Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Accusations, Machinations, and Exaggerations

Leslie Basham: When you face stress, how do you respond? 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You've had it! You're fed up! And out comes spewing this litany of grievances, of complaints. You start talking to someone else: "Can you believe . . . ?! They never . . . ! They always . . . !" And then they tell someone else, and then you get somebody else in your corner and somebody else in your crowd and the tension escalates and the opposition snowballs. 

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss wants to get your attention if you're in that situation. 

Nancy: Think about what you're saying. Think about what you're doing. Have you forgotten how many times God has provided for you, how many times He has met your needs, how many times He has proved Himself to be faithful?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, September 14, 2015.

What makes you stressed? How about this: You don't have the resources you need to do your job or the resources you need to provide for your family's needs. Or how about this? You're in charge and everybody is whining and complaining. Today and tomorrow Nancy will explore those stressful situations by unpacking a story in Numbers chapter 20. Let's listen.

Nancy: From time to time I like to share with our listeners just something fresh that the Lord has been speaking to me about in my own personal quiet time. A couple of weeks ago, as I came to the book of Numbers chapter 20, I found myself meditating on the first thirteen verses and taking notes, and God was just speaking to me in a fresh way.

So this is some "fresh manna" I want to share with you as I've continued to meditate on this passage. We'll take just a couple of days in this set of verses, Numbers 20. If you have your Scriptures with you, let me encourage you to open to that book . . . Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. 

It's one of those places where the pages kind of stick together in some Bibles because we don't spend a lot of time—not enough time—in this part of the Scripture. If you took time to read all of Numbers 20 (which we won't do today), this is a really sad chapter. It's so sad.

Verse one to the end of the chapter covers about a five-month period. Those five months are full of loss and grief and disappointment and unfulfilled expectations and failure and opposition—sad things. But there are also some really sweet glimpses of grace—God's grace—in the midst of all those sad things.

Isn't it true in our lives, we go through sad seasons . . . seasons of loss and disappointment? But if God will give us eyes to see it and faith to receive it, there are always, always, always glimpses of His grace in the midst of the sadness. I'm looking into the eyes of some women here who know exactly what I'm talking about.

You've been through the loss of a mate, the loss of a child. Maybe you're going through some hard things right now. I'm hoping that this chapter, the part we're going to look at today, will encourage you to see God's grace in the midst of the hard things.

Let me give you a brief overview of the chapter; there are four scenes. The first scene is just in verse 1: it's the death of Miriam. We'll talk about that in just a moment.

Then in verses 2–13, we have this situation where there's no water, and that's the scene we're going to focus most on today and tomorrow.

And then, in verses 14–21 we have this scene with the Edomites, who are the cousins of the Israelites, who refused to let the Israelites pass through their land on their way to the Promised Land. (We're not going to cover that passage, but this is what's going to happen after the parts we talk about today.)

And then, in the last paragraph, verses 22–29, we have the death of Aaron. So the passage starts with the death of Miriam, it ends with the death of Aaron (the sister and brother of Moses), and in-between there's a lot of hard stuff. So there is a lot of mourning, a lot of grieving, a lot of loss.

The main characters we see in this chapter, the Israelites (about two million of them, maybe), Miriam, Moses, Aaron, the Edomites . . . all these main characters are weak and flawed, some of them more than others. They all experience consequences of their choices, of their character flaws. 

We're going to see ourselves in some of these characters. We're kind of hard on the Israelites sometimes, until we look in our own hearts and see, "I've got that heart in me." So we're going to see our flawed character, our failings, our weaknesses.

But I love, always in Scripture, finding the central character, who is always Jehovah the LORD, the God of Israel, who is our God. And in this chapter Jehovah shows Himself to be holy, and He exercises righteous judgment. We'll see that in this passage, but we'll also see that He shows mercy. Thank God!

Aren't you grateful that in the midst of our failures and our flaws and our faults and our weaknesses, God shows mercy, and He never stops fulfilling His grand redemptive plan. He's always about His work, and nothing we can do—no mess-up we can make, no loss we can experience—keeps God's plan from going on . . . His redemptive plan.

As always, the Israelites and these other characters are like us. And, as always, God is like . . . God! He never changes. So what we see of Him in this passage, we know is true of Him in our lives today. So today and tomorrow, in this little mini-series, we're going to unpack just the first two scenes, verses 1–13.

Let me begin reading and walk through the passage. We'll see how far we get today, and then we'll pick up with the rest of the passage tomorrow.

Oh Lord, I pray that You would open our ears and our hearts and our minds to receive Your holy Word! Speak to us, O Lord. Give us ears to hear and then hearts to say, "Yes, Lord!" to whatever You say through Your Word today. And we'll be careful to give You thanks and praise, in Jesus' name, amen.

