Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

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Feasting with God #52 – Striking the Rock of the Lord

Feasting with God #52

Striking the Rock of the Lord

Text: Numbers 20:10-13

10Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”  11And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.  12And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”  13These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quar­reled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.

This marks the moment when Moses himself lost the right to enter into the Promised Land.  But what exactly happened?

Israel had been wandering a long time.  Over and over and over again they grumbled and accused Moses of leading them astray.  Even that great prophet had a limit to his patience, and now it was drawn quite thin.  He’d had enough.  God told him what to do in this instance: specifically, “tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water” (Num. 20:8).  But the spiritual leader of Israel was so emotionally worked up that, instead of speaking to the rock, ye shouted at the people: “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” and he “struck the rock with his staff twice.”

A similar occasion happened some time previously.  The people needed drink, and God commanded Moses to strike a rock (“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink,” Exodus 17:6), out of which poured water for all the Israelites.  Paul exposes the meaning of this rock: “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4).

What Paul means is that this miraculous water-bearing rock was a sacrament—a holy thing given by God to grant his grace and holiness to the people.  It reminds us of two New Testament sacraments: The first is the sacrament of water, the “washing of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5), baptism.  Just as water poured out of a rock for the Israelites, bringing with it God’s grace, so when we were baptized, water poured over us and brought God’s grace upon us.  The second is the sacrament which includes drinking, as Jesus said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:27-28).  Just as the Israelites drank the liquid that came from the side of the rock (which was Christ), so we drink the blood that came from Jesus’ side on the cross in the Lord’s Supper.

When Jesus instituted his Supper, he gave it so that his disciples would take the blessings of his death: Jesus died to pay for the sins of the world and to bring forgiveness to all.  He told his disciples, therefore, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).  From that moment on, whenever the Supper was celebrated in the way Jesus instituted it, the very blood he shed on the cross and the very body born of Mary was present, with the forgiveness and grace he earned.  Just like Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).  In short, Jesus instituted his Supper and sealed it with the violent action of his death, and thereafter all that was needed to receive the same blessings are the words to accompany the materials.

This is what Moses should have understood regarding the rock in the wilderness.  That rock foreshadowed the blessings that would come from Christ Jesus.  Therefore when it was first given to the people, it was accompanied by the violent action of the staff striking its side.  But the second time, God wanted his people to know that he had already provided for them, and hereafter his providence was accompanied only by the words.  This principle was recorded later by Moses: “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3).

But Moses sought to impress the people, to wow them, to shock them into obedience, so he resacrificed the rock, deciding that God’s words weren’t enough.  He asked the people, “shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” as though it were an act that he, their spiritual leader, were to perform, not an act that God performed through him.

This occasion was something God intended as an act of grace, for although the people were rebellious and quarreling, he wished to provide for them.  Moses, as spiritual leader, ought to have performed the duty of dimply enacting God’s wishes for the people.  Instead, he took it upon himself to add to it.  Let this never be so among us.  Instead, let us take God at his word, and realize that his Word is powerful.  Specifically, his Word is powerful to save: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

Lord, lead us ever to trust in you, and never in our own works.  Even though our patience may be running thin, even though we may wish to see action and immediate answer to our prayers, guide us to see that the power of salvation we receive is from you and your Word.  Lead us to see this Word for the great blessing that it is, and give us thankful hearts that appreciate this gift; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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Feasting with God #50 – Why Not This Other Land?

Feasting with God #50

Why Not This Other Land?

The Destruction of Korah and His Rebellion (Num. 16:31-35)

 

Text: Numbers 16:13-14

13“Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flow­ing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? 14Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards.  Will you put out the eyes of these men?  We will not come up.”

It seems like the entire 40-year journey through the wilderness was nothing but complaining, complaining, and more complaining from the Israelites. Now, some from the tribe of Reuben and from the tribe of Levi rose up with a party of 250 men to overthrow Moses.

Notice how they complained. In the first promise God made about the Promised Land, he said, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8).  The description of this Promised Land certainly made it sound appealing.  So these Reubenites certainly wanted such a land.  But how they specifically wanted this fulfilled was in the land of Egypt itself.  Moses brought them out of Egypt at the Lord’s direction, and they complained, “you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey”!  Because they didn’t get what they wanted, they complain that they would prefer slavery in Egypt to the promise of God.

Compare how Jesus was received: on Palm Sunday he rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, and the people shouted joyfully, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9).  They recognized him as the Lord’s true prophet, the Son of David, the one who would bring salvation—much in the same way that the Israelites were pleased to follow Moses, another true prophet of the Lord, in all his directions and in his overthrow of the Egyptian enslavement.

If we track what Jesus did the following week in Jerusalem, he cleansed the temple, cursed a fig tree, made the chief priests and elders look like fools, told parables that called attention to the people’s unbelief and wickedness, stated that the people should pay taxes to Caesar and the oppressive Roman government, demonstrated the ignorance of the Pharisees, pronounced woes upon the Pharisees and Sadducees, lamented over Jerusalem and foretold the destruction of the temple and the end of the world, and declared that judgment would come upon the unbelievers. In short, Jesus made a lot of people angry, because he wouldn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.

Likewise, Moses, under the Lord’s direction, prescribed worship and laws for the people, focused the Israelites away from their selfish wishes and toward lives lived to God. The Reubenites probably had the added complaint that this man from the tribe of Levi (Moses) was leading them, those who were of the tribe of the oldest brother Reuben.  They thought that they should be the ruling tribe, that they should have that right.  They accused Moses of trying to blind them to what was really happening: “Will you put out the eyes of these men?”

We hear the same complaints today. “The Bible isn’t a science textbook.”  “The God of the Old Testament was hateful and unmerciful.”  “The Bible promotes slavery.”  All these complaints ultimately come down to one: “God isn’t telling me what I want to hear.”

We have been promised a greater land than the physical region given to the nation of Israel. Our Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, will surpass anything we can conceive.  On this earth we are wandering as through a wilderness.  What madness could overtake us to look at what is promised and instead say to God, “Why not give us this as our Promised Land instead?”  Let’s not be so arrogant to think that we know what God should give us.  Instead, simply have quiet, receptive faith.

At the end of the week that began with Palm Sunday Jesus was betrayed by those he had angered and brought to his death. But praise the Lord!  That death was used by God as the means to accomplish the things he had promised.  Although people want certain earthly things (the overthrow of this or that government figure, certain rights or authority, the message and teaching we want to hear), God provides far greater things.  Through the death of his Son, he accomplished our eternal salvation, won for us a heavenly inheritance as sons of God.

Faith in this Savior, the reception of God’s grace for the eternal life won for us, that is the single greatest blessing we should seek from God—Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Through patient faith in God, he blesses us eternally, and also temporally, in ways we may never even expect.  Have confidence in the blessed fact that God loves us and will care for us as he sees fit in his omniscience and omnipotence.

Dear Lord, we trust in your promises, and we know that you will fulfill them for us. Let us not be distracted by other things, our selfish wants and lusts.  Instead, lead us to ever stronger faith in you, not pride or arrogance of ourselves.  You have promised us eternal life on account of your Son’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection from the dead.  Give us what you have promised.  We ask it in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.  All rights reserved.