In Numbers 20, we are reminded that one can do the Lord’s work and still be accused of self-serving motives in their doing of it. This is what happened to Moses and Aaron as the children of Israel were on the cusp of entering into the land of promise, having traveled a long journey from Egypt to what we know is the land of Palestine today. Moses and Aaron responded to the murmuring going on with a segment of the Israelite community, but their response was not received well by the Lord. Already, the Lord was displeased with the larger community, but now His displeasure rested on the actions of Moses and Aaron. In this scenario (Numbers 20:1-13), there is a lesson for us. I suppose there is not a single reader of the Old Testament story that can’t relate in one way or another with Moses/Aaron, but whether one can relate or not, the proper response (lesson) is not to allow the one’s anger and emotion to control, but for the Lord to control. Not easy, but necessary.
Exodus 32 chronicles the building of the golden calf made by Aaron when the Israelites began to miss Moses. Their leader seemed to have disappeared, and his second-in-command either did not know the law or did not have the spine to stand up to the people in their error. He made the idol, and according to verse 6, the people “sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.”
Fast forward to chapter 33. The people have been rebuked for their sin, and many were executed. God has withdrawn His presence from the people because He does not want to destroy them. A tradition begins of Moses meeting with God in his tent outside the camp.
And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. (verses 8-10)
Here is an interesting contrast: in the presence of the idol, the people ate, drank, and rose to play. In the presence of Jehovah, the people rose to worship. The point? What is our demeanor when we assemble for worship, and what does that say about our understanding of what is taking place? If we feel no sense of awe at the presence of God, and therefore demonstrate a lack of reverence in the assembly, then perhaps there is some kind of idol inhibiting our communion with the Creator.
Lord, open our eyes in the assembly; remind us that You are in our midst during worship, for only then can we begin to show the reverence You demand.
In Numbers 11 and 12, the Scripture gives two illustrations of “speaking against.” In Numbers 11, many of the people spoke against the Lord. It seems, from their perspective, the Lord did not provide for them as He promised (Numbers 11:4-9). Moses was very aggravated by the situation and appealed to the Lord of his unworthiness of bearing the load (burden) these people placed on him (Numbers 11:10-15). The Lord addressed the problem in a way that proved “inconvenient” to the people (Numbers 11:31-34). In Numbers 12, members of Moses’ family spoke against him because of who he married. We do not know why they spoke against her only that they did. The result of this was that Moses’ sister was struck with leprosy, and only after Moses and Aaron prayed was she relieved. Here is the point: speaking against the Lord’s servant is a very unprofitable venture for those guilty of it. While there may be sympathetic ears, there is one “ear” not sympathetic at all.