#5 (THE "DIFFICULTIES ON THE JOURNEY" SERIES)
"DIFFICULTIES ABOUT THE WATER!"
TEXT: Numbers 20:2-13; I Cor. 10:1-6, 11-13
INTRO: Nothing can be more miserable than being a Christian with a worldly attitude! To have the "dry" heart of an unbeliever and yet to be a Christian that is suppose to trust in God's goodness leads to a bitter spirit. Even 40 years of God's blessing in their journey hadn't caused them to take their eyes off of the desert! In a "dry moment" they found bitterness, this time even Moses joins in ... the result is tragic!
MAN TRAVELING ON A TRAIN INTO
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are to trust in God's goodness even when we face those "dry" spots in our walk with Him. Do not respond to dryness with anger and bitterness, there is still "living water" in the Rock Jesus Christ! Just speak to the rock, don't strike at it!
I. REPEATED FAILURE! Num. 20:2-8
A. Forgotten Lessons! 20:2-5
1. A new generation had reached the same place their elders had 40 years earlier, it was a very dry place!
a. Each generation will find theses dry places!
b. Like their fathers ... they must choose how to trust God when facing dryness.
c. Like their fathers ... they chose to complain bitterly!
2. It is tragic that they had so quickly forgotten the lessons of the past!
a. How important history is!
b. Those who fail to learn from the past are truly doomed to repeat it!
3. They express their bitterness by wishing they had died with the "brothers" of the older generation!
a. There were few left from the older generation, only Joshua, Caleb, Moses, and Aaron, verse 1 indicated that Miriam had just died.
b. These young believers were frightened, perhaps this is why God is somewhat lenient with the whole group; they were young!
c. Dryness had created a panic, and fear had generated bitterness and doubt.
4. Their focus was not on the land just across the way … the promise land, it was on their immediate surroundings, the desert!
a. They had too much focus on the heat of the moment.
b. With their eyes on the dryness they complain!
c. They forgot that they were not alone in the desert!!
ILLUS: A PASTOR WAS TRAVELING ON A TRAIN AND THE ONLY OTHER PERSON IN HIS SECTION WAS A YOUNG MAN. THE YOUNG MAN WITH THE PASTOR WAS DISCOVERED TO BE A CHRISTIAN, BUT A WEAK ONE WITH LITTLE FAITH, HE WAS BITTER ABOUT LIFE. HE SHARED WITH THE OLDER PASTOR HOW HE DID NOT THINK HE WOULD BE ABLE TO STAND LIFE MUCH LONGER, THAT HE WAS READY TO FALL! THE PASTOR TOOK OUT A PEN KNIFE AND A BIBLE AND TOLD THE YOUNG MAN "SEE, I CAN MAKE THIS PEN KNIFE STAND UP ON THIS BIBLE IN SPITE OF THE ROCKING MOTION OF THIS TRAIN!" THE YOUNG MAN THINKING THE PASTOR HAD SOME FLASHY TRICK UP HIS SLEEVE RESPONDED WITH INTEREST, "I AM AFRAID REVEREND THAT THAT IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY!" TO HIS SURPRISE THE PASTOR RESPONDED, "BUT I AM DOING IT RIGHT NOW! LOOK!" THE YOUNG MAN SAID WITH A LAUGH, "OF COURSE, YOU ARE HOLDING IT UP, BIG DEAL!" THE PASTOR THEN SAID, "WELL OF COURSE YOUNG MAN, DID YOU EVER HEAR OF A PENKNIFE STANDING UP ON ITS END IN A MOVING TRAIN WITHOUT HELP IN HOLDING IT UP!" SUDDENLY THE YOUNG MAN UNDERSTOOD AND RESPONDED, "I SEE!" YOU MUST TRUST IN GOD TO HELP HOLD YOU UP, IF ALL YOU SEE IS YOUR OWN STRENGTH IT WILL BE OVERWHELMING, BUT WITH HIS HELP EVEN THE DRIEST OF PLACES WILL YIELD "LIVING WATER!" -- Source Unknown
5. Israel had forgotten the 40 years of God's blessings and provisions, how tragic!
B. Forgiving Lord! 20:6-8
1. These young people will see how loving God really is, in spite of their complaining, 40 years of wandering was enough. God would bless them in spite of themselves, perhaps their youth was taken into account!
a. God was merciful and willing to show them openly how he loved them!
b. Though they were dry He would pour out refreshing waters on them in great abundance!
2. This is clearly a picture of a God of mercy and love, He is being patient with these young believers!
a. God is anxious to have them experience His promises.
b. While He is patient with these young ones He will expect more from an older Saint like Moses!
3. God sets the stage for Moses and Aaron to teach these young complaining believers how God's power can be released, by simply obeying the Lord!
a. Moses is told to do 3 things:
(1. Take the rod of God, the staff in the tabernacle; this stood for God's authority!
(2. Assemble the people for a solemn assembly, a time of worship
(3. Speak to the rock which was a symbol for God's presence!
b. There was actually a legend in Israel that a rock followed Israel the whole 40 years of wandering.
c. These actions were designed to be a final lesson from the older generation as to how to handle stress and dryness!
