SOAP Journal – 24 March 2017 (Numbers 20:12)

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

Numbers 20:12

Numbers 20:8-13 is the account of the waters of Meribah. God tells Moses and Aaron to take the blossoming rod from the tabernacle and speak to a specific rock and get water for the Israelites. Moses and Aaron, instead, take the rod and chastise the Israelites and hit the rock with the rod. Verse 12 is God’s response to their disobedience.

The obvious lesson here is that God’s work must be done in God’s way or there will be consequences. Both Moses and Aaron heard the instructions. Only Moses is recorded as being disobedient, but Aaron could have stepped in to remind Moses of what he should have been doing. In the end, neither one is permitted to enter into the Promised Land. Aaron dies a short while later on a mountaintop and Moses will go up to a mountaintop to look at the Promised Land from a distance before he also dies. All the work; all the prayer and agonizing over the Israelites and one act of disobedience was enough to keep them out of the Promised Land. And I have to wonder why.

The New Testament sheds some light on the why. The rock that Moses strikes is said to be a metaphor for Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). God was putting together a picture of Christ and Moses and Aaron marred that image. I can only guess what God might have said through Moses and Aaron being obedient. Instead, I have a lesson in the consequences of disobedience.

The consequences are twofold, in the case of this incident.

The first and most important consequence is marring the work of God. God was doing something and Moses and Aaron disobeying Him and His instruction distorted the picture God was painting. The message did not come through clearly. And we still lack what might have been.

The second consequence is the personal cost to Moses and Aaron. These two had endured much in trying to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. There are many recorded instances of one or both of these men on their faces in intercession for the Israelites. More than once, God goes to bat for these men and reaffirms His choice of them as His representatives. And God does not revoke His choice. These men remain His representatives until their deaths. But their disobedience in this matter comes with a cost of not being able to enter the Promised Land.

What cost does my disobedience carry? There is the obvious cost of Christ’s redeeming work, but there are, possibly, other costs that I do not always consider. If my disobedience is public, then I damage the image of God’s work and character to those who know I am a believer and see my disobedience. Even the disobedience I think is private can be known and can distort how others perceive God. This, I suspect, is part of why Samuel told Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice. It is better to keep the picture intact than to try to mend it.

Father, please forgive me for the times I have mangled Your image by my disobedience. Please keep me mindful of the costs of disobedience and strengthen me to be obedient and to represent You faithfully.

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SOAP Journal – 23 November 2016 (Exodus 17:5-6)

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Exodus 17:5-6

After the Israelites saw manna from Heaven, they come to a place where there is no water and, instead of trusting that God — Who has provided everything they have needed — they return to complaining and asking Moses the same old questions. God, being God, uses this as a moment to create a picture of something more profound than simply providing water for a bunch of thirsty complainers, though He does that, too.

Some of the elders go with Moses and God stands before Moses on a rock. Moses hits the rock and water comes out. There is probably a scientific explanation for how Moses could have hit a boulder with a walking stick and split the stone, thus revealing a subterranean spring that the rock was capping. Maybe something along the lines of how a gem cutter strikes diamonds at just the right place and breaks something that is very nearly unbreakable. I am sure that the incident is easily explained scientifically. In a wonderful twist, the science would actually not detract from the miracle for me. It would, instead, make the whole thing even more fascinating. God led them to a specific place where a specific rock capped a specific source of water large enough to supply all those people and their livestock for a specific amount of time and God then showed Moses a specific spot to hit with his walking stick. God did not tell Moses how hard to hit that spot or how much length of staff should be swung or at what angle the impact should happen. All that science was handled by God, Who just told Moses to strike the rock. The science, far from lessening the miracle, simply affirms just how miraculous it was that that group of things happened in exactly the way they did. Add in the statistics of any one of those things happening, then calculate outward to the odds of all of those variables lining up as they did and the provision of water looks even more miraculous to me than it did before (as does the ability of math lovers to do that much math and be happy about it).

But all of that presents a picture of Christ. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Christ is the One Who would be struck by the leadership of the Israelites. From this strike would flow living water; the Holy Spirit; Life. Jesus Christ is my Rock from Whom flows the water of life. He is the supply for my need and the One Who slakes my spirit’s thirst. And no mental gymnastics are required to come to this conclusion, because Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, already explained the symbol to all who care to read it.

My takeaway from this is two things. One, that God can take my lack of trust and use it to write a message for others to read and believe. This does not excuse my faithlessness, but reminds me that God is greater even than my shortcomings. A comforting thought. Two, Christ is my supply of Living Water; the One to Whom I must go to slake the thirst of my soul. We are all of us thirsty souls and Jesus Christ is the only One Who can satisfy that thirst. As He said to the woman at the well, whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst (John 4:14).

Father, thank You that You are greater than my shortcomings and that You regularly remind me of this. Thank You, also, that Christ is ready, willing, and able to provide for our spiritual thirst so that we are never thirsty again. Please keep these thoughts at the forefront of my mind, ready to be called up when I fall short or when my soul begins to feel the heat of this world bearing down.

SOAP Journal – 03 November 2016 (Exodus 7:24-25)

So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile.

Exodus 7:24-25

For the Ancient Egyptians, this was a terrible inconvenience. Flowing water made life much simpler. Rivers meant that the water was fairly reliably safe for human consumption.The same is not always true in the modern world. So, when God’s second sign/wonder/miracle in Egypt is to hit their drinking water supply, it is something of a big deal. The staff turning into a snake was something that only Pharaoh and his court really experienced first-hand. This is something that everyone in Pharaoh’s kingdom suffered. More, it just occurred to me on this reading that the Israelites had — several generations back — come from a lifestyle wherein digging wells to find fresh water was the norm. The Egyptians found herdsmen loathsome, so it is possible that the Israelites had been digging wells to water their livestock for the four hundred years between the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus. And it would be a simple thing to switch from using the well just to water your livestock to getting some water from it for yourself, too.

That Pharaoh’s magicians do the same thing seems useless to me. Were I Pharaoh, I would expect my magicians to turn the river back to water. That would be useful. That would be a sign that my magicians and their gods had the same or greater power than this Moses character and his God. But they do not undo what God has done, because their power is lesser and the best they can do is mimic the power of God.

What this has to do with me is that my God is the same God Who fouled an entire nation’s drinking water in order to get some people’s attention. When the Israelites leave Egypt, there will be Egyptians that go with them. Those folks go with the Israelites, I suspect, because they saw the power of Israel’s God — the very same God I worship today. He has not changed. He is still abundantly capable of working wonders.

There is something that seems symbolic in the Egyptians digging around what used to be a bountiful source of water in order to get just enough to scrape by. God is called Living Water and Jesus later says that anyone who thirsts should come to Him and He will give them to drink of water that will quench their thirst; the thirst of our souls. Some of the Egyptians, I am certain, became thirsty for more than just river water. Some of them, I am sure, came to crave the God Who could not only change the river, but could satisfy the thirst of their souls.

Father, thank You that You do not change and that You are still able to work wonders. Thank You, also, that You continue to do things to sharpen the thirst in our souls so that we might come to You for satisfaction. Please keep me mindful that the thirst of my soul can only be sated by You and let me not go after the world’s methods of dulling my thirst.