Numbers 20:1 "And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh." Now, let's stop there and let me give you some quick history for context. As you go through Exodus and Numbers, you see that there were three major seasons of travel for the Israelites.

The first season was from Egypt (where they'd been slaves for four hundred years) to Mt. Sinai. That season was forty years earlier, before the passage we're reading today. When they got to Mt. Sinai, that's where the law was given (in Exodus chapter 20). So they traveled from Egypt to Sinai.

And then they traveled from Sinai to Kadesh (sometimes called Kadesh-barnea), and normally from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh (or Kadesh-barnea) would be an eleven-day journey. Deuteronomy 1 tells us that. When they got to Kadesh, the next stop should have been the Promised Land, eleven days later.

But you remember how the people believed the majority report of the men who had been sent to spy out the Promised Land. The people fell into unbelief of God's Word, into rebellion, and they were kept from entering the Promised Land. Instead, God sent them back into the wilderness to wander for another thirty-eight years (forty total). God said that whole generation, who had not believed God, would die off in the wilderness. Their children would enter the Promised Land.

Now, these are the children of that previous generation. So, the second travel journey was from Sinai to Kadesh. It should have taken eleven days. . .it took thirty-eight years!

And now, we come to this third travel period, where the Children of Israel (this second generation—the children of those who left Egypt) have arrived back at Kadesh and this is their last step before moving to the Jordan River and crossing over into the Promised Land.

So when the Bible says the Children of Israel came into the wilderness in the first month, this is actually the first month of the fortieth year after leaving Egypt, after the Exodus. Those entire forty years had been spent in the wilderness. This generation essentially had not known anything else.

All those from twenty years old and older had died in the wilderness. So some of these Israelites had been children or teenagers in Egypt, but that had been forty years earlier. Most of these had been born in the wilderness during this forty years of wandering.

Now these are the children of the generation that God had delivered from slavery in Egypt. So these children and grandchildren had heard the stories of the past, and they knew the promise of the future . . . that God was taking them into the Promised Land. He had delivered them from slavery to take them into a great land.

These Children of Israel had experienced first-hand, for years—for decades—the grace and the presence and the protection of God, as He led them visibly with the cloud during the day and the pillar of fire during the night. They had experienced His provision all those years, every day.

They had food to eat. Their clothes and their shoes never wore out in forty years (Deuteronomy 29 tells us that). That's quite a plan. God had supernaturally provided for them. They had also heard about and witnessed and experienced the consequences of not believing God, of not trusting Him, of rebelling against His plan.

You read a lot of these stories of rebellion in the book of Numbers. Don't turn there, but let me just highlight a few of them for you:

In Numbers chapter 12, you remember where Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses, and Miriam contracted leprosy. The children had either seen this themselves, or they had heard about it. Numbers 14, the parents of this generation had believed that majority report from the spies. They had seen how their parents were not able to enter the Promised Land, but had died off in the wilderness—every one of them, aged twenty and older.

That would have been an average of more than seventy funerals a day for thirty-eight years, every single day! So there was death everywhere as that generation died off prematurely because of their unbelief and their rebellion. More than one million adults had died off in those thirty-eight years.

And then in Numbers 16, do you remember when Korah and 250 leaders of the congregation rose up against Moses and Aaron, and how (long story, short) the earth opened up, swallowed them up alive, and they were all consumed?

And the next day the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron for killing off their leaders, and God sent a plague and another 14,700 Israelites perished because of their rebellion. Now you would think that with all this history with God (seeing His promises, His provision, His protection, His presence, and seeing His judgment, His wrath against sin, how sin has consequences, how God dealt with those who fell into unbelief and rebellion) . . .

You would think that, with all that history, by now these Israelites would have been experts at trusting God, believing Him, following Him, saying, "Yes, Lord!" But not so, as we're going to see here in Numbers 20. Not so with them and, sadly, not so with us.

We forget. We fall again into unbelief and into rebellion. And we're going to see again the consequences of that in this passage.

So the Children of Israel are in this wilderness of Zin in this first month of the fortieth year, and they've come back, now, to Kadesh. Then the end of verse 1 tells us, "And Miriam died there and was buried there."

Now, you remember that Miriam was the older sister of Moses. She was 127 years old when she died. And Miriam (go back a long way) had watched over baby Moses when his mother placed him in a basket in the Nile River.

She had saved his life by talking to Pharaoh's daughter and making the arrangement for Moses' mother, Jochebed, to nurse him and care for him in those early years of his life. And then she had been with the Children of Israel all these years, through the Exodus, through the years of wandering.

She had been a pillar of this congregation. She was the matriarch; she was the most important woman in that day. Now, Miriam had had her issues, but she had always been there. You think of these Israelites . . . she was the elder woman. She was a symbol of stability. And now, she was gone (in fulfillment of God's promise that all that generation would die off, and not even the most influential woman in the congregation was exempt).

