The Lord typically gives us choices. In executing these choices, we can wait upon the Lord for direction; or just rush on in to do it our way, while assuming, even congratulating ourselves, that we are doing it “God’s way”. Or of course, we can ignore Him. Being out of alignment with God is not what Christians are asked to do or to be. We are asked to be aligned with Him in all things, and at all times.
The Old Testament Hebrews were quite unlike us in many ways, yet so like us in others. The Bible shows they were generally no less impatient than us, but they thought about things in totally different ways. Their education system and ours could not be more unlike, yet, whatever their shortcomings, our shortcomings are equally capable of keeping us from the will of the Lord in normal day to day circumstances; in day to day decision making. Mankind seems to have a short span of attention: unless we are listening to ourselves, then we seem to have plenty of patience, but a fool as an advisor.
God is constantly doing new things and is moving on toward His new Kingdom’s dawn and His Son’s second coming; changes which we can scarcely begin to imagine or even comprehend. Such movement and progress by the Lord means we too, must be moving on; not sitting cultivating close relationships with the ways and traditions of the past. These old ways, these traditions, were themselves new once upon a time, but are, like the torn curtain, revealing that the Lord has moved on. We need to move with him. We need to follow His rhēma word as He pours it out for us.
The Bible has many stories of what has happened when the Lord has moved on, but His people have stood still. Moses, for example, did not make it into the Promised Land in the flesh as was planned (though he got there in the Spirit – see Matthew 3:17), because he relied on what was he had done previously, rather than complying with the Lord’s newest rhēma words for him. In Numbers 20:7-8 “Jehovah spoke to Moses saying, Take the rod, and gather the assembly, you and Aaron your brother, and speak to the rock before their eyes. And it shall give forth its water, and you shall bring forth to them water out of the rock. So you shall give the congregation and their animals drink.” A simple enough instruction, “speak to the rock …. and it shall give forth its water”.
But Moses was not in the best of moods; he was being harassed by all and sundry and as he “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 this rock?” (v:10) This was all about an angry Moses. God was obviously not in the mind or memory of Moses as he stood before the Hebrews and “lifted up his hand, and with his rod he struck the rock twice. And the water came out plentifully, and the congregation and their animals drank.” (v11) Moses had ignored God; he had not carried out his duty as explicitly required: “speak to the rock.”
The consequences were swift and sure, for in the next line, v12, we read “And Jehovah spoke to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not believe Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” Moses and Aaron lost their chance of leading the Hebrews into the Promised Land.
What had happened to Moses? He took his eyes off the Lord. He let the words of the Lord drift from his mind and off into forgetfulness. He allowed peer pressures to control him, to increase his level of frustration, and ultimately, determine his actions. Pride began to bust out from Moses as he showed the congregation: what I did last time I can do again!! But by this time, the Lord had moved on; leaving Moses living in tradition and living in the past. Ultimately, Moses missed the new thing the Lord was doing, missed the rhēma word of the Lord: “just speak – and water will flow”.
Yes, Moses did provide water and no doubt the acclamations of a thirsty congregation. But that was not the point of the exercise as far as the Lord was concerned. He wanted obedience; He wanted Moses to follow protocol. Protocol means doing it God’s was, in God’s time, exactly as God directed. That is obedience. The result, the outcome, was not the measure of success: obedience, compliance with the will of the Lord; those were the measures of success.
For contrast, look at Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. In terms of a sacrifice it was not successful, but then again it was never intended to be. It was clearly a test of obedience – though certainly Abraham was not aware of this at the time. As soon as Abraham raised the dagger over the body of Isaac and was set to plunge it into the boy’s beating heart, the test was over. There was victory in obedience for Abraham. Compare this to Moses who struck the rock, produced water and was instantly condemned; though a miracle was undoubtedly performed and the congregation were pleased. Moses achieved the ‘sacrifice,’ the miracle, but failed the test – the test of obedience to the Lord. Obedience to God’s way, and His way alone.
When the Hebrews eventually did cross the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua, the Lord required of His people an extended period of relying on Him and trusting in Him. They were tested and tested and tested. Joshua no doubt was keenly aware during his testing period, just what was at stake, for he would have been intimately aware Moses’ failure, and just what were the consequences of failure.
In another example, in First Kings 13 an unnamed Prophet is on a simple mission. We read of a simple condition from the mouth of the prophet saying “for so was it commanded me by the Word of Jehovah, saying, Eat no bread nor drink water, nor return again by the same way that you came.” But like Moses before him, the prophet did not comply with the exact words of the Lord and by v26 “Jehovah has delivered him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the Word of Jehovah which He spoke to him.” The Prophet had allowed another Prophet to speak words into his flesh which overcame the words which the Lord has spoken into his spirit. Again, the consequences of his actions were swiftly fulfilled.
But you say, that is the God of the Old Testament! We live under a New Covenant! Yes, and Mark 3:35 “For whoever does the will of God, the same is My brother and My sister and My mother.” John 12:26 says “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also My servant shall be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him.” We are to follow, if we are His. We need to judge ourselves, that we may not be judged and as First John 2:5-6 admonishes us, “But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.”
But you say, as Christians we live under the Blood of the Lamb! Yes, but as in the first Passover, any Israelite first borne found outside his house would have been struck down by the Angel of Death, just the same as the Egyptians. Likewise, we are only covered if and only if, we are in total compliance with the Word, and that includes doing the work of the Lord as and when and how He wants it done.
Put simply, the trap into which Moses fell was to deny the new works of the Lord and rely upon what had worked in the past. We must always try the new thing God is asking us to do. We must always remember those chilling words of warning of Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord! Lord! shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven.”
Amen and Amen.