In this installment of our series, Why Christ Had to Die, we pick up again on the journey of God’s chosen people led by Moses and Aaron. Up to this point, we’ve seen their general faithfulness–as well as some hiccups along the way–to not only receive and communicate God’s Law to God’s people, but also to obey it faithfully. They’ve dealt with sin in the camp, which lead to division, stress, and ultimately judgment from God. Their responses have been adequate for the moment, and in some cases incredible. Moses and Aaron have modeled well the mediatorial role that Christ will ultimately fulfill, and in many ways their actions have lifted our eyes up to God and appreciation of their devotion to fulfilling their roles He provided. However, another stark and colorless scene occurs on the canvas of the biblical storyline. Once again sinful and broken hearts are revealed, and Moses and Aaron are left facing the drastic reality of the law of unintended consequences.
As the whole congregation makes their way through the wilderness of Zin they are faced with another deficit of water. Their response is typical…
“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? 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.”
Moses and Aaron’s response to this outcry is also typical… “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…” They sought God–they sought His guidance and counsel. The people needed water to survive, and their leaders came to their Leader to seek His provision. Excellent. It is as it should be. God proceeded to give them His answer to bring about water, but anger had been simmering, and Moses’ next move is one that he must have regretted the rest of his life.
“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.”
As the story unfolds this deviant action of Moses led to the setting aside of both Moses and Aaron. Look at God’s response to them, “…the Lord said to Moses and Aaron…you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
What just happened?
God just set aside Moses and Aaron from being the ones who will lead His people into the land that was promised to Abraham and his family. This one action led to the judgment of God that at face value seems extremely punitive. What about this situation brought about such drastic consequences?
“…Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel…”
They deviated from God’s instructions, and they acted in unbelief and dishonor of God. Their sin was merely an exposure of their broken hearts. God had given Moses exact instructions to bring about His provision of water for the people, but Moses deviated. God had previously said, “Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes…” Not only did Moses not speak as he was instructed, but he lashed out and struck the rock twice with his rod. In other words, Moses was acting in the place of God. Nevertheless, God still provided the water, but along with God’s provision came His judgment. Therefore, they were set aside. Wow.
How Does This Apply to Us Today?
The first point is that we are all replaceable. If Moses and Aaron can get set aside in their leadership roles because of their sin, who are we to think we can’t either? Take heed, lest you fall!
The second point is that we are just like Moses and Aaron. How many countless rocks have you struck when you have spoken in anger, when you have lied, when you have let discontentment lead to deviation of faithfulness to your spouse, when you have let selfishness squander your appreciation for what you possess, and when you have let hatred of a person lead to your cursing them in your head? The list could go on. It’s true, we have deviated from God’s commands, and as a result we have disqualified ourselves from ever entering into the promised rest of the Lord. If God would not let Moses and Aaron–the chosen instruments for implementing His oracles and Laws to His people–enter into the promised land because they deviated in one critical component, why in the world would we ever think He would let us in to His promised rest?
Their unbelief and dishonor of God’s holiness pales in comparison to the dishonor we show Him as we build our own kingdom’s here on earth. No, no, we don’t deserve rest, we deserve exactly what we have pursued–emptiness and vanity. We are a people ambitious for power, passionate for pleasure, and intoxicated for prestige. If this wasn’t the case, then why do we get so upset when we aren’t in control, when we aren’t sexually satisfied, and when we don’t received the appreciation or value we think we deserve? Everyone wants to be considered a servant until they’re treated like one.
God knew we would disqualify ourselves. He knew that His justice would require the same judgment given to Moses and Aaron–being set aside. Yet, just like Moses and Aaron of old, we are not without hope. It was into this fray, this predicament of the human condition that God sent forth His Son! Glory to God! Christ had to die, because Moses and Aaron deviated, and because we have deviated too.
And so, the life of the Son–a life of perfect obedience–was lived without deviation. His life was the ultimate life of obedience and faithfulness to God. But then He died. And die He did. In so doing, however, He received the wrath of God for sin, He conquered sin through His resurrection, and He offers His life of righteousness to all the human deviants who receive it in faith!
Is there a better hope for a deviant humanity than this? We deviate, He doesn’t, He dies, and in faith we receive the righteousness of His life. O the glorious riches of the justice and justifying act of our God–for us, deviants. Glory!— November 3, 2017