BIBLE STUDY SERIES #377, 378 and 379

14 February, 1999

FAILURE UNDER STRESS - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call of Abram in Genesis 12, followed by the studies in the lives of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and his four wives and the twelve Tribes of Israel which had emerged therefrom. We had with the eye of imagination guided by the words of Scripture followed their passage down into Egypt where they lived under the care of Joseph, the Prime Minister of that land, and where their progeny had fallen under bondage to the authorities under a new pharaoh who "knew not Joseph". We saw how, through the remarkable miracles of the signs and wonders leading to The Exodus, this emerging nation of Israel had come to freedom and then Law at Sinai, had failed at entry to The Promised Land and been sentenced to a generation of wandering in the wilderness before their children might again attempt to conquer that land of promise. Today, as they near that objective we find these Israelitish Tribes at Kadesh.

2. And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
3. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!
4. And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?
5. And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.
6. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.
7. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
8. Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

We saw, on the last study that the people had failed the test of their faith at this important occasion. Moses and Aaron themselves, however, were under great stress, and we perceived impending failure on their parts also, as the events unfolded on this occasion.

9. And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.
10. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
11. And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

Moses had broken the prophetic Type-Antitype symbolism because that rock was to represent the two forthcoming Advents of Jesus Christ. The First occasion wherein water was produced from the smiting of the rock was to be representative prophetically of Jesus as the suffering penalty-bearer for the sins of His people, but the second occasion, at the gateway to The Promised Land was not to symbolise a repeat of the former action at Sinai. Thus, here at a crucial moment in their lives, both Moses and Aaron have likewise failed the testing of their faith under the stress of the rebellious complaints of the people. By striking that same rock which had followed the tribal movements throughout their wilderness wanderings (I Corinthians 10:4) Moses and Aaron made a terrible mistake because in symbol this represented the striking of Jesus Christ a second time, whereas the symbol on this second occasion was being performed at Kadesh, the gateway to The Promised Land, and it was thus to be a symbol of Christ's Second Advent, wherein there will be no second smiting and crucifixion, but in contrast the revelation of the Christ, in His enthronement as the Supreme King over the House of Jacob, Crowned in Glory as He takes His rightful place upon the throne of David, to rule over that House of Jacob forever. (Luke 1:32-33).

We might also note carefully Moses' words "must we fetch you water... ?" on this present occasion at Kadesh. This use of the pronoun "we" may evidence his attitude of personal annoyance and anger at the cries of the assembly, but it also betrayed in that emotional moment of stress a thoughtless momentary claim to some share of the power to bring forth that water from human effort, and for that reason it did not give the appropriate total glory to The LORD for that which He had promised to perform

12. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Here, then, was Moses' great sin: breaking the Type-Antitype of Christ's two forthcoming advents. What a great catastrophe this seemingly minor slip was to be in the life of Moses! At this point we might review what The New Bible Commentary has to say. Under the heading "The sin of Moses and Aaron (xx. 2 - 13)" we find these words: "Moses ranks as one of the godliest and most able men who ever lived. Therefore this passage is important, to keep us from elevating him too far. Despite his greatness, he was human, and he sinned. God punished him for sin, depriving him of the fulfilment of his great desire to enter the Promised Land. Great as Moses was, apart from the grace of Christ he was lost, deserving eternal punishment for his sin. God saved him, as He saves all who trust in Christ. This passage illustrates the wonderful objectivity of the Bible. It shows the sins and weaknesses, as well as the strong points, of its heroes. Nu. xii. 3 contains a strong but factual statement of Moses' strongest point, his meekness; our present passage shows how he sinned at this very point. We need to be on guard, not only at our weak points, but also at our strong points, for that is where Satan may overcome us if we leave them unguarded."

