Saturday, March 4, 2017

Numbers 20:1-12 – Anger Management

And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. And Miriam died there and was buried there.

Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 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.”

Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

“Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and TELL the rock 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.”

And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them,

“Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.

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.”

Do you struggle with anger? Little irritants that have a way of setting you off… certain people who have a way of pushing your buttons? What would your family say?

We all have our weaknesses, and anger is a common one for religious people.

Maybe you’ve heard the one about the Quaker who owned an ornery milk cow?? Every time he milked her, it was a BATTLE. One particular morning she was unusually contrary, but he was determined to get the job done without so much as a cross word.

Right off the bat, ole’ bossy stepped on his foot - - he groaned and pulled his foot free. She THEN swished her tail in his face - - he just repositioned himself where it wouldn’t hurt so much. THEN she kicked the bucket over, by then, half full of warm milk. He started over, mumbling a few words to himself… still keeping his cool.

Once finished with the ordeal, he breathed a sigh of relief and turned to leave, but she kicked him so hard he went sailing and so did his bucket of milk.

THAT DID IT! He went around to the end with eyes and shook his finger in her face, shouting, “Thou dost know that I am a Quaker and that my religion prevents me from striking thee. SO – I have decided to sell thee to a Baptist!!!”

If the truth be told, some of us have convinced ourselves it is perfectly acceptable to fight back:

“it’s a natural impulse anyway,”

“surely God wouldn’t want me to be anyone’s doormat.”

“It’s just who I am – deal with it!”

Today, I hope to change your mind about that by showing you the results of letting your temper get the best of you.

For 40 years, Moses had led these people… and for nearly that entire time, those under his charge questioned his leadership, attacked his character, and tried his patience. If it would have been me – I would have popped a vessel long ago. But his relationship with the Lord kept him cool under pressure. His walk with God was so important to him that he was called “a friend of God.” A spiritual giant – a man of great faith – BUT none-the-less a man – a man (on THIS occasion) whose temper got the best of him. And it was that outburst of anger at a difficult moment that cost him ⇒ the Promised Land.

Today we will witness a man who lost everything important to him because he couldn't control his temper.

And my purpose is really quite simple - it is my hope that God will use this time to get OUR attention - before our tempers TOO cause us to lose something of great importance to us. I want to share 4 things:

1. First, I want you to see that this wasn’t some random explosion of an unstable man - Moses WAS provoked. It wasn’t common for him to lose his cool. At other times he handled criticism quite well. But if we are going to be honest with the text, he was provoked!

That’s generally our go-to excuse when we lose our control, isn't it? That we were provoked?? We think we shouldn’t be held to such unreasonable standards – that it is perfectly natural to explode when someone has pushed our buttons.

But our text proves that God doesn’t find that a valid excuse.

Think about the scene: they had been in the desert a long time. They were outside the will of God in a very discouraging place. Moses sister had just died. The fact that they were there in the first place was because of their disobedience. And to top it off, all around him were critics… complaining, carping critics who tore Moses down and wanted to quit whenever life got hard. They questioned the goodness of God and wanted to return to Egypt. “If only they had a NEW LEADER, things would be a lot better.” Moses had heard enough.

You’ve been there too, haven’t you? Discouraged… tired… questioning the value of your sacrifice ... wondering if the hassle is worth it? You know what it is for circumstances to set you on edge… for people to upset you.

Maybe it’s a person who works with you – always critical… maybe even cruel.

Maybe it’s a family member – on most days you can handle them pretty well, but when you are already having a bad day, you “just can't bare their junk one more day.”

And MAYBE someone is venting on YOU – like everything bad in their life is somehow YOUR fault.

Moses’ frustrations were real. He was provoked.

2. Secondly, not only was he provoked, he was also perturbed. Upset. When the people began to complain, Moses went to the Lord to find out what to do.

WHICH, by the way, is exactly what WE ought to do when we are upset. When faced with a problem we don’t know how to handle, take it to the Lord.

God told Moses that the answer to their thirst was found in THE ROCK. "SPEAK to the rock" – and it would give them all the water they needed.

But Moses didn’t do that, did he? Notice v. 10, “Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff – twice - and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.”

We are pragmatists. We think, “as long as the people got their needs met, what difference does it make if Moses talks to the rock or hits it?” Oh, but it matters. Obedience ALWAYS matters.

Moses had not responded to the pressure of the moment very well. Solomon observed, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Moses lost control… he let his anger make a fool of him.

God had told him how to handle the situation. He was to take the rod of Aaron that symbolized the power and provision of God, he was to call the assembly together and SPEAK to the rock. But instead of obeying the Lord, he blasted the people in frustration and hit the rock – not ONCE, but TWICE.

This wasn't the FIRST TIME God instructed Moses to take the Rod of Aaron to the Rock. In Exodus 17, the case is eerily similar. The people complained about being thirsty. Moses went to God to find out how to handle the problem. And God told Moses to take Aaron’s rod to the rock. THAT time, however, Moses was commanded to STRIKE the rock. And when he did what God told him to do, the needs of the people were met in miraculous fashion.

