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. — Numbers 20:12
Actions and words can be irrevocable. Their consequences can be unchangeable. Have you ever pounded a nail into a board or wall, and then decided you wanted the nail in a different place? You can remove the nail, but what does it leave? Under some circumstances, you might be able to fill the hole, and it might look pretty good. At other times, any repairs you make will be less than satisfactory.
Our lives are like that. Sometimes we may say or do things that we should not. When we see our error, we need to go quickly to the Lord and ask His forgiveness. If we ask honestly, He will forgive, but that forgiveness may not change the consequences of what we said or did. Perhaps we will need to ask forgiveness of others or make restitution. Such steps are vital and insure us a proper relationship with God, but they may not remove the consequences.
In our focus verse, Moses and Aaron failed to follow God’s exact directions, and the consequence was that they would not enter into the Promised Land. No doubt Moses and Aaron sought God’s forgiveness, and we know that forgiveness was granted. (If we needed proof, Moses was with Jesus at His transfiguration.) However, the consequence of their action was irrevocable. Aaron’s death is described in this chapter, and while God allowed Moses to view the Promised Land from afar, He did not allow him entrance with the Children of Israel.
Does this mean that we should hide away in our homes in fear of saying or doing something we should not? Of course not! What it does mean is that we should start each day with the knowledge of how important it is to do and say the right thing.
Can we always speak and do right by our own will and in our own strength? Absolutely not! However, we can earnestly ask God each day for His help and direction. God has promised to always be with us, and He wants to control our actions and words. Let us give Him that control.
Chapter 19 details the procedures the Children of Israel were to follow when they became ceremonially unclean. Without following these procedures, a person could not offer sacrifices and worship God. Why did God institute the rituals? God wanted them to remember that He is holy and He desired them to be holy. To refuse to be purified was a serious offense — a death sentence. Defiled people defiled the camp. God’s own presence was in Israel’s camp, and so it was vital to keep the camp holy.
In chapter 20, the Children of Israel came again to Kadesh. Thirty-seven years before, their first spies had gone to the Promised Land. It had been forty years since they had left Egypt. History seemed to be repeating itself:
Angered by the continual complaining and unbelief of the Children of Israel, Moses called the people rebels and struck the rock twice instead of just speaking to it. The Bible calls Moses the meekest man in the earth, yet he was human. At this time he may well have been weary from the years in the wilderness. Verse 1 of chapter 20 tells of his sister Miriam’s death, so he may have been grieving. The people had provoked him to anger. (See Psalm 106:32-33.) However, in spite of the factors contributing to his action, God held Moses accountable for not honoring and obeying Him.
Beginning with verse 14 of chapter 20, we read how Moses requested permission for the Children of Israel to pass through the land of Edom. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, thus the reference to “brother.” Moses promised that the people would stay on the highway and purchase any water they used. However, Edom denied the request. Moses accepted that answer, and Israel took another route, but Edom’s refusal was never forgotten. Their refusal is referred to numerous times in the Old Testament, and in very strong terms.
Chapter 20 ends by telling about the death of Aaron at 123 years of age. This marked an ending and a beginning for Israel — a beginning of a new generation in the office of high priest, and an end of their wanderings. After this, they either marched or stopped, but they did not wander.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The journey from Sinai to the plains of Moab
C. The wanderings in the wilderness
2. The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram
i. The purification from defilement in the plague (19:1-22)
(1) The ordinance (19:1-10)
(2) The purpose (19:11-22)
D. The journey to Moab
1. The death of Miriam at Kadesh (20:1)
2. The sin of Moses at Kadesh (20:2-13)
a. The rebellion of the people (20:2-6)
b. The divine communication (20:7-8)
c. The sin of Moses and the result (20:9-13)
3. The futile negotiations with Edom (20:14-21)
4. The death of Aaron at Mt. Hor (20:22-29)
As with the Children of Israel, our actions have consequences, so let us open our hearts to God, get His direction, and keep on marching!