Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Between chapter 19 and 20 is a thirty-seven-year gap. Moses finds himself back at a place called Kadesh. You will remember Kadesh from Exodus, chapter 17. It's sort of where they started. They're back at Kadesh and there's a whole new generation that is there. This old generation that came with him into the wilderness is by and large almost all gone. There's a whole new generation that has come up, and, yet, even though there's a new generation, they fall into old patterns. The old generation complained, and whenever an old generation of people are complainers, they have an audience called their children and grandchildren.
And the things you say and the things you do that you think nobody sees, believe me, they watch and they emulate. And if you hear your kids say or do something, you go, "Where did that come from?" You. [laughter] So new generation, old patterns come up again. So we come now to chapter 20 where we have the seventh murmuring of the children of Israel. We've been sort of pacing and counting all the times they complain in wilderness. This is now the seventh time. New generation, but they come up with a complaint. What makes chapter 20 interesting is that it has death; death marking the beginning and death marking the end, sort of like bookends in a vast library.
The chapter opens up with the death of Miriam, Moses' older sister, and the chapter will close with the death of Aaron, Moses' older brother. Miriam dies at age 127, so it's to be expected. Aaron dies at age 123, and though it's not recorded here, in the same year, in the same year that Miriam died, in the same year that Aaron died, Moses will also die at age 120. But we're not going to get to his burial, his funeral till the end of the book of Deuteronomy. So it's going to take us a while to be able to do that, but these two, brother and sister die in this chapter.
We've mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again that the wilderness wandering, those about forty years of wandering in the wilderness, there's not much written about it. There's very few incidents that are actually on record. And the only incident we have on record in this book, or set of incidents, take place between chapters 13 and 20. The rest of those forty years, they're silent. You go, "Why is that?" I think it's pretty simple: there's not much to say when you've sinned and you just waste your time, and you're just wandering around.
I mean, I guess you could write about, "We saw this rock and that rock and that horny toad and that lizard and that snake. And we woke up in the tent again." But there's just really not much to say when you're wasting time, if you're not making time, if you're not redeeming the time. If you're just wasting time, you've said it all. So there are periods of our life that we can waste our time in. Certainly the time before you came to Christ, those were wasted years. So, please take a hint from how the story is told. Not much is told during the wasted years.
When you give your testimony, make sure that you spend more time talking about how God has redeemed you than about how bad you used to be. Some people's testimony, if it was ten minutes long, it's nine and a half minutes about how bad they were and wicked they were. And then just like the last few seconds, "Oh, and then God changed me and here I am." I think the story should be: "I wasted a lot of time, here's some of the things I did, but, oh, this is what God made me into and changed me to become." So a few incidents and we're at the end of the set of incidents that are recorded.
Because when we get into the next chapter, we go from wandering to marching. It's the end of the journey. It's the end of the road. They're about ready to enter and march into the Promised Land. So, chapter 20, verse 1, "Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed at Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there." This is déjà vu. Moses has been here before. The congregation has been here before, though many of them, most of them were quite young. Last time Moses was there twelve spies were sent into the land.
Remember we described Kadesh Barnea as the El Paso of the land? It's the entrance border town to the land where the spies were sent to go up and look and check out what kind of a land it was that God was giving them. So they went from Kadesh up from the south, the Negev Desert, up into the hill country of Judea, even into Hebron where the grapes were big and they brought back some of the fruit of the land. When the twelve spies came back, ten of them had a bad report. They were so fearful, they injected their fear into the lives, into the bloodstream, the spiritual bloodstream of the rest of nation so that that fear became contagious and nobody wanted to go up.
So, since they didn't want to go up, God said, "Fine. You won't go up, you'll go around in circles for many, many, many years. And then since you don't want to go in, you won't go in, you'll die in the desert and your kids will go in." So here they are back full circle. They have wandered for about forty years. Interesting, because when Moses sent them to spy out the land, he sent them in for forty days. For forty days they were able to see the beauty. For forty days they were able to behold the fulfillment of God's promise. For forty days they were able to see the grandeur and verdure of the land.
But they disbelieved, and so in response to that there is one year for every day that the spies were in the land. "You refused to go in, they were in for forty days, you shall wander for forty years." Now, it's the end of that journey almost. It says in verse 2, notice a reoccurring problem: "Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: 'If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!' "Now when Moses heard that, he thought, "I know this song.
