Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Don’t Squander Your Trial

Leslie Basham: Listening to God will give you sound thinking. Nancy Leigh DeMoss says the opposite is also true.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Listen: disobedience, unbelief, and rebellion will make you crazy. It will make you irrational. It will make you say and do stupid things.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, September 15, 2015.

Nancy's in a series called "When You're Under Stress: A Study of Numbers 20."

Nancy: We're continuing today in this short two-day series that actually started during my quiet time two weeks ago, as I found myself camped in Numbers chapter 20. I'm just pondering the first 13 verses and what it says to our hearts.

So we started yesterday, if you missed that session, you can go to ReviveOurHearts.com. You can read the transcript. You can listen to the audio or watch the video.

My own heart was convicted, again, as we talked about how the Israelites responded to the challenges in the wilderness. Let me read again verses 1 and 2, which is all the further we got yesterday, and then we'll pick up with this passage.

Numbers 20, verse 1: "And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month [this is the first month of the fortieth year of their wilderness wanderings], and the people stayed in Kadesh."

And the next stop is going to be the Promised Land—finally, at long last! But there are some sad things that happen before they get there, and we see the first one here in verse 1: "And Miriam [the older sister of Moses, who had been with him all his life, had been with the Children of Israel all these years, she] died there and was buried there."

So this huge loss for Moses and for the Children of Israel, probably the most influential woman in the congregation for all of those forty years. Sometimes she had a good influence; sometimes she had a not-so-good influence. And we've done a whole series on Miriam. You can go back to ReviveOurHearts.com and hear that series. She's a fascinating woman.

Now, we see this woman dies, and then in verse 2, there's another difficult circumstance they face: "There was no water for the congregation." There was no water. This is over a million Jews. You can't go very long or very far without water.

And so we have loss, and they have hardship, and we have to ask the question: "Why? How did they get to this place, the wilderness, the death of Miriam, no water for the congregation? How did they get there?"

Well, I want to tell you, on one level, the answer is: God led them there. That's why they were there. Just as God had led them for the previous forty years. Did it catch God by surprise that there was no water there? What do you think? No! This was part of God's plan for their lives, part of His preparation for them entering into the Promised Land.

In fact, don't lose your place in Numbers 20, but let me just read a couple of verses from Deuteronomy chapter 8. Deuteronomy 8, verses 2 and 3 says: "And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness."

Now, why did He lead you in these places in the wilderness, places where there was no water? Well, Deuteronomy 8 tells us why: "That he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger."

God let you hunger. God let you go thirsty, we could add in there, as we reflect on Numbers 20. God humbled you. He let you hunger. This wasn't an accident. This wasn't a mistake. This wasn't God falling asleep or God just missing something. He let you hunger, and He "fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know [that He might teach you, humble you, test you, teach you] that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord" (Deut. 8:3).

So, you see, throughout their history, God intentionally led His people into situations where they experienced lack. He did this on purpose. And His purpose was to humble them, to test them, to teach them dependence on Him. But they didn't get the point. Again and again and again, they resisted what God intended for their good. They squandered these opportunities for growth.

Do you recognize yourself here? How many times do we find ourselves backed into a corner, in a hard place, a challenging place, in a place where there is lack, and we start to resent and resist the very circumstances that God has brought into our lives to humble us, to test us, to teach us, to bring us to a greater place of dependence upon Him.

Because, I'll tell you, if the sun were always shining, if we always had money in the bank, if your husband was always nuts about you and your children were always perfectly obedient, you never had any health issues, etc., do you think that we would spend our lives in dependence upon God? If there's any chance for us to rely on ourselves, we will. Right?

But God doesn't want us to rely on ourselves because "the arm of flesh will fail you; you dare not trust your own." We have to lean on Him.

And so He pulls away some of these props, these things we think we can't live without—like water, for example. And He says, "You want to see where your provision comes from? Look up! Look to Me!"

And so we see in Numbers 20, going back to that passage, verse 2, rather than trust the Lord, rather than receive this opportunity for good, they assemble themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And we read yesterday in verses 3–5 about how they quarreled against Moses, and they accused them, "We wish we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord. Why have you brought this 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!"