Incidentally, the writer of that New Bible Commentary passage uses the word "eternal", which, in the Authorised Version of The Bible, is in most cases a translation of one particular Greek word, and I might, for those who do not have a Young's Concordance handy, explain that this Greek word, "aionios", used in 42 of those New Testament passages which the Authorised Version translates as "eternal", actually means "age lasting" according to that authority. This might affect our understanding of some passages in which that word appears. Two other words are used in isolated passages, one in Romans 1:20, and the other in Ephesians 3:11 and I Timothy 1:17. Let us continue our reading at verse 13:

13. This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.

I shall conclude today's study by reading some further words from The New Bible Commentary on this passage by way of a summary of what we have learned. It says: "It is easy to understand how lack of water would arouse severe dissatisfaction and complaint (2-5). Yet after all that these people had seen of the wonderful care of God, they should have learned to trust Him fully. It would seem that Moses and Aaron felt that the murmuring of the people was now inexcusable and beyond endurance. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to them (6). Moses is told to take the rod... and speak ye unto the rock before all the congregation (8). He promised that it would give water before their eyes, as had occurred once before (Ex. xvii). Next follows one of the saddest passages in the bible (10, 11). Moses failed at his strongest point. He let pride get the better of him. He called the people rebels, and put himself in the place of God, forgetting that 'the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God'. Perhaps he was becoming worn out after the long series of events which had tried his patience. At any rate he showed that he no longer had the endurance needed to lead the people into the Promised Land. Aaron and Moses stood together in this act, and were judged together; but it is primarily Moses with whom we are concerned, since Aaron was never in his class as a leader, and had fallen into serious error before (Nu. xii). God quickly announced His judgment upon Moses and Aaron (12). The place where this striving occurred is named Meribah (13). The same name had been given to Massah, where a similar event had previously occurred (Ex. xvii. 7). To distinguish the two places, which are a long way apart, this one is sometimes called Meribah-Kadesh (cf. Nu. xxvii. 14 and Dt. xxxii. 51).

Perhaps, by way of a concluding thought, I might leave with you the challenge of a question for the week. Have you ever found yourself in a position wherein a momentary surge of anger under duress has brought forth from your lips some rather intemperate statement or question which you, on reconsidering the matter, would have preferred to moderate, or have left unsaid? It may well be human to give way to some sense of anger when challenged. If we do, let us ask ourselves if it is justified, but also if it is only a selfish reaction to injured pride which we seek to defend? Are we at that moment clearly in touch with the Spirit of God Whom we profess as Our Father and Lord? Perhaps we may consider the predicament before its like arises in future, to give ourselves the benefit of that "after-thought" before the event ever happens. An excess of zeal and intemperate words do not sit easily with tranquillity and peace. Moses' failure was the result of a genuine heart but an intemperate tongue. Let us resolve to benefit through a re-consideration of parallels within our own experience of life.

21 February, 1999

BLOCKED PASSAGES - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We are presently making our way through the Book of Numbers, and we had arrived at Numbers 20:13 on the last study. Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, started a number of years ago with The Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12, followed by the studies in the lives of his progeny, down to the Tribes of Israel at this time, at Kadesh nearing The Promised Land.

We will read our Scripture portion for today beginning at Numbers 20:14.

14. And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:
15. How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:
16. And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:
17. Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.

Edom's attitude was that of an enemy, willing to see God's people die of thirst in the wilderness, rather than allow them to traverse the land on the way to that land which God had promised to them, although we will say more of this in a few moments.

18. And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.
19. And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet.
20. And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.
21. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.
22. And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.

Under the heading "Edom's refusal to allow passage through its land (xx. 14-21), The New Bible Commentary states, of this passage: "The Edomites were descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob. Moses expected that they would be friendly. He did not ask for unrequited assistance, but merely that the Israelites be allowed to pass through Edomite territory on the highway, promising to abstain from injuring any Edomite property or using anything, even water, without paying for it (19). However, the king of Edom was distrustful, and sent an army to guard his borders (20). This unbrotherly attitude cast a dark shadow over future relations between the two nations, and the prophetical books of the Old Testament contain many severe denunciations of the Edomites (e.g. Is. xxxiv. 1-17, note verses 5, 6; Je. xlix. 7-22; Ezk. xxv. 12-14, xxxv. 1-15; in some of these passages the AV uses Idumea to translate the same Hebrew word which is elsewhere rendered as Edom)."