"I've heard it before. The lyrics are the same, but it's a different choir. That's exactly what their parents sang so many years back. Now they're singing the same refrain, same song." And I think by now when he hears, "Oh, if only we had died!" under his breath he's going, "Amen. It would have been a whole lot easier if you had died, and I wouldn't have to put up with this for so long." What a thing to say: "If only we would have died like our brothers died." What was he---what were they referring to? Well, (a) they were referring to their parents, their "brethren," they're older brethren of the children of Israel, that generation that had died.
"If we would have just died like they died." Or maybe even referring to Korah, Daythan, Abiram, On, and the 250 of the leaders of Israel that came against Moses and Aaron. Maybe they remembered that death and they thought, "You know, it would have just been better if we would have died like that." " 'Why have you brought us up, brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us into the evil place? It's not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.' "
Now they have their history a little bit askew. It's as if they're saying, "You promised the Promised Land. You promised a land of abundance. That's all the stories we've heard for generations. This isn't it. This doesn't look like what you promised us." Well, that's because you're not in the land yet. This isn't the Promised Land. I mean, you're just getting out of El Paso [laughter] and the Promised Land looks a whole lot better. It's green and there are streams and there's the rain from heaven and there's ocean that is on one side. So they're thinking, "If this is the Promised Land, it doesn't look very good."
That's because it's not the Promised Land. So they're forgetting the part where their forefathers went up to spy out the land but didn't make it into the real land, and so they complain, and so they gripe. New generation, same sin. With every generation, it's interesting, I've observed this because I remember my own generation. I remember when I was young and I wanted to differentiate between, you know, my generation with so much hope and promise from my parents. My parents were sort of square and fuddy-duddies and fogies, and we're the new generation. We're going to be different. We have hope. We're going to change the world.
Every generation says and thinks that. And, "Oh, we're not like the old folks. We don't fall into those same kinds of things they do." New generation, same sin, same problems. Human nature is human nature: like father, like son; like mother, like daughter. In many ways they wanted to be different, and perhaps they were. Certainly they are in that they'll get into the land, but they're repeating the same things of their previous forbearers. So they complain, "This isn't the right place." But listen, they're thirsty. Now, on one hand I want to give them a break, the other hand I want to say complaining is sin.
So let me start with the first. Human nature is quite frail. Human beings are quite frail, and truth be told, we need water to survive. Your body is two-thirds water. You need a constant intake of hydration for your respiration, your digestion, for all the different systems in your body, your circulation. So when you don't have water, you think, "That's a basic necessity of life. I'm gonna die." And when we get to a place where our needs aren't been met, we can change into different people. In the book of Job, chapter 2, Satan, I believe, was correct.
I know that's a very tricky statement to say that Satan would be correct about anything, but he was correct in his observation of the human species. In chapter 1 he tried to say, "I'm going to take these things away, and Job will curse you to your face." And it didn't happen. So in chapter 2 Satan says, "Well, let me afflict him with a disease," and then Satan said this, "Skin for skin! All that the man has he will give for his life." I believe that was a correct assessment. A person will do almost anything in order to survive. The problem becomes when, as believers, we say we are trusting in the Lord to provide, then when we don't get what we want when we want it, we're saying God isn't taking care of us.
And effectively, if you are a believer, and you're a complaining believer, that's the message you're sending: your God isn't doing a good job at taking care of you. The real test of spiritual maturity isn't how loud we can sing a song at church, but how we react when the bottom falls out of our life outside of church, when the provision doesn't look like it's coming in, when the check isn't on time, when the doctor's report about our condition isn't favorable. Then what? Well, the "then what" is here. They bring and level their complaints. So verse 6, "So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting."
That's where the Lord hangs out, so from the presence of the people to the presence of the Lord. "And they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them." They got down on their knees. They got down on their bellies, on their chests. They were prostrate before the Lord in humility. Here's the principle: when people get in your face, get down on your face before the Lord. That's the proper response. That's the wise response. People get up in your grill and get in your face and they complain against you, the smartest thing to do is to drop to your knees in prayer in humility.
When they're up in your face, you get down on your face before the Lord. They were wise, they did that, they were seeking the Lord. A couple of texts come to my mind. You know, if I were Moses and I were Aaron, I would just---I'd say, "Okay, I'm done with this. This is, like, forty years. I put up with your parents---they're dead. Hello!? Get a clue here." But they just turned around, left, and took it to God. So here's what it says, we've already covered it, but let me remind you of First Peter, chapter 2, concerning Jesus Christ. When he was reviled he did not revile, and when he suffered, he entrusted himself to the One who judges righteously.