So, get the picture: For thirty-eight years, these Children of Israel, this generation had paid the price for the unbelief and the rebellion of their parents, and now they are following in the very same steps. This response is wrong on so many levels.

Just think about it. First of all, they're selfish. They're insensitive to the loss that Moses has just experienced of Miriam, his older sister. And instead of trying to console him, they attack him. Instead of being sobered by the reminder of how quickly God could snuff out their lives, they basically leave God out of the equation. Where is God in this whole whining, this whole temper tantrum?

When we forget God, then we're going to be vulnerable, too. We're going to be prisoners to our emotions and our wild imaginations. And we're going to be over-the-top in our accusations and our criticisms, and we're going to draw wrong conclusions as they did.

If you read what they just said there, this is actually crazy. They draw irrational conclusions and make irrational statements. "We wish we had died out here like everyone else." Where's this coming from? Not from God!

They malign Moses. They hurl unfair, harsh, cruel accusations at him. "You brought us out here to kill us. You made us leave Egypt." Like, we wanted to stay in Egypt where we'd been slaves for 400 years? "Oh, we miss Egypt. We wish we were back there." It's crazy!

Listen: disobedience, unbelief, and rebellion will make you crazy. It will make you irrational. It will make you say and do stupid things.

"We wish we were still in Egypt." They, of course, most of them, had never seen Egypt. They'd been born in the wilderness, most of them, but they were repeating things that they had heard their parents say in the past.

Let me just give you a warning here, and as you read through Exodus and Numbers, keep this in mind: Think about the impact that your attitudes about the will of God and your responses to testings and to trials, the impact that your responses will have on your children and your grandchildren, maybe even after you're gone.

I want to respond in such a way to trials and to tests, that those who will be coming after me will be pointed to the efficacy of Christ, to the sovereignty of God, to know that the will of God is good and acceptable and perfect, and that He can be trusted.

Well, we see next the response of Moses and of Aaron. Now, Moses has just experienced the loss of his sister, and now he's experiencing this unfair attack and opposition from the people that he has led faithfully for all these years. So, what to do? Where to go?

Maybe you know what it is to feel ambushed by the very people that you have loved and served—maybe your children, coworkers, people at church. What do you do? Where do you go? How do you respond?

Well, verse 6 tells us how Moses responded: Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly." Sometimes you've just got to leave the crowd—leave the naysayers. They left the assembly, and they went where? "to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces."

Where did they go? They went to God. When the people ganged up on Moses and Aaron, Moses and Aaron went to the Lord. They didn't know where else to go. And, by the way, that is exactly where the people themselves should have gone when there was no water.

But Moses and Aaron are in a helpless place, and they cast themselves upon the Lord for mercy, for grace. They go to pray on behalf of the people who have made their lives so difficult. They go to cry out to the Lord to ask Him for help, for provision. And look what happens: next phrase, "And the glory of the Lord appeared to them." I love this!

Now, we don't know exactly what that looked like. We don't know at all what that looked like. It may be that the cloud of His Shekinah glory that accompanied them through all those years, that it was especially brilliant that day. I don't know. But it was something that, if you were there, you knew this is the glory of the Lord.

And I think there are two effects in this situation, and in our lives, when the glory of the Lord is being revealed.

First of all, there's an effect on these rioting people, these complaining, murmuring, upset people. The holiness of God, the glory of God being revealed is intended to remind the congregation of the holiness of God and the seriousness of their sin of murmuring and rebelling. And in that case, the glory of the Lord should have struck terror in their hearts, as it did in other times—as in Korah's rebellion we read about and talked about in Numbers chapter 16, where the people rebelled against God, and then it said, "The glory of the Lord appeared."

It's like: "When your dad gets home . . ." There's something in that. When Dad gets home, something's going to happen here. This is calling for action, and when the glory of Dad appears at the front door, like there should be terror in the hearts of the rebels. Right? Not that dads should be terrors, but there's something about righteous, good, wise authority that should strike fear in the hearts of rebels.

But the display of God's glory was also intended to encourage Moses and Aaron, to reassure them that God was with them and that He would provide for them.

You see these two themes all the way through the Scripture of judgment and salvation. Both are effects of the glory of God. If you start reading this way (Old Testament or New Testament), where you see judgment, you also see salvation. Where you see salvation, you also see judgment.

