Let’s open our Bibles to the book of Numbers. Numbers chapter number 20. I want to jump right in. We’re speaking mostly to our mature Christians tonight. Obviously, if you’re a brand-new Christian, there’ll be something here for you, but this is mostly for people that have been saved for a good while. I want to give you a part of a story.
In the book of Numbers, the theme is wilderness wandering. Wilderness wandering. Of course, Moses is commanded by God to lead the Jews who were in bondage in Egypt, to lead them into the Promised Land. That was something better. The Promised Land was better than slavery in Egypt.
By the way, a leader always helps people get to some place that’s better, better than where they are. A soul winner: you’re trying to help them discover there’s something better than what they have. A marriage counselor: there’s something better than what you’re going through. And so forth.
Here in Numbers, they are years into the journey. It was an 11-day journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. But a Baptist committee got together, and it only took them 40 years to find the Promised Land. They’re 20 years into it right now. The spies had been sent — you remember “10 were bad and two were good.” You know that whole thing.
And so, here’s this episode in the wilderness.
Numbers 20:1: “Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh…” That was right there by the border. “…and Miriam died there, and was buried there.” (20:1b) That’s Moses’ sister.
Numbers 20:2: “And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.”
Notice it doesn’t say to Moses, it said against Moses. These people are fired up against Moses and Aaron.
Numbers 20:3–5 “And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! 4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? 5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place?…”
Man, can you imagine? Moses never applied for this job. He was minding his own business. And now God says, “You’re leading a million and a half people that don’t even want you to lead them.” You think it’s hard leading whoever you’re trying to lead? Can you imagine being Moses? He didn’t even know all their names.
Anything that went wrong, it was Moses’ fault. “We’re thirsty.” “Where’s our water?” “We’re hungry.” They were just all over the place. They’re blaming him. They’re angry.
Numbers 20:6 “And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.”
In other words, they just prayed.
What do you do when people don’t follow you? Pray.
What do you do when you don’t know what else to do? You just bring it to the Lord.
“…and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.” (Numbers 20:6b) God showed up.
Numbers 20:7–8 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water…” Look down in verse number 10: “And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?”
(Rebels — that’s why we think they were Southerners. They weren’t Yankees. Okay, you’ll get that later.) Now they’re mad. Now he’s mad.
Numbers 20:11 “And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice…”
He was supposed to speak to it. It was a symbol of Jesus — once smitten, our Savior crucified one time.
“…and the water came out abundantly and the congregation drank in their beasts also. 12 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”
Eighty years flushed down the toilet. Eighty years. God said to speak to the rock. Moses lost his temper. The people pushed him to his limit. He hit the rock, and he was done. That was it. You say, “Man, God was hard on Moses.” The higher up you are in leadership, the more is required. God puts up with less as more people are looking to you.
But isn’t God merciful! 2,000 years later, Jesus is on Earth. He goes up to this mount with Peter, James, and John. And guess who appears? Moses and Elijah. Guess where he is? In the Promised Land. God let Moses go in in his glorified body. He did get to go when he was in the wilderness. God is so merciful. So, I just want to share some of these things with you tonight.
Let’s pray. Father, we have a little while tonight to encourage Your people. Give us some practical things that will help us. We don’t see a crystal ball, we don’t see the future, but you already know what’s coming down the freeway toward us this week. You know health, You know safety, You know weather, You know what’s going to happen at work. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
A couple of stories I’ve told in the past, but there’s a lot of new people here tonight.
You ever want to go to work and instead of pulling into work, just keep driving?
Have you students ever wanted to go to school and open your locker and close it and then just walk off and never go back?
Jeff Gordon, the famous Vallejo racecar driver years ago was in his car. He was leading the Colgate 500 race, and he asked his pit crew — he said, “Hey, I’m getting real low on fuel. I’ve only got a few laps to go. Do I do I keep going or do I pull over? I’m in the lead. I’m about to win the race.” They said, “You got plenty of fuel. Keep going” On the last lap, Jeff Gordon ran out of gas, pulled over on the side as others passed him, and he lost the race.
You ever been disappointed?
You heard about the college student? He had studied and studied for days for his final exam in at his university in his zoology class. It was a test on animals. He studied all the species. The professor came in. He said, “The final exam is going to be very simple.” He set up a table and he put three birds on the table. He had them all covered in a potato sack. All you could see was their feet. And he said, “The final exam is to write down the three species of these birds. That’s your final exam.” After all that studying, that young man took his pencil up, threw it down, and said, “I’m done.” He was so upset. All that studying to have this as his final. He started leaving the room, and his professor said, “Young man, you can’t leave. Come back here. What is your name?” And the young man did this. He pulled up his pants and said, “You guess!” We’ve all been through frustrating times like that.
The greatest tool in the devil’s arsenal against you is this arrow of discouragement.
Discourage means “to lose courage, to not want to be in the fight anymore, to not want to go on, to quit whatever God’s called us to do.”
Moses’ sister had died. His plans to go to Canaan had been put off forty years because of other people. There was no water. They complained. They blamed him. And he just snapped and he hit that rock twice. And God says, “Well, you just lost your ticket to the Promised Land.” All this wondering for nothing. You don’t get to go in. It was so sad.
D. L. Moody, the great Christian that won a million souls, started out in Chicago as a shoe salesman said this, “God never uses a discouraged servant.” He never does.
Encouragement is never between you and someone else. It’s always between you and God. If you’re waiting for others to encourage you to keep going, you won’t make it long because it’s a personal thing.
Discouragement Starts with Disappointment
Several stages of discouragement. One, it starts with disappointment. A little disappointment. You pray for $100, and you check the mailbox and there it is — a bill for $200. Friends of a lifetime pass away and go to Heaven. Members you served God with — maybe they turn back to the world. Death comes.
One of my favorite plays in football — and I like to watch football — is the scramble. You say, “Is that a play — the scramble?” No, it’s not a play. It’s when the quarterback says, “Hike,” and he gets the ball and turns to hand it off and the guy is not there. It’s a busted play. Someone didn’t do their part. Now he’s got to figure out what to do. I love that. It’s a scramble.
Disappointment. Sometimes life is a scramble. Someone doesn’t do what they should do or they’re not where they’re supposed to be. What do you do?
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Hopewell Baptist Church is an Independent Baptist Church in Napa, California pastored by Mike Ray. It is Bible-based with a warm, friendly atmosphere. Hopewell is dedicated to bringing the water of life to the Napa Valley and beyond.