[Numbers 20] Surviving Stagnation. In this chapter, the people come to a flat, dry place and cry out for water. Many times, in your walk with God, you will experience dry and uncomfortable seasons. Your response during this time will impact your destiny for years to come and may cost you far more than you know. A proper response in the dry places can be the most valuable resource in your walk with God if you will learn the lessons of the wilderness of Zin.
[Num 20:1-29 KJV] 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; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. 2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 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? it [is] no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither [is] there any water to drink. 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. 7 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, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 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? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and 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. 13 This [is] the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them. 14 And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: 15 How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: 16 And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we [are] in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: 17 Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink [of] the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s [high] way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. 18 And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword. 19 And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without [doing] any thing [else], go through on my feet. 20 And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him. 22 And the children of Israel, [even] the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor. 23 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying, 24 Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: 26 And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered [unto his people], and shall die there. 27 And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount. 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, [even] all the house of Israel.
We come now to the wilderness of Zin. The names of the encampments in the wilderness have meaning for us when we read the bible. Are we only making this up? Is there a scriptural basis for looking up the definition of a place name and extracting some subjective application for our lives? Let us consider a few points in this regard.
1.) We believe the Bible is God speaking to us (2 Peter 1:21).
[2Pe 1:21 KJV] 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
2.) Jesus is not only God’s son; He is God Himself (1 Tim. 2:5)
[1Ti 2:5 KJV] 5 For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
3.) Jesus, as God on earth, always spoke in parables. In fact, in two places in the New Testament, it reads, “without a parable spake He not unto them.” (Matt. 13:34; Mar. 4:34).
[Mat 13:34 KJV] 34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
It is clearly in God’s character to use similitude, metaphor, allegory, and typology. It is implied throughout the scripture that God nuances everything He tells us with subjective applications that can seem very subjective and personal only to us. This is the unique character of God’s word.
The people came to the desert of Zin and camped in Kadesh. Zin means a “flat place.” We counseled with someone lately that described struggling with a lack of motivation and zeal merely feeling as though their life was emotionally and spiritually flat. Welcome to the wilderness of Zin. We can study what happened here and learn how not to spend any more time than necessary in this place. I remember going through a time that, for one whole year, I felt no anointing, no presence of God, nothing in my emotions, or my person to sustain me through an arduous trial. I was in the wilderness of Zin. When you find yourself here, learn from the encampment God chose to see how He would have you respond. He instructed Moses to camp in Kadesh. Kadesh means “Holy.” Don’t hate the flat place. Don’t hate those times when you do not have the excitement and jubilation of continual emotional registration of God’s glory in your life. God will lead you here. Remember it was the cloud by day and fire by night that brought them here. God wanted them not to complain or murmur but to look around and acknowledge the experience but consider it holy ground.
In verse 2, we see that there was no water. What does water represent? It represents the spirit (John 4:14), and it represents the word (Eph. 5:26). There are times when you won’t sense the bubbling of the spirit of God on the inside of you. There are times that read the bible as you might; it is dry as toast and no more inspiring than reading the phone book or the obituary column. I have found these are the times to immerse yourself in scripture and prayer. Out of these seemingly futile efforts, I found resources that I would go back to for decades drawing upon things God taught me from the large tracts of scripture I would study during these seasons.
If you are a leader, be prepared to be blamed by people who are going through these flat, dry places in their spiritual life. They aren’t going to blame God, and they certainly aren’t going to blame themselves. I knew a man who, every time God led him through experiences that were not pleasant, he would come to me and say, “there is something wrong in the church.” There is always something wrong in the church at any given point because it is full of people. His problem was this – a failure to look within and not judge the circumstance but use it as a listening post. Eventually, this man left the church and met at home with just his family. It didn’t cure the problem – now there was something “wrong in the family”! Addressing that didn’t help, and eventually, he ran out of people to blame and committed suicide. This was not a shallow believer. He was deep in the word and had walked with God for many years. He failed to learn the wisdom of the wilderness. God will lead you here. It will be dry and uncomfortable. Yet make your choice to call this encampment your Kadesh. It is holy. Don’t complain – trust! Look for God’s blessing in these experiences.
