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Numbers 20
1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.
2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! 4 Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines, or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 7 The Lord said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” 13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them.

The people were wandering in the desert for 40 years because they did not believe God’s promises. This place, Meribah, which means “bitter” or “quarrelsome,” is the second time the people have been here. The first time was perhaps a year or 18 months before.

In every meltdown situation, there’s an underlying root cause, an emotion. In the above passage, it is anger. Moses is the leader of the ancient Israelite people. Here, the people are demanding and quarrelsome, and Moses has had enough.

Have you ever had enough? You take it and take it, but they keep pushing and pushing, and you snap. That’s Moses.

Some things stick out immediately about anger here.

  1. Anger is a sign there’s a significant or prolonged gap between the situation and our expectations.

Interestingly enough, anger begins in the same spot as a loss of control, leading to frustration. How we expected something to go that didn’t end up going that way.

There’s a point where either things need to change or we need to change based on our expectations.

God commanded Moses to strike the rock to get water, but only once, and only that time. God was using the rock as a sign to point to the Messiah who was to come.

1 Corinthians 10
4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

The first striking was symbolic foreshadowing of Jesus’ death. Not to be repeated. So, God’s purpose was that there was only one striking of the rock to foreshadow what was to come.

Sometimes, our obedience is our participation in something God is up to, even when we don’t understand it in the moment.

There’s the thing we think our circumstances are or what we’re facing is about, but God is at work in a completely different way than we may even understand. This perspective is important because it reminds us that God is in control. He’s at work. Our need for control assumes that no one else is in control or that the one in control can’t be trusted with the situation.

  1. Anger is going to invite you to try to become god in a situation where God needs to be God.

There may be something that God is calling us to right now that doesn’t make any sense. And maybe right next to it is something that makes a lot more sense – something that’s proven, something we’ve done before, something we already understand, and that’s tempting because it’s easier to do instead.

  1. Anger is an opportunity.

Moses came seeking an answer, and God gave one. But Moses does something different instead, and he knows it. It feels more decisive and dramatic. He speaks to the people in a way that injures them and causes a loss of self-respect.

The people are looking to him to be different and to lead them somewhere better. Have you ever seen a leader meltdown? Do you gain respect for them or lose it?

People are looking to us. Your family, friends, and neighbors are looking to you to respond differently than everyone else around them. We’ve all said or did something in anger that we knew was wrong at the time, but it’s a release, albeit the wrong one.

Maybe you said something to your spouse, kids, or someone in traffic. Again, you know it’s wrong, but it feels so right in the moment. And then the consequences hit. But the thing about anger is that it’s created by God as a part of our humanity.

Anger can be good, but that depends on what we do with it.

Ephesians 4

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

Think about water. Have you thought about the fact that water can be incredibly life-giving or incredibly destructive? It depends on how it’s channeled and how it’s used. Anger is similar.

  1. There can be long-term consequences to our short-term reactions.

Look at the last part of the story. Because of this seemingly small thing, there’s a big consequence to Moses and Aaron. They don’t get to enter the land, but God is still faithful to us, even when we disobey Him. We don’t do this alone on our own strength.

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