So, Miriam dies, and this was a huge loss. It's a loss for the congregation; it's a loss for Moses. This is his older sister. She'd been with him all these years, all his life. And within a four-month period, he would also lose his older brother, Aaron. So this was a season of bereavement for Moses.

And not just that, but we come to verse 2 (Numbers 20), and now we see there was no water for the congregation. Now, forty years earlier, the previous generation had experienced the same thing. It's easy to get these two accounts confused, because they're very similar.

The other story takes place in Exodus chapter 17, and God had provided water from a rock in that instance forty years earlier, as He is going to do in this passage. And I'm reminded that there are two ways that we can learn to know God and to trust Him and to follow Him in obedience.

First, we can learn from the example and the experience and the wisdom and the counsel of others—from those who have gone before us. And if we would learn from them—from our elders, from those who have been there before us—it could save us a lot of heartache.

You tell your kids this, right? "Look, don't make the same mistakes I did!" But when you're fourteen, you really don't want to hear that, right? Oh, that we would listen! And that we would still listen to those who have gone before us!

But sometimes we don't listen, we don't learn, we don't heed those who have gone before us, and so . . . there's a second way to learn, and that's from our own personal experience as we walk through trials and tribulations. And that's what's going to happen to this generation.

I'm reminded that each generation of God's people needs its own experiences with God. They'd heard tell of God's faithfulness, but now they need to see it themselves.

And so we have this season of unfulfilled longing, this seemingly endless wandering in the wilderness, grief, loss, stress, circumstances beyond their control. It's a perfect storm. Miriam has died. There's no water. How are they going to respond?

Will they remember their history? Will they remember God's promises? Will they trust Him? Will they turn to Him? Will they ask Him to meet their need for water? What do you think? Well, Numbers 20:2 tells us: "There was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron."

Rather than turning to the Lord, Whom they couldn't see, they turned to their leaders who they could see. They didn't just turn to Moses and Aaron, they turned against Moses and Aaron—en masse! The whole congregation. They didn't go individually and ask questions, and humbly seek wisdom, saying, "What do you think we should do?"

They banded together. They ambushed the men who had led them, who had sacrificed for them, who had prayed for them, who had proven themselves to be faithful men of God—these men, Moses and Aaron, who for decades had endured criticism and opposition but who had sought the Lord on the people's behalf again and again and again. These who had loved them well, had led them well, had served them well.

It's like the people forgot all of that and turned against their leaders. Numbers 20:3–5 gives us more detail: "And the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.'"

Now, Moses knew that there was no water to drink, but they reminded him. And what started out in verse 2 as simply, "there was no water," has now escalated. You can just hear this riotous mob. It's a flood of accusations, a torrent of grievances. The people are out of control. They're ready to riot.

So we have this compounded, pent-up irritation, frustration aggravation, and it results in this collective mass of criticisms and imaginations and accusations and machinations and exaggerations. Just try and feel this. This is a million or more Jews in the wilderness with no water.

They're in this grieving season after Miriam has died, and they storm Moses and Aaron. And, sad to say, this is not an aberration. This was their established pattern again and again and again. You read it through the book of Numbers, starting with Numbers chapter 11, "The people complained and it displeased the Lord."

Again and again God had shown mercy to them. He had given them what they needed. He had shown grace, at times He had brought consequences, but here we have them again rejecting God's plan and resenting His representative leaders. It makes me ask if there have been times when you and I have been in that crowd. 

Maybe not a million of us, but maybe a few of us ganged up against a dad, a husband, a pastor, the President, a Christian leader—someone who is maybe a worthy man of God, someone who is maybe not a worthy man of God—but we've been assembled against God-appointed leaders. 

You were tired, stressed, disgruntled, frustrated, angry—you've had it! You're fed up! And out comes spewing this litany of grievances, of complaints. You start talking to someone else: "Can you believe . . . ?! They never . . . ! They always. . . !" And then they tell someone else, and then you get somebody else in your corner and somebody else in your crowd, and the tension escalates and the opposition snowballs.

And, as we read this passage, what I want to say is, "Listen to yourself! Think about what you're saying! Think about what you're doing! Have you forgotten how many times God has provided for you? How many times He has met your needs? How many times He has proved Himself to be faithful? And then you go and take out your frustration on the man of God, on the God-appointed leaders that God has established in your life. This is when we are the Children of Israel, right?

I have a sweet friend who is the mother of seven children. She and her family are praying for us today. The youngest child, who has just turned five, was born with severe congenital mental and physical birth defects. He almost died. They spent most of the child's first two years in a children's hospital, in and out of all kind of all kinds of treatments and surgeries.

The child is profoundly disabled and requires full-time 'round-the-clock care. I've watched this family go through a lot of hard times. This precious mom, I'm not sure if she ever had a full night's sleep for maybe the last five years (certainly not for the first couple years of precious Micah's life).

