Purpose, commitment, and discipline are the foundation of a relationship with God and an inheritance in his kingdom. In my last post, I discussed the role of discipline and the gradual progression of discipline that God expects of us on the journey to Canaan. In the desert, God’s goal is to discipline us to make us legitimate. In our relationship with God, becoming “true sons and daughters” by embracing God’s discipline, seals our position as heirs. Simply put: discipline marks us as possessing an inheritance in his kingdom. This is confirmed in Hebrews 12:8 which reads:
If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
Legitimate heirs are expected to rely on God in every area life. God wants us to have a relationship with him based on reliance. Reliance can be defined as “to be dependent; to have confidence based on experience” and “depend on with full trust or confidence.” The word reliance comes from the Latin word religare which means “to fasten or bind.” The original sense was ‘gather together,’ later ‘turn to, associate with,’ whence ‘depend upon with confidence.’
God wants a relationship where we believe that we can trust, know and depend on him at all times. Whether in the middle of Egypt – a land of plenty that keeps us in bondage – or in the desert, a place where nothing grows; if we find ourselves living in lack, in a dry place, God wants to be our father and provider upon whom we rely entirely for all of our needs. As with the Israelites, He will provide water from a rock and manna from heaven. And, in the midst of this miraculous provision, he is demonstrating that he is Jehovah-Jireh – a God who honors our sacrifice with the desires of our hearts.
This is the fourth post in a series titled “A Love That Shows Us The Way”. This series focuses on Moses, his relationship with God, his purpose, the people of Israel, and the promise of Canaan. If you’re just joining this series, I was inspired by Moses’ emotional breakdown in Numbers 11, where he asked God to kill him. Throughout this series, I have been comparing the Moses who parted the Red Sea in Exodus 14 with the Moses who asked God to kill him in Numbers 11. By looking at a number of passages in Exodus and Numbers, I hope to better understand what caused Moses to fall apart.
In the first three posts in this series, I discussed the role of purpose, commitment, and discipline. Today, I will discuss the role of God’s presence in the desert.
In case you are just joining this series, the articles in this series focus on Moses’ relationship with God, himself, his purpose, the people of Israel, the other leaders and the promise of Canaan. Throughout this series, I will compare the Moses who parted the Red Sea in Exodus 14 with the Moses who asked God to kill him in Numbers 11 by looking at a number of passages in Exodus and Numbers.
Moses began to crave the wrong thing: people.
In the last post in this series, I wrote about the role of faith in the journey to Canaan. My post focused on the moment when Moses asked God to kill him in Numbers 11:15, saying:
“If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
How did this happen? How did Moses begin to think like the unbelieving people he was leading? The easy answer comes at the end of Numbers 11. After God provided meat for Israel, just as he promised, he brought a plague on the people because they craved the food of Egypt. That place was named Kibroth Hattaavah. Kibroth Hattaavah means graves of craving. Indeed, the scripture reads:
33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.
Although Moses was not among those who craved the food of Egypt, Moses did have a craving. As the Holy Spirit showed me today, Moses’ craving is found in Numbers 10. It reads:
29 Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place about which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will treat you well, for the Lord has promised good things to Israel.” 30 He answered, “No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.” 31 But Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32 If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us.”
Moses tells Hobab to stay because he perceives Hobab as having an ability that he needs in order to possess Canaan. Moses’ craving for Hobab’s presence is a distraction from God’s plan; indeed, God did not promise Canaan to Israel and the Midianites. Moses said to Hobab: You know where we should camp and You can be our eyes. Moses forgot that it was God who brought him into the wilderness and failed to trust that it would be God who lead him out. How is it that Moses finds himself pleading with Hobab?
I am with you: God.
God wanted Moses to depend on his presence alone. Moses, like all of us, had weaknesses, namely, a lack of self-confidence. In Exodus 33, Moses reveals to God his concern: who will do this with me? But when Moses asked God who God was planning on sending with him, God said: “Me”. Indeed, it reads:
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You’ve been telling me to lead these people, but you haven’t let me know whom you’re sending with me. You’ve also said, ‘I know you by name, and I’m pleased with you.’ 13 If you really are pleased with me, show me your ways so that I can know you and so that you will continue to be pleased with me. Remember: This nation is your people.”
14 The Lord answered, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you peace.”
Moses thought that he needed people, God stressed to him: your companion is my presence. I will be with you. What a beautiful thought! God’s presence goes with us. That must be why the writer of the 23 Psalm famously wrote:
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
If you really are pleased with me. Moses had expectations of God. If I please God then God should provide me with people who are going with me and I should know all of God’s ways. This is hard to write because it strikes a chord with me and my expectations of God. Having a great purpose and mission that impacts the lives of many people is no easy task and what we want are things that make us feel secure: people and total knowledge. But in response to the request for people, God says: you have me. And, in response to the request for knowledge, God says: I will give you peace.
In Exodus 34: 8-9, after Moses returned from getting the 10 commandments, he found that the people had started worshipping a golden calf. Moses asked God to have mercy on the Israelites. Then, he begged God to go with them on their journey:
8-9 At once, Moses fell to the ground and worshiped, saying, “Please, O Master, if you see anything good in me, please Master, travel with us, hard-headed as these people are. Forgive our iniquity and sin. Own us, possess us.”
It is the presence of God that removes our expectations and requirements. It is the presence of God that allows us to work the plan of God without full knowledge understanding. There will always be an unmet need but when we know that God is everything that we need, we have peace in his presence and rather than seeking the need we seek the maker of all things.
Allow me to reintroduce myself.
In Exodus 34, Moses was satisfied with God’s presence and did not want to travel without God. In Numbers 10, however, God’s presence was not enough. Hobab was also required. He said to Hobab: 31 But Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32 If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us.” How can it be that Moses is now pleading for Hobab the same way that he once pleaded for God? Perhaps Moses thought that God needed Hobab’s help? I can just imagine the conversation Moses might have had with God:
So, you have some ability and Hobab has some ability. If we combine all these abilities: me, you, Hobab, Aaron and maybe some of the leaders, we’ll have a great team. We’ll have the ark of the covenant, the cloud and Hobab.
Hobab seems like a necessary addition to that team, right? Wrong. God is not on your team. God is not your Lebron James, a player that you assign a position to and take on and off the bench at your discretion. God does not get tired, he does not play a position, he does not need a time out, God – the alpha and omega – is not your equal and God cannot be limited or fully comprehended by any human being. No, not even Hobab.
That is why when Moses said, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God responded:
14 “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
Moses allowed himself to think that an able person could take the place of God. More than that, God had already provided for Moses’ needs. First, finding the place to camp was the purpose of the ark of the covenant:
33 So they set out from the mountain of the Lord and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest. 34 The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.
Second, God had no intention of adding Hobab to the team. In fact, he had already set aside 70 elders to help Moses. Indeed, Numbers 10:16 reads:
16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.
Moses was pleading with Hobab when God had 70 men in the camp that God was ready to empower. God had already worked it out and Moses was working on another plan.