When you suffer, when you're reviled, what do you do? Do you react or do you respond? Do you react against men and women, or do you respond this way? When they get in your face, do you get down on your face before the Lord? "Well, why do I need to pray?" Uh, first of all just for constraint so you don't do or say something stupid. "A soft answer turns away wrath." And how about praying for wisdom? James in chapter 1 says, "If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally." I find that when situations like this arrive and I don't know what to do, I want to pause and ask God, "What should I do? I need your wisdom." So they did so.
"The glory of the Lord appeared. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take the rod' " and beat them in the head. No. He didn't say that. [laughter] If I were Moses, I would kind of wish for that. "Take the rod"---"Yeah? Yeah? Oh, okay. I'll do---you want me to do that? Okay." " 'Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to the rock before their eyes.' " They're going to be watching you go walk up to the rock and talk to it. " 'Thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.' "
Several years before this, thirty-seven years approximately, at the same place when the older generation was there and they needed water, the Lord said, "Moses, take your rod and strike the rock. Hit it and water will come out." Now, he says, "Moses, take your rod and don't hit it, don't beat it, you did that once, just talk to the rock, speak to the rock." Maybe Moses thought, "Uh, that's going to look really embarrassing to, like, talk to a rock." Talk to the rock, speak to it, " 'and it will yield its water; thus shall bring water for them out of the rock and give drink to the congregation and to the animals.'
"So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock; and said to them, 'Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?' And Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank." Thirty-seven years ago, hit the rock; thirty-seven years later, don't hit it, talk to it. Now, I probably don't need to remind you, you're New Testament students, you know that there a typology in this rock. Right? according to Paul the apostle?
I'll refresh your memory in First Corinthians, chapter 10. In that chapter, First Corinthians 10, Paul says, "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness." So there is a typology of the rock in the Old Testament.
The first time Moses struck it. The second time he struck it, though he should have talked to it. And there's a typology of Christ. How is the rock in the wilderness, how is that a type of Christ? Well, number one, a rock is stable. A rock is stable. It's like a fortress. David cried out, "Lord, lead me to the rock that is higher than I, when my heart is overwhelmed." "The Lord is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer." That imagery is scattered throughout the Old Testament. It's stable. It's strong. It'll protect you. Jesus spoke about the wise man who built his house on the rock foundation rather than the sand.
Jesus said to Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church." That's not Peter, that's him. He's the rock. He's the foundation. A rock is stable. "For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." A second way Jesus is like the rock is that the rock was struck. The Rock was struck; he was smitten. The first time Moses struck the rock, he struck it with his rod. It was the same rod that before Pharaoh when he threw it on the ground, turned into a snake, a serpent. "Take that rod that you once made into a serpent and strike the rock, water will come forth."
The Bible says, "God made [Jesus] him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him." The rock needed only to be struck once, not twice, because there's a typology in that rock that speaks of Jesus Christ, and to strike it, as he does here, messes up that whole prophetic typology, that whole prophetic picture, that insight into what Jesus would be like as Paul said. So why strike it once and not twice? Because Jesus hung on the cross and said, "It's done. It's finished." He only needs to be crucified once.
I grew up in a religious system that talked about the continual sacrifice of Jesus Christ: we always need to see that continual sacrifice of his broken body and his shed blood. No, you don't. It defies the very nature of the sacrifice itself. It is done. It is finished. You can't add to it. It's over. You don't strike Jesus again, you just talk to the rock. You have fellowship with him. What he did, he did once for all. So, he didn't do that, Moses, on the other hand. Notice in verse 10, "He said to them"---now listen so what he says,' " Hear now, you rebels!' " I get this. I understand that. I feel for him. My flesh is right there with him.
But then he says, " 'Must we bring water for you out of this rock?' And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank." Okay, Moses was a meek man; am I right? He was the meekest man in all the earth. We know that because he tells us he is. [laughter] I say that with a wink, but I hope you know my theory of inspiration, so you can get over that one really quickly. He was meek, but he had an anger problem. He had an anger issue. There's something in Moses that he just stuffed it down and he's simmering inside, and he didn't really deal with anger well.