Second Thessalonians 1 illustrates this, where it talks about when Jesus returns, when He's revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire—that sounds like glory to me! When His glory is revealed, there are two effects.

Number one, it will bring about the punishment of eternal destruction (Paul says) to those who have refused to believe the gospel. Those who refuse to believe should tremble at the presence of the Lord.

But also on that day, it says, He will be glorified in His saints, marveled at among all who have believed. The revealing of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, for those of us who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, should give us hope and courage and faith. It speaks of mercy and grace.

So the question is: How do you see the glory of God? Does it strike terror in your heart because you have not believed, you rejected Him? Or does it strike wonder and awe and grace because you think of how merciful this glorious God has been?

Well, "the glory of the Lord appeared to them," verse 7, "and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother."

Now, the staff is sometimes called Moses staff. Some translations, it's the word rod, Moses rod, Moses staff. But sometimes, as in Exodus 17, it's called the staff of God. The staff of Moses was the staff of God. And this staff, this rod, had been used many times before to perform miracles.

Remember in Egypt when God sent Moses back to talk to Pharaoh, how that rod became a serpent? It was a miracle. How that rod was used to turn the water to blood, the first of the plagues? How at the Red Sea, Moses held that rod over the waters at the command of the Lord, and the waters parted so the Children of Israel could walk through on dry ground?

In Exodus 17, Moses was told to take his staff, a similar instance to this one, forty years earlier, where there was no water, and God said to Moses, "Take your staff and strike the rock [this was at Rephidim] so water would come forth."

And now here they are with no water, and God's telling Moses, "Take your staff," but the instruction's going to be a little different.

There's another instance later in Exodus 17 where Moses stood on a hill (remember this?) and he held the staff up in his hands while Joshua led the Israelite army in fighting against the Amalekites. And as long as that staff was lifted up, the Israelites prevailed against the enemy.

So this time God says, again, "Take your staff [take your rod], and assemble the congregation." But now the instruction is what? Not strike the rock, but "tell the rock [speak to the rock, some of your translations say] before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle" (v. 8).

Now, stop and think about this. And, by the way, this whole series just started out of my personal quiet time, just meditating on these verses. I didn't get very far that day. But this is how you get riches out of God's Word. You stop. You park in a passage. You think about it. You ponder it. You look at it from every angle. And you ask God to speak to you through what you're seeing there.

Think about this instruction to Moses and the faith that was required on his part to do what God told him to do, to stand up before this massive, angry crowd and speak to the rock. You're going to look kind of foolish if nothing happens, right? And to wait for God to miraculously provide water.

But think what would have been the result if Moses had done it just as God said—how the people would have realized how powerful God is. You just talked to that rock, and God does what only God can do. How they would have seen how attentive God was to their needs, that He was their provider. How it would have calmed their anxious hearts. This required faith, and it required obedience. Trust and obey.

Well, what did Moses do? Verse 9: "And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, [so far so good] and he said to them [now here's where you've got to hear some tone], 'Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?'" (vv. 9–10).

Moses is angry. The people have pushed his buttons again and again and again. It's not just this instance. It's like forty years of this stuff that comes pouring out in one fell swoop. "Shall we bring water for you out of this rock?"

What is Moses doing in this moment? I think he's taking for himself authority and responsibility and glory that belonged to God. Moses and Aaron were not the ones who had brought water out of the rock the first time. Who did that? God did it! And they were not going to be the ones who would do it this time.

"Shall we bring water for you?" But Moses is deeply frustrated. He's put up with these people for so long, and he loses it. He loses his cool. He loses his temper. "And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice" (v. 11). And I don't think he tapped the rock. I think he is furious, so he hits the rock.

Have you ever lashed out in anger with words, with your spirit, at your children, at your coworkers, at your mate? By striking the rock in anger and unbridled passion, Moses showed disrespect for the holiness of God, the presence of God, the Word of God, in front of the whole congregation. And in so doing, he joins the people in their rebellion against God.

And look at this—second half of verse 11—what does God do in response? He shows amazing, lavish grace. Moses struck the rock with his staff twice, "and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock."