II. RECKLESS FRUSTRATION! Num. 20:9-13
A. Frustration Limit! 20:9-11
1. Tragically, Moses begins to obey God but in a moment of weakness he lashes out at God's people and at the Lord!
a. Usually these two go hand in hand, those who lash out at God's people are usually angry with God too … and vice versa!
b. Moses begins by blasting Israel, he says, "listen you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock?" (emphasis mine)
c. Moses had had it, 40 years of living with these complaining people had finally broken down his resolve and so he too complains!
2. Moses blasts the people, he strikes out at them and he also strikes out at the rock, the symbol of God. Thus it was as if he struck God, not once, but twice!
a. The fact that he struck the rock twice indicates how out of control he was!
b. This must have startled Israel, their own leader was bitter too!
3. Ironically, God allows the refreshing waters to come forth for the young believers, a symbol of grace even in the midst of sin!
a. While God might be easy on the young believers this action by a seasoned saint would be handled differently!
b. God however does not punish the people for Moses anger, grace flows!
4. How tragic that a man like Moses who had put up with so much for 40 years should choose in a moment to lose it!
ILLUS: BOBBY LEACH, AN ENGLISHMAN, STARTLED THE WORLD BY GOING OVER NIAGARA FALLS IN A BARREL MANY YEARS AGO AND CAME OUT FROM THE EXPERIENCE COMPLETELY UNSCATHED! SOME YEARS LATER HOWEVER, HE WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET AND HE SLIPPED ON AN ORANGE PEAL AND WAS SERIOUSLY INJURED. HE WAS QUITE A WHILE IN THE HOSPITAL RECOVERING! IN A MOMENT OF NOT BEING PREPARED HE WAS CAUGHT BY A SIMPLE THING THAT BROUGHT INJURY! HOW WE MUST KEEP OURSELVES ON GUARD ALL THE TIME! -- Source Unknown
5. Moses’ failure to speak to the Rock indicated his anger, he lashes out against it!
a. When we are feeling “dry” we need to speak to our "rock" Jesus Christ!
b. Lashing out at the Lord will only make matters worse and it might send a bad lesson forward to young believers on how not to have "self-control"… part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit!
B. Foolish Loss! 20:12-13; Deut. 3:23-29
1. Moses' one act of foolishness cost him the promise land, after 40 years of faithful service!
2. These people needed an example of steadiness, they were rarely steady!
3. Moses' final act of leadership involves a failure of great proportions, he had failed to show these young ones how important self-control is … just as they were about to enter the promise land and face their enemy!
4. No doubt Moses was sorry for this act, in Deut. 3:23-29 it says Moses cried out to God to let him still go into the promise land, but God's answer was very clear, "that is enough Moses, do not speak to me anymore about this matter."
a. God's tough stand was necessary to keep a young generation of believers from thinking sin has no consequences!
b. God's long range purposes were more important than a momentary reprieve!
c. After all, Israel had a long history of thinking that it was o.k. to sin and not have any consequences to face!
5. Truly now God's earlier statement would be true, only Joshua and Caleb would enter the Promise land!
a. Moses would die and so would Aaron before Israel entered into the promise land!
b. To show his willingness to forgive Moses however God instructs him to climb mount Pisgah so he could see the promise land, to at least look upon it, and God would bring him to a better land soon anyways!
III. ROCK'S FOUNDATION I Cor. 10:1-6, 11-13
A. Fountain of Life 10:1-4
1. Paul mentions here to a group of young believers how Israel all shared the same blessings, the same experiences, the same frustrations and opportunities, they all drank from the same source!
a. His point is to show that even though they all had the same "stuff" they didn't all respond the same way!
b. How true still, though we all face the same types of trials and temptations, the same types of blessings, we don't all choose to respond the same way.
2. Israel in the wilderness had shared the very same fountain of blessing!
a. They were all led by God with the same cloud!
b. They all passed through the same Red Sea, the same journey out of slavery!
c. They all ate the same food, the same Manna!
d. They all drank from the same rock!
3. They all experienced the same blessings and trials!
4. All had been privileged by God!
5. This should have been enough to stand strong in the moments of dryness in the desert, it should have been enough to trust in the moments of difficulties!