Think back to his past. Think when he was still in Egypt as a young man coming of age understanding that he was a Hebrew. And one day it says that "He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. And Moses looked this way and that way . . . and he killed the Egyptian." Talk about overkill. "He killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." He could have just said, "Stop that! I have the authority," being one in charge in Egypt. But he killed him. He had an anger issue. Later on he will contend with Pharaoh.
And in one of those contentions when he describes the death of the firstborn that is coming up, "Let Israel go, or the Lord's going to send a plague and all the firstborn in Egypt will die," it says that Moses left that meeting with Pharaoh and his anger burned hot. He was fuming. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of the Law, and he saw the partying going on in the camp, he took those two tablets of the Law and smashed them in anger. You say, "Well, that's righteous anger." I'll grant you there is a place for righteous anger, right? Ephesians 4, "Be angry and sin not." Jesus had righteous indignation. He overturned the tables in the temple. He had the right to do that, he's the Son of God.
So it's okay to be righteously angry, it's okay to have a certain level of anger, it's the way you display it, however, that can be the problem as it was with Moses. Moses' anger was justified, angry at the sin, but the way he displayed his anger was wrong. And here when he says, "Come here you rebels!" I think that forty years of frustration just sort of uncapped, was unleashed in that moment. That was buried deep down inside. It doesn't do you any good to stu---if you're an angry person, to stuff your anger, to not deal with it, to suppress it. That doesn't mean you should blow up at everybody, that's how you release it. That's not appropriate either.
Let me, let me read something to you. If you can turn there really quickly in Psalm 39, if not, I'll just read it to you, just a few verses. I read this, it's written by David, but Moses could have written it, so could you or I. Psalm 39, "I said, 'I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle,' "it would be helpful," 'while the wicked are before me,' "especially helpful."I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good." I didn't say a word. I didn't express my emotions. I listened. I was a good boy.
"And my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue." Sometimes when you suppress anger, it just accentuates it even more if you don't deal with it correctly. Here's somebody determined, David determined to keep in check his emotion his anger. Okay, what do you do when you get angry? Because when you find yourself angered, there is an emotion, and the emotion is triggered by a biochemical reaction, so it is part of nature. How do you go against that?
See, when you're angry, you're adrenal glands are pumping, and they pump that fluid adrenaline into your bloodstream. And when that happens, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure goes up, your mouth gets dry, your hands get sweaty, your pupils dilate. A shot of energy gets injected into your muscles as you're in that alert state, that fight-or-flight state. So what do you? How do you react? How do you respond? Let me suggest something: you immediately right there in your heart, you don't have to get on your knees and say it publicly, you just, you commit it to prayer, turn your care into prayer.
Pray, first of all. Philippians says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God." So prayer, number one. Number two, people, people. Get people around you. Get people in your life. Hopefully you have a relationship with older believers. If you're an older believer, you're mentoring younger believers. Right? Proverbs 20 talks about the wisdom of counselors, "By wise counsel wage war." So if you're going to go to war, if there's something worth getting angry over, make sure that you have counselors that are telling you how to "be angry, and sin not."
So prayer, people, here's the third guideline: prompt. Be prompt in your anger. Whatever you do, make sure it's resolved before you go to sleep at night. "Don't let the sun go down on your wrath, "Paul said. Don't let it go down. So, if there's an issue with a person, deal with it before the day's end, before the night falls, before you hit your head on that pillow, otherwise it's going to keep you awake. You'll be troubled with it, troubled. It's just better to resolve it. So prayer, people, promptness, here's a fourth 'P', this is all just so you can remember: a pattern. You have a pattern.
Think about the pattern. "Why should I forgive him?" Because God forgave you. That's the pattern. "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." I'm going to forgive you because God forgave me. So next time you're thinking, "Oh, that person doesn't deserve to be forgiven"; do you? Our sin put Jesus on the cross and he said, "Father, forgive them." There's your pattern. Those guidelines will help you when the fire is burning within you and you want to erupt. Rather than erupting, deal with it in those ways: through prayer, people, promptness, and the pattern.
So back to Moe in the wilderness. "The Lord spoke to Moses," verse 12, "and Aaron, 'Because you did not believe me, to hallow me, in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.' This was the water of Meribah." "Meribah" means contention or contending. "Because the children of Israel contended with the Lord, and he was hallowed among them." Somebody once said, "If you fly off the handle, you're bound to make a bad landing. Moses flew off the handle and crashed and burned.
