Study Notes

Numbers 20:1-13


After the instruction that God gave Moses regarding the red heifer, there is a period of 38 years that God waited to fulfill that He had sworn back in chapter 14.

Num. 14:27-35 "How long {shall I bear} with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me. Say to them, 'As I live,' says the LORD, 'just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; your corpses shall fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey - I will bring them in, and they shall know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they shall suffer {for} your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness. According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, {even} forty years, and you shall know My opposition. I, the LORD, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they shall die.'"

It has now been 38 years.

Deut. 2:14 "Now the time that it took for us to come from Kadesh-barnea, until we crossed over the brook Zered, was thirty-eight years; until all the generation of the men of war perished from within the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them back in chapter 14.

Chapter 20 picks up as the people come to the same place their fathers had been nearly 40 years before.

20:1 Miriam Dies

The people ended up in the wilderness of "Tseen," where they stayed at "Kaw-DASHE." This is where, 38 years ago, the people had faltered in faith.

Moses' sister Miriam, dies at this point. Moses is about 120 years now, and his sister Miriam was older still, probably by at least 10 years.

20:2-6 No Water To Drink

You've no doubt heard the expression, "like father, like son." This was proven true yet again as this new generation grumbles against Moses and Aaron just as their fathers did. Moses and Aaron, having been in the ministry for quite a long time, still know how to deal with conflict: they get on their faces before the Lord.

20:7-8 Speak To The Rock

Remember that last time the congregation needed water, the Lord instructed Moses,

Exod. 17:5-6 ..."Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at "Cho-RAYB"; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Moses struck the rock, and water gushed forth for the people to drink. Now the Lord says to simply speak to the rock, and it will produce water.

This was yet another way God was demonstrating and displaying a picture of Jesus Christ. Paul told the Corinthians,

1Cor. 10:1-4 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

How was this rock a picture of Christ? In John 7, we read,

John 7:37-38 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'"

And to the woman at the well who was working to get water, He said,

John 4:13-14 ..."Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

Jesus is the source of living water, satisfying our thirst for God and rescuing us from death. But how was that water released? The rock had to be smitten. Jesus Christ had to be smitten, crucified, killed, that the water of life could flow forth to all of us.

But when Jesus comes again, no one will smite Him. He died once for all. Instead, they will speak to Him, saying, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"

20:9-13 Misrepresenting God

Ruining the typological picture God had prepared, Moses struck the rock twice. The psalmist tells us what Moses' motivation was:

Ps. 106:32-33 They also provoked Him to wrath at the waters of Meribah, So that it went hard with Moses on their account; Because they were rebellious against His Spirit, he spoke rashly with his lips.

Moses thought that this was "righteous indignation." That his anger was justified, because the people were rebelling against God again. But God was not angry at the people. Moses, the man whom God assigned to represent Him before the people, misrepresented Him.

How? Three ways are clear in his actions:

Abusing The People

He abused the people, calling them rebels. Verbal abuse from spiritual authority is never advocated by God. The harshest thing that spiritual leadership is commanded is exhortation and rebuke.

To exhort means "to urge strongly, to give warnings or advice." For example: John the Baptist exhorted the people by preaching the coming judgment of upon the disobedient (Lk 3). Peter exhorted the people by saying "Be saved from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2). Paul exhorted the Corinthians that there be no divisions among them (1Cor 1). He also exhorted the Thessalonians to walk in a way pleasing to God (1Thes 4). Solomon exhorted, "My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD, or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights." (Prov 3).

Rebuke, on the other hand, is to bring conviction to, correct a fault, to call someone to account. Now, even with something as difficult as rebuke, pastors are instructed,

2Tim. 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Even when we rebuke someone, we must show great patience and instruct people in the most excellent way. Moses just shouted in anger, "you rebels!"

Taking The Credit

He said, "shall WE bring forth water?" Ouch! Watch it, Moses! Taking the credit for the miracle is a good way to get God angry!

One miracle that I see very often people taking credit for are gifts of healing. Listed as one of the spiritual gifts in 1Corinthians 12, many people take credit for healings that happen when they lay hands on someone and they are healed. But unlike the effecting of miracles, it is not the gift of the effecting of healing, it is gifts of healing. Nowhere in the Bible will you see someone with "the gift of healing." But you will see all throughout God giving "gifts of healing." If I lay hands on someone and pray for their healing, and they are healed, it is not I who have been given the spiritual gift of healing, it is they who have been given a gift of healing.

God is a jealous God, and will not share glory with any man. Remember Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8. Even after becoming a Christian, he wanted to be someone great.

Acts 8:18-23 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity."

Moses, in his own bitterness, claimed the power, and credited the miracle to himself.

Deviating From The Word

Moses was told to speak to the rock. Instead, he struck the rock twice. He deviated from the Word of God. This is a good way to get on God's bad side. The Scriptures tell us,

Deut. 4:2 "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deut. 12:32 "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

Prov. 30:5-6 Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar.

Rev. 22:18-19 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

Too many spiritual leaders today have no qualms about adding to or subtracting from the Word of God. As you can tell by these verses, it's not the greatest idea.

Treat Me As Holy

These three sins: Abusing the people, taking the credit, and deviating from the Word, are summed up by God in one statement: "Moses, you didn't believe that you were to treat me as holy in the sight of the people." These things didn't rightly represent the holiness of God to the congregation.

More than any other attribute that God bears, His holiness is the highest and most obvious.The cherubim that surround the throne of God do not say, "Love, love, love," or "mercy, mercy, mercy."

Rev. 4:8 ...Day and night they do not cease to say, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, who was and who is and who is to come."

God is holy. The psalmist wrote,

Ps. 99:9 Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill; For holy is the LORD our God.

Because God is holy, we must represent Him as holy to others. Those who would represent God as tolerant of sin or accepting of immorality are not rightly representing God, and kindle His anger against themselves.

You Shall Not Bring Them In

Moses' punishment for this is severe:

Num. 20:12 ..."You shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."

For failing to treat God as holy, Moses' ministry will end in the wilderness. We will read of his death in Deuteronomy 34.

Deut. 34:4-5 Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants'; I have let you see {it} with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.

This is a sad end of a powerful ministry. Let us make sure to represent God as holy to the people. Never abusing His people, taking the credit, or deviating from the Word.

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