Before there is discipline, before God deals with His servant, which He will, which He has to because He's holy, God first shows grace. Water came out abundantly.

Psalm 78 refers to this instance, "He split rocks in the wilderness [not once, but twice—rocks He split in the wilderness] and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep" (v. 15).

So God shows grace. He meets the needs of the people, and not only the people, but He cares about their animals. He gives enough so their livestock can drink, too.

But He also shows that He is not a God to be trifled with, that not even the greatest, spiritual leader of the era could disregard His Word and get away with it.

So, verse 12, "And 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.'"

Now, I think there are a lot of sins that play here—sins of the heart, and we could unpack all that—but God says essentially what is in Moses' heart here is the sin of unbelief. "You have not believed My Word. You have not honored Me before the people."

So as great a leader as Moses, he failed to meet the standard of God's holiness, and was prohibited from going into the Promised Land that he had spent forty years seeking. He had led God's people all those years, but he would not lead them into the Promised Land. That responsibility would be given to a younger man.

And his name? Yeshua—Joshua. An Old Testament type of Jesus, who would lead His people to the Promised Land of rest and abundance. Where every other leader fails, our Jesus succeeds.

Well, verse 13 tells us, "These are the waters of Meribah"—the word means contention, quarreling, strife. It was named so they wouldn't forget the waters of Meribah, "where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy."

You see, their striving with Moses was really striving with the Lord. God took it personally, and He was determined that they should know that He is holy.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul speaks back, looks back on some of the incidents, and he points to the Israelites in the Old Testament. I want to just close by reading a part of 1 Corinthians 10 and give us a New Testament reflection on what we've been talking about.

He says in verse 1: "For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ" (vv. 1–4).

The Rock was Christ. It reminds you of that passage in John 7 where Jesus stands up and says, "If anyone believes in me, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water."

The Rock was Christ. That's where you get your supply. That's where you get your water. That's where you get your life. It's not a thing. It's a Who. It's Christ.

"Nevertheless, (Paul says) with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness" (v. 5).

Verse 9: "We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come."

So what are we supposed to learn from this? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10, verse 12. "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands (Miriam, Moses, the Israelites) take heed lest he fall."

Keep your heart humble and realize that you're never past. I'm never at a point where I might not sin against God if He doesn't keep and protect me, and if I don't keep saying, "Lord, I need Your grace." Take heed.

And then verse 13: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man." Are you sitting there with no water? Are you weary in the battle, weary in the journey? It's been a long forty years, you're tempted to grumble, to complain, to lash out at God's man, God's men. Others have experienced this.

And what's the takeaway? "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Oh Lord, thank You for Christ our Rock whose side was pierced and out from which flowed blood and water that we might be redeemed, that out of our innermost being might flow rivers of living water. He was struck for us. He was pierced for our transgressions.

And so, Lord, we stand before You, our Rock, and we thank You that You are faithful, and that in this day, in these life circumstances, whatever they may be, this day and tomorrow and the next day You will be faithful, and You will never put us in a place where You will not provide all that we need to endure and to pass through that temptation and to trust You in the midst of it.

Help us, Lord, to honor You, to show You as holy in our responses as leaders, as followers, for people to look at our responses—our families, our mates, our children, our fellow workers—to see us under pressure and to say, "God is holy. God is faithful. And I can see it in that person's responses."

Thank You, Lord. We bless You, in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been telling us the story of an imperfect leader, imperfect followers, a rock and some water. And she just showed us how this story points us to the perfect leader—Jesus.

That's part of the series, "When You're Under Stress: A Study of Numbers 20." We'll hear some practical takeaways from this series in just a minute.

First, let me tell you about one powerful way to combat grumbling and complaining. In the book, Choosing Gratitude, Nancy Leigh DeMoss shows you why complaining is so corrosive. She'll show you how to give thanks in all things and make gratitude a way of life.

We'd like to send you this book from Nancy as our thanks for supporting the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Your gift will help us continue bringing Revive Our Hearts each weekday.

Ask for Choosing Gratitude when you call with a gift of any size. We'll send one book per household for your donation this week. Here's the number: 1–800–569–5959, or you can donate and get the book by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

Earlier this year Erin Davis wrote a blog post called "Thirty-Five Things I Wish I'd Known in High School," and it got a huge response. Why do you think that topic hit such a chord? Erin will talk about it and share the blog post with you tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

We'll hear from some members of our audience who've been listening to this series. They're telling us how it's affecting them. Let's listen.