How did Moses and Aaron respond to the accusations of the people? When you are accused and blamed, you are a leader. Moses and Aaron, as they did more than once, fell on their faces in the place where God spoke to them. If you are a leader, you can have many wrong responses when the church is in a dead place and struggling. Congregations have expectations upon your church that require a continual parade of hat tricks, dog and pony shows, magic acts, and if you fail to provide them, people will hold you accountable. Church as entertainment can be an exhausting experience for a leader. Yet if you do what Moses does here, you can gain for yourself a significant advantage in your walk with God. Notice Moses doesn’t form a committee to raise money to hire a well drilling outfit. He doesn’t establish a focus group to see what they can do to satisfy the people. He doesn’t hand in his resignation because he lost the confidence of the congregation. No doubt, there were things like this recommended to him by the few who still supported his leadership. Instead, he went to the door of the congregation and fell on his face.
When Moses fell on his face, what did that indicate? The face represents the spirit – the human spirit in scripture. It speaks of turning inward. When they fell on their faces, the glory of God showed up with instructions. Col. 1:26 says the glory of God is in us. Phil. 4:19 says that God meets our need from the glory. 1 Co. 3:17 says you are the temple. The door of the tabernacle for you is within. Luke 17:20,21 says the kingdom is within you and that you are not to seek ANYWHERE ELSE for the resources of God. Go to the door of the tabernacle and wait for instructions. If you are always looking outwardly for your answers, you overlook the one place where God said He would supply your every need.
What does God instruct Moses to do? He instructs Moses to use the rod in his hand. When God told Moses to use the rod to deal with the situation, what did the rod represent? It was the same rod that defeated the magicians in Egypt. It was the same rod that parted the Red Sea. It was the same rod that budded to validate Aaron. It was the testimony of God’s faithfulness. When you are in a flat place in your life, it is your contemporary testimony of God’s faithfulness that will bring you through and meet your need. Lean into your testimony and expect deliverance.
In vs. 10-12, Moses obeys God but not with a pure heart. He allows anger and frustration to get to him and enter him. These few verses and the transaction they record sound the death knell of Moses’ fate. God didn’t tell him to smite the rock; he told him to SPEAK the rock. 1 Co. 10:4 says that Jesus was the rock following the people through the wilderness. The first time the water came out of the rock, God told Moses to STRIKE it. The second time he was only to SPEAK to it. It was intended for us to see that CHRIST was FIRST SMITTEN for our needs, and after that, we need only SPEAK THE WORD and receive. Because Moses allowed his temper to get in the way, he cut himself off from ever entering the promised land. When you are leading people, you must keep your temper in check. I have heard successful pastors complain about their people when no one was around to hold them accountable. They deride their people openly with sarcasm. They make the people the brunt of jokes in their sermons. They put them down and rebuke them with brutal and often childish cruelty from their pulpits. They have no idea of the deep personal cost this attitude is extracting upon their destinies.
In vs. 14-21, Moses makes a request of the king of Edom for the people to pass through his land. The Edomites were cousins of the children of Israel being the descendants of Esau. The king of Edom refuses and comes out in battle against the people. Christians are pugilistic people. We are always up for a fight. If we aren’t fighting with the devil, we are fighting the world. If we aren’t fighting with the world, we will fight with each other. See how far these two tribes have fallen from grace toward each other. When Jacob and Esau parted, they embraced, weeping on one another’s shoulders. Now centuries later, Esau’s heirs come out with swords and troops to deny their kindred in Israel the simple right of passing through their lands. What were Moses and the people’s response? Did they grab their swords and charge into battle? When family members provoke us, our answer is usually immediate and ungodly. To their credit, though the Israelites could have easily defeated Edom, the people turned back into the wilderness rather than react in strife and warfare. Let that be your response when your family and friends over trifling matters cut deep wounds in your heart and life.
In the remainder of our passage, we see the record of Aaron’s death. In v. 1, we see that Miriam died and now her brother Aaron. Aaron was younger than Moses, and Miriam was the oldest. Miriam died in Zin and did not enter Canaan because she spoke against her brother. Moses will not survive the wilderness either. In this chapter, Moses commits the sin that ultimately costs him entrance into the land of promise when they are in the land of Zin. Aaron now pays with his life as well in the wilderness of Zin. So powerful a picture that when Moses took the priestly garments off of Aaron that Aaron’s life left him at that moment before all the people as a witness.