- The Explore the Bible lesson for Dec. 15 focuses on Numbers 20:1-13.
In March, my son asked me for a wristwatch. He was in third grade, studying the concept of time. So, I figured it would be appropriate to buy him one. But before heading to the store, I told him we should search for one of my unused watches in the house, and he agreed. We didn’t have to look too long before we found one. To my surprise, he liked it. It filled my child with excitement. Every day, when he returned from school, he said, “Papa, guess what time it is.” And I had to pretend I was clueless about the time so he could tell me.
Four months later, our family joined a mission trip to South Dakota. We left a few days early to take a mini-vacation in Colorado. I set up my GPS on my phone and headed to our new adventure. My son was sitting right behind me and could see the dashboard and the phone giving me directions. Shortly, my son realized that the GPS on the phone, besides giving me the coordination to my destination, it also gave me an estimated time of arrival.
This is where our nightmare began. He noticed how long it would take to get to my friend’s house in Lubbock, where we were spending the night. He looked at his watch and did the math.
Have you seen the movie, Are We There Yet? That was my life for the next eight hours. At first, I thought it was funny. My son would say, “Papa, we only have 7 hours and 30 minutes left.” Five minutes later, he announced, “Papa, we have 7 hours and 25 minutes left.” He recited the same formula for hours until I grew tired. I tried to use blandishments to convince him to stop looking at his watch, but it didn’t work. I tried to ignore him, but I failed. Finally, exasperated and furious, I said to my son, “If you look at your watch again and remind me how much time we have left until we arrive, I will take your watch off your wrist and I will throw it out the window.” There was absolute silence for the next three and a half hours.
The Timing (Numbers 20:1-5)
Miriam, Moses’ and Aaron’s sister had died. According Numbers 17:11, 14 and 16, “If you touch a dead body, you will be unclean for seven days… If someone dies in a tent while you are there, you will be unclean for seven days… If you touch the body of someone who was killed or who died of old age, or if you touch a human bone or a grave, you will be unclean for seven days.”
We are uncertain how long the people waited after Miriam’s death before gathering in opposition to Moses and Aaron. We don’t know if the people congregated as a family for a period of mourning, but what we do know is of their unhappiness with their leaders. Imagine the Israelites asking Moses and Aaron: “Have you finished mourning yet? Because we are thirsty, and there’s no water here.”
The Direction (Numbers 20:6-8)
Moses and Aaron went to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell face down, seeking God’s direction. The Lord’s presence appeared and gave Moses specific instructions. These great leaders faced unceasing opposition from the people. Since the day they left Egypt, the people had done nothing but complain and grumble against their leadership skills. We know “the people disobeyed and tested God ten times” (Numbers 14:20-23). Whether that’s a literal amount or figurative, the people never ceased to test the Lord.
The Frustration (Numbers 9-11)
The instructions God gave Moses and Aaron were clear, “Speak to the rock.” But out of exasperation and anger, Moses hit the rock twice. Life can be complicated. Have you ever been in a similar situation where you have dishonored God with your disobedience? How did you feel?
God expects us to honor him in all aspects of our lives. When Moses and Aaron sought God’s guidance, he gave them crystal clear instructions which they did not execute.
The Fallout (Numbers 20:12-13)
In previous chapters we have read of people being punished for their actions. In Numbers 16:31, “the ground split apart and swallowed the household, and all associated with Korah.” When “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite,” Miriam became as white as snow with leprosy (Numbers 12).
Now, the consequences were upon the two leaders, Moses and Aaron. This act of disloyalty caused them and the people their ticket into the promised land. God holds his people accountable. Many might think God was being strict with Moses when he told him, “You will not bring this community into the land I give them.” However, this was to show them the cost of disobedience and distrust. Moses and Aaron, despite being great leaders, died before entering the promised land. God will hold us accountable for our actions.
Jaime Cortez is discipleship pastor at First Baptist Church in Athens.