Numbers 11:11-25, Numbers 20: 2-13; Deut 4: 21-24
Throughout this week we have learnt quite a lot about Moses:
How he survived death at birth by the courageous actions of his mother and sister and the compassion of Pharoah’s daughter
How he wanted to champion his oppressed Hebrew people
How God blessed him on numerous occasions by meeting with him and revealing Himself to him, such that Moses glowed with God’s glory and had to veil himself
How he continued to champion the Hebrews even when they were angry with him and God, and God was angry with them!
Moses seems to be an amazing man, so blessed by God, able to meet, chat, even argue, with God. But today we learn that Moses was as much a human being as the Hebrews and us.
In Numbers 11 when the Hebrews got bored with the manna God sent each day and moaned, ‘the Lord became very angry’, and Moses also became angry and argued with God, accusing Him of treating him badly, laying the burden of the people on him. Moses feels hurt by God and expresses it to Him. God responds by giving Moses 70 elders to help him manage the people, and by sending quails as meat for a change from the manna.
In Numbers 20 the Hebrews again become angry with Moses (and God) because there is no water at Kadesh; again Moses and Aaron intercede with God whose glory appears to both of them and gives them instructions to speak to the rock to bring forth water but Moses takes out his frustrations with the Hebrews (and possibly his grief at the death of his sister Miriam) by striking the rock. For this God tells Moses and Aaron that they will not enter the land He has planned for the Hebrews.
In Deuteronomy 3:23-28 and 4:21-24, we read of Moses’ pain on arriving at the Jordan, the border of the ‘promised’ land and pleading that God might let him cross over to see the good land beyond the river, the hill country and the Lebanon but God tells him he can ‘see’ it from mount Pisgah but shall not cross the river. None of the Hebrews who left Egypt were allowed to cross the Jordan except Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 32:11-15). God had made them wander in the wilderness until that whole generation was dead and only those born during the exodus were to enter, so God was not treating Moses and Aaron any differently other than Caleb and Joshua, but Moses clearly felt aggrieved and pained; he blamed the Hebrews for God’s anger and judgement on him, unable to acknowledge or accept that it was he, Moses, who had taken his own anger and frustration out by not following God’s command. Had he acknowledged this, who knows???
We can take heart from Moses and know that when we are hurt, grieving, angry we can talk, even plead, bargain and argue, with God – God can take it, soak it up like a sponge, wring it out and it is gone; He will never reject us. But we can also learn from Moses that when God says ‘Enough is enough!’ we need to acknowledge and seek forgiveness for our own part in any grievance or anger or He will judge us accordingly.
Praise God for His grace in listening and his mercy in judgement.