Give credit where credit is due.

Why did Moses not get to enter the Promised Land? Because he didn’t give credit to the Lord. When I first read this passage I didn’t understand why the Lord got upset and pulled away Moses’ right to lead everybody out of the desert. Moses died in the desert, within sight of the end of the journey. It seemed capricious and unfair. But then I heard a talk about it and I understood. Let’s try to work it out here.

Numbers 20:1-13

1And 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. 2 Now there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people contended with Moses, and said, “Would that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 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.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, 7 and the LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the rod, 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; so you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. 12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Mer′ibah, where the people of Israel contended with the LORD, and he showed himself holy among them. (RSV)

Did you see it?

The Lord commanded Moses to
8 “Take the rod, 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; so you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” (RSV)

He was supposed to take the rod, assemble everybody together with Aaron, and tell to the rock in front of them to yield water.

What did he do instead?

9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. (RSV)

He took the rod. Check.
He and Aaron got everybody together. Check.
The rest? Fail.

He said “Shall we bring forth water for you…” We – like it is his doing, not the Lord’s. And then he struck the rock with his rod. God didn’t say to do that. He said to tell the rock to yield its water.

The way Moses did it, it looks like Moses has the power. Moses was great, but he wasn’t God. He was just a vehicle for God’s power.

Not only did he not do it the way God said to do it, he did it in such a way that makes it look like he is God.

And because of that he never left the desert. So close, and yet so far.

We have to remember this. Moses has many things to teach us about standing up to God. There were many times that God wanted to wipe out the entire family of Israel because they were not being thankful. Moses intervened. That alone is a big deal – nobody stands up to God.

But nobody stands in the place of God either.

For Moses to make it look like he was the one bringing forth water instead of God was not allowable.

I’m sure it was an accident. I’m sure he got excited in the situation. He was probably frustrated too. This wasn’t the first time that he had to deal with whiny people. But he did it wrong, and he had to pay for it. He wasn’t struck down, like many others have been in this story, but he wasn’t freed either.

This is an important lesson for us.

Fill in the blanks.

I woke up thinking about my parents-in-law. Things aren’t going well with them, and I’ve been very distant because of that.

I’m angry with them. I’m angry about how they treated my husband, their son, as he was growing up. I’m angry about how they abused him. Their own history of being mistreated isn’t enough to excuse it. They should have known better.

I’m angry about how they haven’t listened to my advice on where to live, so they keep needing to ask for help. I was the one to suggest they move up here, closer to their sons, but that is all they have listened to. Five hours away was too far to help them, so they came closer, but they are still too far. Thirty minutes one way isn’t ten.

They should have bought a condo, or gotten an apartment. Basically they shouldn’t have gotten a yard and a place that has to be maintained. At their age, they personally need to be maintained more than their homes. I told them this, and they ignored me. I told them that my husband, their son, barely has time to take care of our house.

Now they need help. Often. Just like I foresaw. There is no need for these emergencies.

They continue to ask for my advice and input, but they continue to ignore it. They waste my time and that of my husband.

They are very needy.

They are too old to be this childish.

And then I stopped and remembered. Ask Jesus into it.

Jesus Jesus Jesus, I said. I visualized all of these problems as big blocks. I saw the light of Jesus entering them. It was like a glue, filling in all the cracks, making them stronger.

And I came to understand that the brokenness is part of the plan. The brokenness is necessary.

The poet Rumi reminds us that bread can’t become bread unless the grain is ground up. Then it is mixed with other ingredients and heated in an oven.

Clay isn’t useful unless it is shaped and heated too.

These broken bits, these hard times, these trials that we all have – these are what make us who we are.

They aren’t the bits to run away from. They are the whole story. They are it, everything.

They are what make us human. They are what make us who we are.

God isn’t the “bad guy” for letting bad things happen to us. These “bad things” are just the hard things that push us out of what we are and into who we are supposed to be.

They are what get the baby bird to get out of that shell. They are what get that same bird to jump out of the nest and fly for the first time too.

We are those birds.

Stuck in our shells, we would die.

Stuck in the nest, we would never live.

Adversity isn’t.

It is opportunity.

Jesus is the glue that holds us together, is the hand that pulls us out of the hole, is the thing that rescues is from being stuck.

Jesus is “out there” but is also “in here”. Jesus is instantly available -all you have to do is call on him. Ask and you shall receive, after all. But Jesus is also inside every person who has let him into their lives. Jesus builds houses for poor people through Habitat for Humanity. Jesus feeds people at the rescue mission. Jesus holds people’s hands when they die in hospice care. Jesus teaches children how to read.

Jesus wears a lot of faces and goes by a lot of names, and he’s here.

But he had to be broken and blessed for that to happen.

He wasn’t crucified for our sins. He was blessed and broken on that cross, just like how he blessed and broke the bread and the fish to feed thousands.

He became more, so we could become more.

Thanks be to God.