Before continuing with the Commentary, I should read those quotations, for they are prophecies which relate even down to our own times. From that Isaiah reference we might just read those two verses to which our attention is especially directed. Isaiah 34:5-6 say: "For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea." The reference in Jeremiah 49:7-22 says:

7. Concerning Edom, thus saith the LORD of hosts; Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?
8. Flee ye, turn back, dwell deep, O inhabitants of Dedan; for I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, the time that I will visit him.
9. If grapegatherers come to thee, would they not leave some gleaning grapes? if thieves by night, they will destroy till they have enough.
10. But I have made Esau bare, I have uncovered his secret places, and he shall not be able to hide himself: his seed is spoiled, and his brethren, and his neighbours, and he is not.
11. Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.
12. For thus saith the LORD; Behold, they whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunken; and art thou he that shall altogether go unpunished? thou shalt not go unpunished, but thou shalt surely drink of it.
13. For I have sworn by myself, saith the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.
14. I have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent unto the heathen, saying, Gather ye together, and come against her, and rise up to the battle.
15. For, lo, I will make thee small among the heathen, and despised among men.
16. Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the LORD.
17. Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof.
18. As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.
19. Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong: but I will suddenly make him run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?
20. Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD, that he hath taken against Edom; and his purposes, that he hath purposed against the inhabitants of Teman: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitations desolate with them.
21. The earth is moved at the noise of their fall, at the cry the noise thereof was heard in the Red sea.
22. Behold, he shall come up and fly as the eagle, and spread his wings over Bozrah: and at that day shall the heart of the mighty men of Edom be as the heart of a woman in her pangs.

The reference in Ezekiel 25:12-14 says:

12. Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them;
13. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword.
14. And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to mine anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 35:1-15 states:

1. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2. Son of man, set thy face against mount Seir, and prophesy against it,
3. And say unto it, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O mount Seir, I am against thee, and I will stretch out mine hand against thee, and I will make thee most desolate.
4. I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate, and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.
5. Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end:
6. Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: since thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee.
7. Thus will I make mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it him that passeth out and him that returneth.
8. And I will fill his mountains with his slain men: in thy hills, and in thy valleys, and in all thy rivers, shall they fall that are slain with the sword.
9. I will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
10. Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the LORD was there:
11. Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will even do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them; and I will make myself known among them, when I have judged thee.
12. And thou shalt know that I am the LORD, and that I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, They are laid desolate, they are given us to consume.
13. Thus with your mouth ye have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me: I have heard them.
14. Thus saith the Lord GOD; When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate.
15. As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it: and they shall know that I am the LORD.

From all these references we see that the people of Edom, who descended from Esau, the man who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, and lost his paternal blessing through subterfuge by Jacob, were perpetuating their forefather's anger. We shall say more next week. For today, let us take for our thoughts a contemplation regarding how God reacted to their opposition and continuing hatred against the Tribes of Israel whom He was leading.

28 February, 1999

BLOCKED PASSAGES - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our regular sequence of on-going Bible Studies, starting a number of years ago with The Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Genesis 12 has followed his progeny down to the Tribes of Israel who are presently at Kadesh.

We are presently reviewing from Numbers 20:18. Moses has appealed to the king of Edom to allow Israel to pass, and has been refused.

18. And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.
19. And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet.
20. And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.
21. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.
22. And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.

The New Bible Commentary noted: "We learn from Jdg. xi. 17 that a similar request was sent from Kadesh to the king of Moab and that the same unfavourable answer was received from him as from the king of Edom." That Judges 11:17 verse says "Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh."

The Commentary then states: "In his farewell address Moses does not mention either of these two requests but tells of God's command that, on account of the ancestral relationship, the Israelites should not injure the Edomites or the Moabites (Dt. ii. 5, 9), but that they should buy food and water from them for money. Later Moses tells of a similar request being sent to Sihon, king of Heshbon, and his words seem to imply that the Edomites and the Moabites had granted his request (Dt. ii. 29)." That Deuteronomy 2:29 reference reads: "(As the children of Esau which dwell in Seir, and the Moabites which dwell in Ar, did unto me;) until I shall pass over Jordan into the land which the LORD our God giveth us." The Commentary further states "At first sight this would appear to contradict Nu. xx. 14-21..." (That is the passage we read at the start of today's study) "...and Jdg. xi. 17-18. However, Deuteronomy, like Numbers, describes a long march through the desert around the territory of both Edom and Moab. Moreover, Deuteronomy does not say that the Israelites passed through the actual territory of either nation, but merely along its 'coasts' (see note at xx. 23 below)..." (that note mentions that the Hebrew simply refers to a border) "...The truth would seem to be that, though both Edom and Moab refused passage, and Edom sent a large army to prevent such passage, in both instances there were probably settlers on the edge of the wilderness who did not hesitate to sell food and water for money. The statements of Moses in Dt. ii. 4-9 show that he was extremely careful to avoid border incidents which might have led to a general conflict with the mass of the people of either nation."