I grew up with a father who would be explosive in his anger. We were a churchgoing family, my father was known in the community, had a great laugh and a winsomeness about his character. But when something bothered him and that anger just sort of seethed in him, I watched it grow, when he erupted, you want to get out of the room. And then, unfortunately, his four sons observed that and some of us picked up on that, self-included. I remember the time when I took a guitar, because I couldn't get the right chord, and got so angry I just smashed it.
It was his guitar. That made matters worse, so I really got in trouble. [laughter] My anger was compounded on top of his anger after that. Or the time I was so mad at my mom that I thought I was the Karate Kid and I put a big hole in the door, the front bedroom door. And my mother just put a piece of white cardboard over it. And for the next five, six, seven years that piece of cardboard was over that hole. And every time I'd see it I'd get so embarrassed and thinking, "Mom, let's, let's just replace it." She goes, "Oh, I will at some point." And it was always a testimony of my mishap, my misstep literally into that door.
It got to such a point I was willing to pay for the door. I mean, I'm a kid, but it's, "I will pay for this." I just didn't want that reminder hanging over my head---actually it was right about head level---in the house. So Moses made a bad landing. He flew off the handle. And God is displeased with him for a few different reasons. Number one, he's just plain disobedient. He disobeyed God. God said don't do it, he did it. "Don't hit the rock, just talk to it"; he did it. He was disobedient. Number two, he misrepresented God. He misrepresented God.
God didn't give any indication in this text that he wanted to yell at these people or call them rebels or put on a little kind of a stomping hissy fit. "I'm gonna strike the rock and make you . . ." You know, that wasn't God's emotion. So Moses being the leader, the visible leader, misrepresented invisible God. Number three, listen to what Moses said. He is elevating himself to the place of God, really, to being right up there with the Lord. For he said, "Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" Now, he could just mean, "must Aaron and I," but I think he means, you know, "Are you looking to God and me to do this thing. Must we do that?"
"What do you mean 'we'? You're not doing anything, dude. You didn't do it the first time, you're not going to do it the second time. Just say a few words to the rock." Okay, so because of this there's a consequence. He will not enter into the Promised Land. Aaron will die and Moses will die having seen the Promised Land, but he will not enter in. You say, "Well, that's a shame he didn't enter in." Yeah, it is a shame. And it does show a couple of things, that no matter how old you get, there's still room for growth. You can still blow it at an old age.
You want to make sure that you finish well. That's always the goal as we grow older in the Lord. I want to---I want to finish as well as I start. I want to be---I want to end the course as well as I began. So that's always the goal. But let me share something that I think is pretty cool: Moses does eventually make it into the land. Jesus snuck him in. You remember when Jesus was transfigured, transformed before the apostle on a high mountain north of Galilee, and the disciples saw appearing with him two people from the Old Testament?
One was named Moses, and the other was Elijah, speaking with Jesus about the kingdom on that mountain in the land. Cool, huh? Yeah, he didn't get to see it then, but in his glorified state he did see it. He was there with Jesus for a special meeting. So, I kind of like that Jesus snuck him in. "Now Moses," verse 14, "sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom." Edom is part of present-day Jordan south and east of the Dead Sea. " 'Thus says your brother Israel,' " now notice the wording. " 'Thus says your brother Israel: "You know all the hardship that has befallen us." ' "
Moses will sort of recount in brief the heartache, the hardship, the problems, a little brief history of Israel's struggles up to that point. " ' "How our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers. When we cried out to the Lord, he heard our voice and sent his Angel and brought us out of Egypt; and now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border." ' " Edom is called the brother. Moses said, "We're your brother; you're our brother." And that is because, if you remember your Bible, Edom is a descendant of Esau, Esau the brother of Jacob.
Remember Rebekah when she was pregnant, and there were twins inside of her, and the Word of the Lord came and said, "Two nations are in your womb striving against the other; and the older shall serve the younger." The older was Esau, the younger was Jacob. Esau forfeited his promise, the promise of inheritance, because he wanted a nice bowl of stew. You know, what's better than green chile stew, or in this case, red porridge? And so, "Yeah, you can have---I'm not interested in spiritual blessing, I just want a good meal." He didn't care about spiritual things.
