers 20, we continue on the subject of death. Now, initially, this might seem counter-intuitive. We’re in the middle of this cold, dead winter, and all were talking about is death. However, as we get into this subject, it almost seems as though this would be the perfect time for it. When we’re in the middle of depressing, “cabin fever” times, what better time to study this as we’re in the thick of it. (We are in Minnesota!!) Let’s just say, it would be much more difficult preaching on these things in the middle of June when the flowers are blooming, the trees are green with leaves, weddings and graduations are in full throttle. No instead, let’s look at them now and see how we can find freedom and joy even in the middle of down times.
We’re going to spend a couple of weeks in this chapter because though most of the stories here discuss death, it’s in a different matter. So this week we’ll look at what I’m entitling “The Death of a Dream”, while next week we’ll look more in-depth of the deaths of actual people.
So with that, open your Bibles to Numbers 20:1-9. Remember how the Israelites were to wander for 40 years before being allowed to enter into Canaan? Well, all this is the start of the 40th and final year of wandering. Numbers 33 is a record of the Israelite’s journey from Egypt, and in verse 38, it tells us that Aaron dies in the fifth month of the fortieth year (not to completely give it away, but Aaron dies at the end of Numbers 20). So the Israelites are heading back to Canaan, and on the way, they stop at Kadesh…as far as we can tell, not Kadesh-Barnea which we saw back at the beginning of the Exodus.
So it’s the fortieth year meaning most of the Israelites who were not allowed in Canaan for going along with the negative report of 10 of the 12 spies are gone. Unfortunately, this
So let’s see what happens, shall we? Numbers 20:10-13. Well that was different. We really haven’t seen this type of reaction from Moses. When the people complained he would typically act as a mediator between them and God. At the beginning it was tough as he would complain to God some, but as the plagues happened, then the parting of the Red Sea, and the miracles of water (twice) and manna, Moses became more confident in his leadership. The few times we really see anger or frustration with the people is when he received the stone tablets of the 10 commandments, he comes down from the mountain and sees the Israelites worshiping the golden calf. Moses threw down the tablets breaking them. We’ll talk a little more about this in a minute.
This time, though, Moses acted a whole lot more like…well, us. Moses comes out and angrily says, “Shall we bring water for you from this rock?” We know this is the case as Psalms 106:32-33 says, “They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.”
Though Moses had just been in the presence of God, he let his frustration and anger get the best of him. This is the first point we need to see. Though we’re spending a majority of our time speaking of anger due to the story here, all of our emotions need to be subjected to the authority of the Holy Spirit. We cannot let our emotions go unchecked and do whatever.
Unchecked emotions lead us down a path of hardship and possible destruction. Don’t misunderstand, God made us emotional beings, and we are not told to necessarily hide our emotions, however, we are not to sin or allow our emotions to control us.
Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…”
1 Corinthians 6:12, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.”
Look at the various emotions we feel, and we can see that if left unchecked the destruction that can ensue. Unchecked sadness can lead to depression that can lead to suicide. Unchecked fear and anxiety, can lead to self-isolation which then can lead to depression and possible suicide. This may sound weird, but even too much happiness could possibly cause problems. They do say too much of anything is not a good thing (and that’s pretty true for everything except God). “Too much” happiness could be coming from disillusionment of a person, and they seem to not live in the real world. We see in Ecclesiastes (and in the 70’s Byrds song) that there is a time and season for these things.
Today, like most of the times we talk about emotions, anger is the subject du jour. I think the reason for this is because unchecked anger usually has the most devastating consequences that affects the most amount of people. Don’t get me wrong, depression and anxiety can wreak some havoc, but they don’t seem to have the tentacles anger has. The root of most physical and emotional abuse, and murder is anger.
Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
We just saw a documentary on the Menendez brothers, the two men who killed their parents back in the ‘90’s, and both the prosecution and the defense were showing that the reason for killing their parents was anger. The prosecution showing they were angry because they were being left out of the family will. The defense showing they were angry because of the sexual abuse of their father upon them.
This is one case, but you can’t deny that this is what you see in most murder trials…the motive is typically anger.
We see in all of this James 1:20 come to life which states, “…the anger of man does not
There is a Godly anger out there as Jesus displayed it perfectly when he “cleansed” the temple of the money changers and merchants. The anger there is rooted in people “defiling” God and his “stuff”. Moses’ anger with the water here is anger out of being at the end of his rope with the complaints of the people. Now at the time of the Ten Commandments, his anger with the people for worshiping a golden calf is somewhat of a Godly anger, however, Moses reaction of breaking the tablets that contained the 10 commandments inscribed by the finger of God was not the appropriate response, and Moses had to head back up the mountain and chisel them out himself.
Specifically when it comes to anger, the way to keep it in check is through going to God to give you some perspective, and then forgiving others.
Think about if you get angry with your kids. It’s best to go to God to help calm you down and to seek guidance for a proper discipline if you haven’t already had one decided. And then it’s of the utmost importance that you forgive your kids, because if you don’t, the anger will fester into bitterness and begin its path of destruction. In all of our emotions, the first step in keeping them in check is to go to God through His word and in prayer.
Now when we look at this story, you have to admit, the punishment of Moses seems kind of harsh. Moses has been dealing with these complaining people for the past forty years, and probably everyone in this room would have cracked like Moses did, but as we talked about a couple of weeks, we don’t get to blame others for our actions. We have to take responsibility.
Remember when Miriam and Aaron spoke ill of Moses, and God confronted them letting them know that He works with Moses differently than with other people. Specifically in Numbers 12:6-8, “ And he said, ‘Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.’”
Moses is the man of God at the time. No, really, he was THE man! His actions here are reprehensible as to who he is before the people and to God. Jesus says in Luke 12:48, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”
Moses needed to take his cue from God that this was a new generation and mercy was to be expected upon the people, just as there was mercy on their fathers when they complained about water.
If we think God is merciless in dealing with Moses here, than we’re not understanding what is expected of the people of God. God could have killed Moses right here for not only being disobedient, but completely faithless and setting himself above God. God said in verse 12, “you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel”. Moses took matters into his own hands. He was told to simply speak to the rock. Instead, he speaks to the people and strikes the rock. This is a death sentence, and Moses knows it. As we’ll see as we continue on, Moses accepts this “punishment” of not entering the Promised Land that he’s been leading these people to these past forty years. His dream is dead, but he’s not and for that he’s thankful. That is mercy friends, not receiving the punishment we deserve.
To close, there are two challenges here. The first is obvious.
- Are you subjecting your emotions under the authority of God, or do you allow them to control you? It needs to stop.
- The second challenge might not be as obvious. If you know Christ as your savior, but since the time you’ve been saved, you’ve messed up, maybe to the point where you’ve wrecked some dreams you had. I want to encourage you that though those dreams may be gone, you’re not dead and God can and will still work through you. Moses did not die at this point, he continued to lead the Israelites right up to the threshold of the Promised Land, and he did get to see it.
Don’t allow a mistake you made in the past keep you from following God. God is full of mercy.
Spend some time in prayer today asking God to show you how to keep your emotions under His authority. Seek out what God is still doing in your life even if your dream is dead.
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