Woman: We were talking about our kids, and what really caught me is right now is about the example that we're giving our kids. It's like, what kind of God are we showing our kids that we serve? And that really ministered to my heart.

Nancy: Yes. I sensed it got a little quiet in here at that moment.

Woman: What struck me was how you said that each person, each generation has to find their own way, and how we are to be mindful of what we say and what we do. I'm thinking of my grandchildren especially, and my children, but I just came back from attending a high school graduation up in British Columbia for my grandson, and he is headed in the right direction, but he's in the path where he could go either way. I'm just so praying for this next generation of kids, and ones in my family, that they'll follow Jesus.

Nancy: That's why it's so huge that that generation see in us that we trust the Lord, that we obey Him, that we respond to Him. Even when we can't see or understand what's going on, that we RSVP: R—Remember who God is; S—surrender; V—that we experience victory by faith; and P—that we continue in praise, prayer and peace—all good P's there.

So, what story are we writing for the next generation to read?

Woman: I love the way you brought 1 Corinthians 10 into this passage in Numbers because when we are furious, like Moses had a right to be furious, I think, with the way the Children of Israel were behaving . . . There's a lot of things, I think, that we can sort of righteously be furious about, but we don't have the right to sin. We don't have the right to disobey. And we can't excuse that, whether it's disobeying with our attitudes or our words or some behavior or something that we choose to do.

And then that 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that He makes a way to escape, so even if we are furious or we're tempted to sin in some way, that God will make a way to escape, and that's where the victory is. For me, that helps.

Woman: I was blown away by, here Moses has followed God so obediently all these years, and now he enters into rebellion like the people of Israel, and God still poured the water forth. Moses had stood in the gap, and God still poured out mercy. It just blows me away how gracious He is to us.

Nancy: Even when we're not, He's faithful—right? And you can probably tell that story from illustrations out of your own life, as I could, when we fail Him, but He is still faithful.

Woman: I liked what you said about the opportunity we have when we're thirsty, and there's no water and no figs and grapes, that it's an opportunity to trust God. And when God brings us to those places, purposely, to teach us to trust more and to increase our trust and to believe without seeing.

And how, when we come to a crisis—we lose a mate, or we lose a child, or we're disappointed, or we're unemployed and our bank accounts go to zero, or whatever it is—it's an opportunity. And if we forfeit it . . . You were saying how he forfeited the chance to show them God was going to bring water from the rock just because I'm going to speak to it—Wow! Wow! Wow! Instead, he blew it.

And then God brings another thirsty time. So he might as well pass the test the first time. Right? Unless we want to be thirstier and thirstier and thirstier. Right? Because He wants to teach us. It's for our benefit.

So I liked that you brought that out about those verses back in Exodus. That was very practical to me. We're given these great opportunities, and if nothing bad happens, then we can't show people how to trust God. But it takes a lot of practice, though, a lot of false starts.

Woman: I just felt myself saying I just want to be a part of the generation that believes, because we have a choice whether we're part of the unbelievers or believers.

My pastor shared on this passage just the reminder that the Rock was Christ. He shared with us that the first time the rock was struck, and the second time you speak to the rock. And, for Christ, He was once stricken, not twice, and so then you come to Christ in prayer. You come through speaking. It embodied the gospel that He was going to show to a whole generation. It muddied it. And that's always been just a powerful part of that passage, so I just wanted to share what I had learned from the teaching before in my life.

But just being a part of the generation that believes, no matter what we go through, and how God uses that. The past couple of years I have been struggling with faith. I, too, was raped at knife point when I was eight, and just now just dealing with that in my life. But God is faithful, and He will do beyond what we know. And He is good, and He has a purpose and plans that are redemptive. He said redemptive plans.

And for me, to deal with that part of my story, I'm saying there's a redemptive purpose and a redemptive plan. Like Joseph, people meant it for evil; God meant it for good.

And so, whatever our story is, or whatever it is, the rock is Christ, and let us be of the generation, I want to be of the generation that believes.

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

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