Aaron on the personal level, like Israel, was likewise blocked in his approach to the Promised Land. Reading from verse 23:

23. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,
24. Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.
25. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:
26. And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.
27. And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.
28. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.
29. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

Aaron also sinned along with Moses at the time that the rock was struck the second time. The penalty for both is that they shall not lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. I wonder what might have been in the mind of Aaron at hearing from Moses these words from The LORD. Aaron had lived a long life of service and was, himself, now about an hundred and twenty years of age. He had been, next to Moses his younger brother, through it all, being so to speak second in command, yet never to attain the honour of holding the chief position of responsibility. How many people, down through the centuries and millennia have been set in such a post until their retirement, always near, but never at, the top of the ladder? He might have reviewed his life from the times of youth when, as a young lad he had been barely old enough to escape the order given by Pharaoh who had sought to have all the newborn male babies in Israel killed in the Nile River.

Those were the years of bondage and servitude. He might have thought onward through those same years when, by Divine answer to his mother's prayer, Moses was saved from the ark of rushes floating at the river's edge, by Pharaoh's daughter, to be brought up in Pharaoh's own house as the adopted son of the Pharaonic princess. Later, Aaron had seen his brother escape the authorities at the age of forty after killing the Egyptian. Did he know where Moses was during the succeeding forty years, living in exile in Sinai? Perhaps so, in part by Divine intuition, for at the age of about eighty years, he had gone out to meet with Moses, and then the two brothers had, in the power of God's authority come back to Egypt to confront the Pharaoh of that day. They had, together, seen the power of God in the miracles of The Exodus, and he knew his subsequent personal failure had been revealed to all Israel for succumbing to the demand to create that "golden calf" so that the impatient and clamorous people might worship a more familiar idol of the time, while Moses was meeting with The Almighty atop Sinai to receive the Law.

He had shown reverence and devotion when appointed to the position of High Priest in Israel, to serve in the newly-constructed Tabernacle, and he had seen two of his sons who brought "strange fire" to that Tabernacle, put to death by Holy Fire for their error. As High Priest, he was not to give way to personal inclination at that time, but rather to demonstrate the restraint imposed by his sacred office. He had stood bravely beside his brother when the mobs demanded water, and had served at his side in prayer and supplication for the nation. Now, he has heard that he will not be present to see Israel enter that Promised Land for which he had so long laboured through the wilderness experience for the last forty years. Yes, indeed, what must have been his thoughts as, now, he is informed that he is to be divested of his official robes, which are to be placed upon his son, Eleazar, who will assume his office. He knows now that he must die, and thus pass from the active scenes of life into the halls of history, the tapestry of time gone by, as Israel prepares to make that entrance into the Land of Promise. Would he have counted his life to be one of success? Would he have wished for another outcome? But then are we not all of the same humanity, and do we not all hope for that which forms the promise, and yearn for the times of Divine acceptance and the part we may yet have in what is yet to be? The Scripture continues:

25. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:
26. And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.
27. And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.
28. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.
29. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

Under the heading "The death of Aaron (xx. 22-29)", The New Bible Commentary has this to say: "Aaron died near the border of Edom. The Hebrew word translated 'coast' (23) means simply a border, whether of a body of water or of a section of land. The sin at Meribah is cited as the reason why Aaron could not enter the Promised Land, since he had not been a party to the rebellion at Kadesh. To prevent any interregnum, Eleazar, his son, was installed in his place even before his death. The death of Aaron occurred on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year (xxxiii. 38). We must close. Let me leave with you the contemplation of the life of Aaron, and lessons we may garner therefrom.

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