He was all self-centered, physically oriented, so Jacob gets the blessing. So what happens? Esau moves down to Seir and he displaces the Horites. Mount Hor will be mentioned here. He displaces the population the Horites and he and his population, he and his progeny settle there. So they're connected. It's their family history together. Verse 18 is the plea. " ' "Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through field or vineyard, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King's Highway." ' "
The King's Highway is from the Gulf of Elath down at the bottom, the Sinai Peninsula has the Red Sea on one side, the Gulf of Elath or Aqaba on the other side, and there's a little town of Aqaba or Elath. So, from that town northeast of the Jordan River to the city of Damascus was the King's Highway. You traveled south to north. "We're going to stay on the main road. We're not going to deviate. We're not going to have a grape. We're not going to eat your wheat. We're not going to drink your water." " ' "We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.' "
"And Edom said to him, 'You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with a sword.' And so the children of Israel said to him, 'We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.' " There seems to be this perpetual animosity between Edom and Israel. You'll see it throughout the Bible, throughout the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel will pronounce judgment against the Edomites. And did you know the entire book of Obadiah is basically a song, a judgment song, a doom song, a dirge that is written against the Edomites as God speaks judgment to them.
"Then he said," that's Edom, " 'You shall not pass through.' So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; and so Israel turned away from him. Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor." So they have to take a different roundabout, circuitous path because they can't go through. They could have gone straight through, but they can't, so they couldn't go through, they have to go around. "And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying: 'Aaron shall be gathered to his people' "
You know what that means? It means he'll die. But isn't that a great way to put it? Instead of saying, "Moses, go tell Aaron he's a dead man." Because when you hear dead, it sounds so final. But what a great description: "He'll be gathered to his people." You see, death is a union with God and a reunion with God's people. That's what it is. When you die, you will be immediately in union in the presence of the Lord, and you will be reunited with loved ones, believers who have gone before you into heaven. It's not just a nice thought, it's reality.
One day you'll be gathered to your Lord and gathered to your people. So, when we say, "He died," it's not really accurate in your speaking of a believer. If you're speaking of a Christian, "She died." No. "She moved," "He graduated," "He's been elevated," "He's home," "He's gathered with his Lord, with his people"---all of those are apt descriptions because there's no finality in it. "He will be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against my word at the waters of Meribah."
"And Aaron and Eleazar his son---take Eleazar and Aaron his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.' " So the High Priest is dying. Aaron the priest is going to take his garments and put them on his son. Now his son is going to take his place. And I love the thought of ministry being transferred, if God's anointing and gifting is in a family to see generation after generation after generation. I've heard of certain families who great-grandfather were preachers, and then grandfather, and then dad, and then son.
And I love that. Dads, do whatever you can. There's no guarantee that God's gifting is there, but do whatever you can to mentor and encourage and release opportunity, and ministry, and blessing, anointing into the life of your sons and daughters. God buries his workmen, but his work goes on. Yup, Aaron's dead, he's over, but his son will take over, and the priesthood will continue, and God's work will continue. "So Moses did just as the Lord commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain."
"Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days." You will find that when Moses dies the children of Israel will mourn for him thirty days. Because of these incidents here, Moses, Aaron, and a few others it has been become in Judaism today standard procedure to mark out a month after a loved one dies as a time of grieving. You grieve for that person for thirty days. You take your time and go through all the emotions that grief will bring into your life, because it does feel devastating to a family; thirty days.
The Egyptians mourn for seventy days, the Hebrews for thirty days. Now, I say that because in our culture it seems that we want to get through with the burial and the grieving as quickly as possible and get over with it, just we're, "Come on, it's been a week, move on. It's been, it's been two weeks, move on." I've had people from other countries even tell me, "You Americans treat death really strange. You know, the funerals are very quiet and people whisper to each other. And in my country they would say we wail and we whine and it's very emotional. And we give vent to all of our human emotion so that we can get through the stages of grief properly."
And as I heard him, I thought, I believe he's correct, because those who study death---and the foremost study was done years ago with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross says there are stages of grieving. When you hear somebody dies, your very first reaction is denial. "No. This can't be true. This isn't happening." You're guarding yourself, you're protecting yourself, so you deny it. And then as soon as you come to grips with it, the second emotion is typically anger. You're mad. "Who let this happen? Who at the job site allowed that to occur? Who can I sue?" A third emotion is guilt. "Oh, if only I would have been there. If only I would have called. If, if, if . . . these are all normal, they're natural, they're human emotion.
