A Walk of Faith

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Stumbling in the Wilderness

There are simple truths to be found in the story of Moses, specifically Numbers 20:1-13. Having read it many times before, I had formed a summarized opinion of its worth without really delving into it - i.e., the Israelites complained, Moses disobeyed, and although the Lord provided yet another miracle, Moses and Aaron were then prevented from ever going to the Promised Land. But have you ever read the story as depicted in The One Year Chronological Bible? I have been amazed at how many stories have since come alive to me like never before, opening my eyes to subtle stories that actually have deeper applications and speak to mankind on multiple levels. Having the order of the books as the events occurred in history weaves the stories together so that they truly do read as one volume, rather than a collection of sometimes disconnected accounts. Often, chapters within the same book may be in non-consecutive order, or you might be led from the middle of one book to a section of another.

Numbers 20 takes place during the time the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Of course, the 40 years they spent there was significant in itself, so whenever events are described during that time, you know that they had become frustrated, cranky, and filled with doubts about God. In fact, the people are so wishy-washy throughout the 40 years, that they constantly found things to complain about, despite the miracles and wonders the Lord provided! Any faith they exhibited was short-lived. It seemed as soon as they received specific instructions on how to worship and obey, they would fail when put to the test.

Now Moses was a strong man of God, who started out as a timid, slow-to-speak individual. It is interesting to note that he originally didn't want to be a public speaker at all, and even begged the Lord not to have him be in such a role! Accordingly, God humored him and let his brother Aaron be the speaker, while he remained the "miracle worker" through actions God had him do - and together the brothers convinced Pharaoh to eventually let the Israelites leave Egypt and journey the wilderness. At some point, Moses became comfortable enough to be the one to convey God's instructions to the people. Perhaps he became more bold with age, for certainly he displayed a short temper in smashing the original tablets of the 10 Commandments, just as surely as he acted rashly in Numbers 20.

We learn that after the people were so thirsty that they grumbled against God to Moses and Aaron, the brothers consulted with God, who instructed them to obtain the staff and speak to the rock to provide the water. But what happens next is somewhat strange, when you consider how closely Moses always followed the Lord. For instead of doing what he was told, he sinned by making his own rules and speaking his own mind. He used the staff to strike the rock, whereupon he asked the rhetorical question of whether they - Moses and Aaron - would have to give them water from the rock!

It seemed like a simple task. Yet, when Moses and Aaron erred, it was a big deal with God! You would think that since they could follow large tasks from God, that little ones would come naturally to them. Apparently that was not the case, and the Lord was greatly displeased. He could overlook the disobedient outbursts and actions of the Israelites, but Moses and Aaron were called to higher standards. They should have known better. But what did they do in their moments of weakness? They exalted themselves and neglected to put God first, and therefore lost out on living in the Promised Land with the Israelites.

Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk

In chronological fashion, we find that the Hebrew nation, which grew into the Israelite people, was known for their faith and obedience to God over man. Countless generations worshipped and prayed to God, yet eventually people became passive in their faith, having put up with slavery in Egypt without question. Even when Moses tried to bring them from that land, the people were quick to complain about leaving behind the worldy life they had gotten used to. Funny how they preferred a life of slavery over a life with God, where sometimes they would have to be in want, and where they would have to depend on God daily. In the literal sense, they didn't want to "walk" with God. But that is the very thing they were led to do. That "walk" became a faith-mission. For through experiencing it, they were forced to learn the hard way what obedience and rebellion cost them. Plus, they were given miracles and tangible evidence of God's existance.

We can then easily liken that to today's world, where we often crave those same experiences! To actually see or hear God, or witness miracles complete with acts that defy nature would change the hearts and minds of many, converting everyone to Christianity. In speaking about the Israelites' wandering in the wilderness, we understand what they did not - the wilderness was God's way of drawing the people to Him, to have them rely on Him alone, and be filled with His spirit. Unfortunately, they weren't fast learners. But before we write off the Israelites as being bull-headed, selfish people, let me suggest that we are not so unlike them! We can all think of times when we seem to do daily acts by rote, where we are distracted by life's toils and pain, and we wonder if and when God is going to carry us through. Such times are our walks in the wilderness, too. Praise God that there is always an answer! For He sees each of us and knows that we must struggle if we are to learn anything about ourselves, our faith, and our God. It's in those struggles that we are brought to our knees to worship the sole Creator and admit our faults. Hardships make us stronger, more in-tune with others' suffering and able to be equipped for whatever else comes our way. It's a comfort to know that the Lord will never send us more than we can handle - because He is always with us, not wanting us to go through each moment of struggle alone. With Him we can do all things, and be encouraged to continue to see God's glory or have Him glorified through what we endure. It's only when we are filled with pride, have our own ideas of how things should be done, or refuse to believe in miracles and answered prayers that we break away from God and don't believe in Him. For all that Moses witnessed, you would think that pride would not have been an issue for him. But sadly, it was. And if a powerful man of God experienced such a downfall, then how much more will we be prone to sin! We have to keep our wits about us and constantly seek God's truth and wisdom in all that we do, or else we fall into the trap.

In Jesus' day, the Jews were just as corrupt in their way of thinking. They too had been sent miracles, and the very Son of God to teach them, just as Moses had done, and even then they chose self over God.

In the grand scheme of things, the lives we lead are not about us, but how we live for Him. Because of the Bible's message, we have all the more reason to be careful in how we live. When we are truly drawn to God, we live in such a way that brings praise to Him. We obey out of love, and not out of fear or sadness. God wants - and deserves - to be praised throughout the ends of the earth! We were not put here for our own glory, but to worship the One who created the earth, and to be caretakers of what He created. Faith is therefore not for the weak or those "looking for an escape from reality", but for the strong, and anyone who is weak is made strong in the power of the Lord! The peace of mind that comes from having a rock-solid faith makes us do above and beyond any one person on this earth can do, even if that person has all the money or connections in the world. It is always better to trust God than (in) man and/or self.

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parrster profile image

parrster 19 months ago from Oz

Thanks for sharing this. I too am reading the chronological bible this year, having just finished reading the book-by-book version of the Old testament. Like you, I've enjoyed reading and marvel at the wilderness period; that oft repeated cycle of faithlessness leading to sin, leading to loss. Though God may always forgive (in their case for Moses sake, for us for Christ's sake), consequences may still be permitted to teach their lesson. I also like those passages that declare that throughout their wilderness discipline, god was still near (Dt 2:7; Ps 78:21-25; Hos 13:5; Neh 9:20-21). Appreciate this article. God bless.


nlpolak profile image

nlpolak 19 months ago from Indianapolis, IN Author

Thanks for the comments!

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