I've watched this mom, this family, at times when they were so tired, so stressed, when they didn't have the help they needed at times, the caregivers. It's just been hard! But I've watched them get God's grace, and have seen the glory of God reflected in and through them in those hard times.

Carrie gave me a set of letters that she has in her home, and I now have a set in my home. They're four tiles, and each one has a large capital letter. The first one is "R," the second is "S," the third is "V," and I'll let you guess what the last one is . . . "P." What does RSVP stand for?

Well, let me tell you by reading something that Carrie wrote to me about these letters: She said,

During my Micah journey, I was introduced to an acrostic. I actually have these large letters in Micah's room. I got them on sale at Hobby Lobby (a little commercial, there). It's RSVP.

What do those letters stand for? And I share these with you because I think this may be helpful to you when you find yourself in the wilderness, on a long long journey that seems like it's never going to end. Maybe you're the leader, maybe you're the disgruntled part of the congregation, but you're frustrated, you're tired, maybe there's no water, maybe there's no something else that you feel like you need. How do you respond? We don't want to respond like the children of Israel did, but we do want to RSVP.

"R" is for Remember. Remember who God is: His promises, His Person, His character, His track record, that He is Sovereign, powerful, good, wise, and He doesn't waste our pain. He loves us dearly with the purest love. R—Remember.

Then if you truly "R," then you can "S," Surrender. Surrender your baby, surrender your marriage, your hurts, your fears, your dreams, your hopes. But you can't truly "S," Surrender, if you haven't "R," Remembered. And you gotta keep remembering, because we forget, right? Keep remembering who God is, what He has done, and then you can surrender. And when you have truly "S-ed" you can have "V," Victory in the midst of those circumstances. [And I've watched the Lord give Carrie and her family sweet victory in the midst of a lot of pain!]

And when there is Victory, there is "P," Praise.  [She said "Praise," but Peace, also. Praise—which God created us to do in every circumstance, season, and storm. And then Carrie said,] Now, I have to tell you the truth. My V falls down. It really does. It falls when we dust it."

It even broke once, and we replaced it. I have to tell you, at the time it was really bugging me, because at the time I was not having victory. I was trying to continually surrender my stuff, but I realized that even when there isn't victory, we still praise Him and, as you have said, we practice our surrender muscle.

We praise Him even when we don't feel we are experiencing the victory. So my V on the shelf is still even right now crooked, but now I smile, knowing that it's all a part of the process. May God be glorified as we walk through this journey: storms, struggles, victories and all.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She's been telling us about an incident in the life of Moses and the Children of Israel.

Everybody felt stress in that situation. Moses felt stress, and the people felt stress. Nancy's been showing you how to hand over those kinds of tense situations to the Lord. And one important thing to do in a situation like that is to replace grumbling with thanksgiving.

Nancy talks about that in her book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. Nancy will show you why gratitude is so powerful. It will help keep your mind focused on the truth when storms rage around you. Nancy also gives you practical ways to improve and learn to be more grateful day by day.

We'd like to send you this classic book by Nancy, Choosing Gratitude. It's our gift when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Your support will help us continue speaking to women like the one who wrote us and said,

I can't tell you how much Revive Our Hearts means to me. It has been like a drink of water in the wilderness at certain seasons of my life and I am so very, very thankful.

I'm thankful this ministry is pointing women to the Living Water, and we can't do it without the support of listeners like you. When you make a donation of any size we'll say thanks by sending the book Choosing Gratitude. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We'll send one book per household this week when you make a donation of any size.

And, if you enjoyed today's teaching, did you know you can get a lot more related resources online at ReviveOurHearts.com? That includes today's complete teaching on video. Remember Nancy showed the audience the letter tiles spelling RSVP? You can see those for yourself when you watch the video.

When stress and trouble seem overwhelming, you have a great opportunity! It's your chance to learn to lean on the Lord. It's your opportunity to experience significant growth. Nancy will talk about it tomorrow when she's back in Numbers 20.

Remember the acronym Nancy shared, RSVP? She's going to pray that we'll follow that pattern.

Nancy: Oh Lord, how I thank You that You've given us this example of the Children of Israel. Forgive us for the times that we follow this example from them, where we band together or just in our own hearts we complain, we are contentious, we're controlling, we're bitter, we're resentful, we attack your leaders instead of trusting You, remembering, surrendering, experiencing Your victory, praising You and finding peace. So, Lord, take us to RSVP and help us to remember not to forget. You are so good! You are so faithful! You can be trusted, right there in the wilderness—even when there's no water.

So we bless You, and we look forward to picking up tomorrow to see what else You will say to us from this passage. Thank you, Lord, for speaking to our hearts this day. I pray in Jesus' name, amen. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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