The fourth emotion is depression. A person goes through a very deep and dark valley where nothing tastes good, nothing sounds good, I don't want to see anybody, life is flat, it's hopeless. Those are all typical emotions. But then eventually comes acceptance. You see light at the end of the tunnel. "Life isn't what it used to be, but it's getting better. I'm getting back on my feet." So you need time for that. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, "There's a time to laugh; there's a time to mourn." And so they took thirty days, full thirty days and gave vent to their grief. And I think it's very, very necessary. One of the ways they did it is they would rip their garments.
You hear that somebody died, you tear your garments because your life is being torn apart and you are expressing outwardly, visually what you are feeling inwardly. And then they would wear a rough kind of a cloth called sackcloth. So when anybody dressed like that, you could just tell from them walking around, "That person lost somebody. I gotta be very sensitive around that person." Now, for a believer, as I mentioned, when you---if any of us were in this room to die tonight, there would be a period of grief. We would be saddened. Your family would be broken up. However, what makes it different for us is the knowledge of where you are.
That's why Paul said, "I'm writing to you, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow like others who have no hope." You see, we grieve, but our grief is mixed with hope. Unbelievers grieve in a hopeless manner. There is no hope. There's nothing to look forward to, they died. What I often find unbelievers doing, they don't want anything to do with God. They don't want anything to do with Jesus. They don't want anything with accepting Christ or praying to receive. They just want to live their life the way they live it, but then when they die they want to find some church, some preacher that will push their loved one over into heaven.
I love the story about the preacher who was approached by a family member, a man whose brother had died. The brother that died was a notorious womanizer and a drunk, a philanderer, a cheat. Everybody---he had a bad reputation in town. But the brother came to the preacher and he said, "Preacher, I want you to do my brother's funeral." He said, "I'd love to do your brother's"---"But, but, Preacher, I need you at the funeral to be kind to my brother in his memory and say that he was a saint. Say some nice words, and I'd like you to say he was a saint." The preacher said, "I can't do that. I'm a man of integrity. I'm a man of God. I cannot say what is not the truth. We all know he was a lie and a cheat and a scoundrel."
And then the man said, "Okay, but, Preacher, there's a lot of money in it. I mean, if you did that, I'd pay off the building. I know you have a large debt on this place, and I'd be willing to pay it all off if you just say my brother was a saint." Preacher thought about it and he said, "Okay. You got a deal." They shook hands on it. The day of the funeral came. The preacher stood up. Everybody was wondering, "What is he going to say? What is he going to say?" And the preacher said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we all know what kind of a man lies before us. This man in his life was a drunk, a cheat, a scoundrel. He was no good. But compared to his brother sitting up here in the front, he was a saint." [laughter]
Kept his end of the bargain, and he spoke the truth. That has nothing to do with the text, it just came to my mind. [laughter] So we do sorrow, in closing, we do sorrow, but we sorrow differently. Should Christians cry when a believer dies? Oh, yes, in fact more so, because the sweetness of that fellowship we had is broken. "Well, that's for women; men don't cry. Right?" That's an unfortunate part of our culture. I remember hearing that as a little boy, "Big boys don't cry." So, here's what typically happens. The boy runs and trips and injures himself, and somebody picks him up and says, "Oh, it's okay, it's okay. Don't cry, don't cry." And then whisper, "Big boys don't cry."
So by the time that kid is ten, he thinks masculinity and tears do not mix, males don't cry. To which I would reply, then why did God give you lacrimal glands, tear ducts? Why do you have those holes in the corners of your eyes to emit tears, if not to use it? Shortest verse in the New Testament: "Jesus wept." He was a big boy. He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus wept. He entered into their sorrow knowing he would raise them up. And when Jesus wept they said, "My, how he loved him," because he entered into emotion. So we've learned a lot about emotion, and as we close, let's close on this note: emotions are good as long as your emotion doesn't supersede your devotion.
Now, hear me, Moses gets all emotional when he strikes the rock, right? He gets all emotional. He was angry and he let his emotions supersede his devotion to God. Any human emotion has its place, but any human emotion can get out of place, out of whack, out of tune. Don't let your emotions supersede your devotion. You might be a fun person, a happy person, a joyful person, but even your joking and your humor, you can be taken to an extreme where it's abusive and it's wrong and it's unkind. You might be a loving person, but even the emotion of love can be skewed. The Bible says, "Do not love the world, neither the things that are in the world."
So any human emotion has to be kept under the proper devotion to the Lord. And that's where Moses and Aaron went astray, and so we have this chapter that bookends with Miriam and with Aaron. It was in my heart to do a whole other chapter, as you can see, we need to keep our promise.