6. It is possible to experience good and bad and still trust in the lord.
ILLUS: A MAN FROM DUNDEE, SCOTLAND HAD FALLEN AND BROKEN HIS BACK AS A LAD OF 15 YEARS OLD. FOR 40 YEARS HE WAS IN SO MUCH PAIN HE COULD DO NOTHING! FOR 40 YEARS HE SPENT MOST OF IT ON HIS BACK, BUT DAY AFTER DAY GOD'S GRACE WAS FOUND SUFFICIENT FOR HIM. IN FACT, MANY PEOPLE CAME TO HIM FOR SPIRITUAL ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT. ONE DAY A CHRISTIAN ASKED HIM, "DOESN'T SATAN EVER TEMPT YOU TO DOUBT GOD?" "OH YES," HE REPLIED, "HE DOES TRY TO TEMPT ME! I LIE HERE AND SEE MY OLD SCHOOL MATES DRIVING PAST IN THEIR CARRIAGES AND SATAN WHISPERS, 'IF GOD IS SO GOOD, WHY DOES HE KEEP YOU HERE ALL THESE YEARS?' THEN, SEEING AN OLD FRIEND WALKING BY IN PERFECT HEALTH, SATAN FAIRLY SCREAMS, ‘IF GOD LOVED YOU, WHY DID HE PERMIT YOUR BACK TO BE BROKEN?’ ‘WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN STAN TEMPTS YOU?’ SOMEONE ASKED?’ “AH, I TAKE HIM TO CALVARY AND POINT TO THOSE DEEP WOUNDS AND SAY, “DOESN’T HE LOVE ME!” AND THE FACT THAT SATAN GOT SUCH A SCARE THERE 1900 YEARS AGO THAT HE CANNOT STAND TO BE REMINDED OF CALVARY; HE FLEES FROM ME EVERY TIME!” THAT BEDRIDDEN SAINT HAD LITTLE TROUBLE WITH DOUBT; HE WAS TOO TAKEN BY GOD’S GRACE TO SEE HIS NEED OF BITTERNESS! -- Source Unknown
B. Freedom From Loss! 10:5-6, 11-13
1. Even with sharing all the blessings of the Lord together many of them fell away in bitterness!
a. With great understatement Paul says, “with many of them God was not please.”
b. "Many" is right, almost all of them, only two made it from the original generation!
c. How tragic that they could all share the same blessings and trials and only two could come to a faith expression!
2. Paul is trying to show how easy it can be to lose perspective and focus on bitterness instead of faith!
a. They had 40 years of God's proven faithfulness to them to build on, yet they made a bitter choice near the end of the journey!
b. You can't live off of yesterday's experiences today; faith is something that must be expressed right up to the end of the journey.
3. Paul says here that their example is recorded for us to learn from, lest we think we can't fall look at them!
a. God's blessings are no guarantee against a bitter spirit!
b. It boils down to the choices we make!
4. As a statement of encouragement Paul adds here that God will not allow us to be tempted above that which He knows we can handle!
a. That doesn't mean ease, but it does means enduring!
b. With any temptation God makes a way of escape, a way out!
(1. God had made a way of escape in the desert with Manna!
(2. God had made a way of escape in the desert with water!
(3. God had made a way of escape in the desert with shoes that never wore out on their feet!
c. God knows exactly the load we can handle!
ILLUS: IT WAS DUE TO THE EFFORTS OF SAMUEL PLIMSOLL (1824-1898), A BRITISH REFORMER, THAT THE MERCHANT SHIPPING ACT OF 1876 WAS PASSED REQUIRING ALL SHIPS TO BEAR A MARK KNOWN AS THE PLIMSOLL MARK WHICH WOULD INDICATE THE MAXIMUM LOAD LINE. BY THIS ACT THE BOARD OF TRADE OF ENGLAND WAS EMPOWERED TO DETAIN ANY VESSEL DEEMED UNSAFE, AND THE AMOUNT OF CARGO WAS RESTRICTED, THUS MAKING THE LONG AND PERILOUS JOURNEY OVERSEAS MUCH SAFER. BECAUSE OF HIS WORK PLIMSOLL WAS CONSIDERED THE SAILOR'S FRIEND. THE PLIMSOLL MARK, WITH ITS GRADATIONS AND FIGURES ON THE SHIP'S BOW NEAR THE WATER LINE WOULD INDICATE THE POINT AT WHICH A SHIP COULD NOT BE LOADED DOWN ANY MORE AND STILL BE SAFE. THIS NEW MEASURE SAVED MANY SHIPS FROM DESTRUCTION! EACH SHIP WAS DIFFERENT, BUT IT WAS CALCULATED AND MARKED AS TO THE SAFE MAXIMUM LOAD IT COULD CARRY! GOD HAS DONE THIS WITH EACH OF US TOO, HE KNOWS EXACTLY THE LIMIT EACH OF US CAN CARRY, AND HE WILL NOT LOAD US DOWN BEYOND WHAT WE CAN HANDLE WITHOUT HIS HELP! HE HAS SET HIS OWN MARK UPON US AT CALVARY, A BLOODSTAINED MARK THAT CAN NOT BE WASHED AWAY BY SATAN. WE ARE NOT ON A SINKING SHIP! -- Source Unknown
5. So, we are at times in the desert, the dry places come, what do we do?
a. We speak to the Rock!
b. We bring the staff (God's Authority, the Word of God!).
c. And, we assemble in a sacred assembly and drink from the grace of God that flows from that rock!
6. We don't strike out in anger or in bitterness, we trust God and His promises!
a. And we look for His help to overcome!
b. We keep the faith!
CONCLUSION: The biggest battle when facing terrible dryness is to strike out in anger at the Lord you love, the very one who delivered you from slavery in the first place … or even those loved ones around you! Even in the greatest dryness there is living water that can refresh, it comes from the solid rock Jesus! Just speak to the "rock" and out will come “living water!”