Parashat Chukat (Statute of)
Bamidbar (Numbers) 19:1–22:1
It’s easy to criticize people and situations when we’re far removed from them, isn't it? This is especially true when we read the Bible! As I was reading this week’s portion, I was struck by how challenging it must have been for Moses and Aaron, but also for the children of Israel; I tried to put myself in their shoes and asked myself, “What would I have done if I was there?”
The first thing I’d like to point out is in reference to the Children of Israel:
Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why then have you brought the LORD’s assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? And why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.”
I’ve heard many people say that they cannot believe how quickly the children of Israel lost faith and complained after everything they had witnessed and experienced — God’s supernatural deliverance from Egypt, His leading them as a pillar of smoke and fire, the miracle of Moses receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, His incredible provision of food, water, etc. Not only that, but this “lack” of water was something they already experienced (see Exodus 17:1–7) and God had miraculously provided for them. It would seem that they had enough experience with God’s faithfulness and would not be so quick to doubt Him, wouldn't it?
First, let’s remember that they were human beings, just like you and me, and not some mythical creatures. While I’m not excusing what they did, it’s helpful for us to understand their position. The reality is that they were in the desert and they had no water to drink; without water, there is no life. Also, in the desert, there is not much shade and when it’s so hot it can be very difficult to think straight. Despite of the fact that they were tested in that way already, the circumstances were really challenging, and therefore, brought them to a place of complaining and questioning God.
But, if we are completely honest, aren’t you and I the same? How many times has God miraculously “shown up” for you and yet, when a new test or challenge arises, you start to panic instead of immediately trusting Him? I believe that before we judge the children of Israel, we need to look at our own lives, and admit how much we complain and grumble in any given day! Let’s be honest with ourselves — how easy is it to forget God and question the circumstances that we are in? How fast are we to look for someone to blame for the hardship we’re facing?
But the children of Israel weren’t the only ones who struggled to fully trust God. Let’s consider Moses and Aaron as we read the rest of the story:
Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.” So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them.
Just like with the children of Israel, it’s hard to believe that after all Moses had experienced with God, even speaking directly to Him, he did not have enough faith to speak to the rock in order for the water to come out, isn't it? But, again, I have to ask myself, “Would I have spoken to the rock?" Would I have had enough faith to believe that ordering a rock would bring forth water? Would you, dear brothers and sisters, have had the faith?
My intention is not to point fingers or judge others. I simply want to encourage each of us to honestly consider where we are with the Lord, and not be so quick to criticize other people’s faith. If we are truly honest with ourselves, I think we could all admit that it’s not easy to be obedient to God, but if we allow His Spirit to guide us and empower us, we can do anything that He asks, even command a rock to bring forth water!
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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