That’s what happens when we follow God’s instructions. His methods might seem unusual, but God has a reason behind His instructions. And He blesses our obedience.

But THIS TIME the instructions were different. This time Moses was specifically told to SPEAK to the rock. Unlike the first instance when he was told to STRIKE it, THIS TIME he was to SPEAK to it and the water would come forth.

What difference does it make? Plenty.

Not only does obedience matter, the Bible tells us that this ROCK in the camp is a symbol of Jesus Christ. Referring to this, Paul said, “they all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock - was Christ.”

Jesus is our Rock. “Upon THIS rock will I build my church.” He is the chief CORNER-stone that the builders “rejected.” He is the foundation stone – the ROCK of our Salvation!

And that Rock was struck for us once - outside the city gates - on a hill called Calvary. There Jesus was “stricken by God” to pay the price for the sins of all mankind. NOW, however, whenever his followers have needs, we are told to SPEAK to the Rock and Jesus will meet our needs. He isn't to be struck again - only spoken to.

Why did Moses respond like this? Why was he so angry? In the FIRST instance, Moses saw the grumbling of the people as complaining against God. He was afraid for their rebellion against God. But THIS time, he had taken their criticisms personally.

In the FIRST story, he carried out the Lord’s instructions perfectly and God blessed.

In today’s story, he allows his flesh to take control - disobeys and dishonors God in FRONT OF the people.

We often try to justify our disobedience too, don't we? We think that the way people treat us entitles us to set our testimony aside and act in the flesh. We assume God will understand, because “after ALL, we are ONLY HUMAN!”

But Moses learned we never have the right to set our testimonies aside in a moment of weakness.

Which leads to our third point:

3. Not only do we see that Moses was Provoked and Perturbed, he was also Punished. Look at 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.”

Acting in anger always has a price.

Not long ago, a man and his family were riding in their minivan in the far left lane of the interstate. Buckled in their car-seats behind him were two of the most precious children you’ve ever seen. A white Cadillac driven by an ex-con speeds up behind them and sits on their bumper.

The man driving the van slows down to irritate the driver. The Cadillac swerves into the right lane, speeds up next to the van, screams profanities at the family in the van. THEN he cuts in front of them so quickly that the van had to swerve to avoid hitting him. Then the Cadillac sped away.

Was that the END OF IT??? Sadly...No.

The man in the van got angry. He drove recklessly to catch the Cadillac. HE began yelling at the man in the car. And according to an eyewitness, that's when the man in the Cadillac pulled a gun and SHOT at the van. The bullet entered the side of the van and hit one of those precious babies in the head.

The man who fired the bullet is in jail for the rest of his life. But that dad has to live the rest of his life with the COST of his anger.

For 40 years, Moses had led Israel. For 40 years, he suffered their complaints. He had led them well. But ONE ANGRY OUTBURST – COST HIM THE PROMISED LAND!

Maybe we think that’s harsh. You might think after all those years of faithful service God owed him a break? But that’s precisely the problem – God doesn’t owe us ANYTHING.

Moses had committed a fatal error as a leader. He had become preoccupied with his own glory, instead of God’s. Angry that men dare question his character; his preoccupation with ‘self’ moved him to disobey the Lord, hurt his testimony, and set a terrible precedent before a group of stiff-necked rebels constantly looking for loopholes in God’s law.

God kept His word. Moses never entered the Promised Land. At the close of the Book of Deuteronomy, God called Moses up to a high overlook on Mt. Nebo, and let him see, from a distance, the land of Canaan. And THERE he died at the age of 120. Scripture says he was just as strong as ever at his death, but his life was cut short because of anger.

If THIS can happen to a “friend of God,” it can happen to YOU.

4. That's why I want to share a Few simple PRINCIPLES with you:

  • Though Natural to get angry, it is VERY COSTLY
Anger ALWAYS has its price. The fact that a person serves the Lord only makes it more important for him to control his emotions, after all, it isn’t just our reputation that is on the line here – but the Lord’s. Everything we do reflects back on Him.

Some of us don’t realize the toll our temper is taking on our families. How many children have been crushed, how many marriages crippled by angry words spoken in the heat of the moment.

Practice controlling your mouth – giving vent to your feelings only makes it grow and harder to control. You will wind up saying and doing things you will regret.

Ask the Holy Spirit to tug on your heart BEFORE you do anything that would put your testimony in danger. Listen to Him. Submit to Him. And…

To God and man. Share your struggles with people who will pray for you and hold you accountable. Apologize to those you have wounded, before the wound becomes infected. By humbling yourself before God and others, you will be on your way to anger management!

Anger cost Moses the Promised Land. What is it costing you? While we can’t go back and undo what has already been done, we CAN ask the Lord to forgive us, to heal the hurts we’ve caused, and to change us by the Holy Spirit. We CAN ask the Lord to speak to our hearts in the heat of the moment and remind us to weigh the consequences of acting in the flesh.

Do you need God’s help with your temper?? We are going to give you the opportunity to pray about it right now...