We are serving or worshipping the living God. We have to remember we are always in the presence of God. As much as we expect reverence when we gather together in worship we have to be reverent wherever we are. We have to teach our children to stand in awe of God. We must teach our children to respect God's word. Even as we come together as a church, we must train our children to show reverence and respect in the service, in the Bible talk, in our family group, wherever.
In the book of Numbers, God reveals himself and disciplines his people for their lack of reverence for God.
1 Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.
2 At the Lord's command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:
God wanted Moses to write down the stages in the journey of the people of Israel from the time they left Egypt till they reached the Promised Land. The whole chapter 33 is dedicated to Moses recording the stages of the journey that they took from Egypt to the Promised Land.
God asked them to record it so that they don't forget. We have forgotten our journey from our birth till today. We forget where we went, what we faced, what we did. We forget all that. We just remember, 'I was born in so and so place now I'm in this city and have a job '. That's all we remember. But God wanted the Israelites to remember every stage of their journey.
Why? Because in every stage of our journey we learn from our life, we see what God did, we remember how God rescued us, we remember what we did wrong and how God was still patient with us. Ultimately we will stand in awe of God because we'll think, 'Man, I've taken this long journey but God has not left me. God is still my God'!
We are men who quickly forget the good that God has done and also quickly forget the evil that we are involved in - we just don't want to get in touch with that. But God does not want us to forget the journey that he has traveled with us our whole life and he is still not going to leave us. He's going to walk with us and he wants us to remember every stage how he rescued us.
So God wants us to remember him and stand in awe of him. We all stand in awe of nice buildings in our city. We all stand in awe of all these wealthy men like Bill Gates, Narayanamoorthy, Azim Premji. We're like - wow! We stand in awe of all the movie stars - Rajnikanth, Kamalahasan, Vijay. And if we get to meet them personally or catch a glimpse of them in the crowd our eyes light up and it becomes the latest news in town. We tell everybody.
But do we stand in awe of God, the creator of the entire universe and everything that we stand in awe of. Do we talk about this God that we are worshipping? Do we talk about this creator to the whole world that we are around? When we truly stand in awe of God our lives will be different, our lives will reflect God and we'll be talking about God and people will notice God in our lives.
In the book of Numbers there are a few things God is upset about. There are a few things that really upset God and it is made very clear in the Bible. Let's look at some of them.
1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.
3 So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.
God doesn't like complaining. What were they complaining about? About the hardships they were facing. And we think there's nothing wrong with talking about our hardships - it's the right thing to do, isn't it? God didn't like people complaining. Because we're saying, 'God you're not taking care of me'. When we complain about our hardships that are very real to us, we're telling God that he has no power to help us.
We diminish the power of God by our complaining nature. We don't think there's nothing wrong in what we do. The Bible says they complained in the hearing of the Lord. When we complain who hears it? God hears it! Then what happened? Fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of them in the camp. Stand in awe of God. Never look at complaining as a small sin.
2. Talking Against His Chosen People
1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.
2 "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" And the LORD heard this.
3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
Again, God heard what these people were talking. Who was talking against Moses? His own brother and sister. And what are they saying? Has God only spoken through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also? We are also equally important. The Lord heard this. Was God happy with that? For Aaron and Miriam, Moses was no different from them. They couldn't see the difference. But when God saw these people, he saw them differently.
Same way, in the church we all look the same. We are all Christians, we are all God's chosen, and we are called the holy priesthood of God. We have the same Holy Spirit. We all have the new name that we got when we were baptized i.e. Christian. Maybe we don't see the outward difference - we all look the same. When God sees his people, he sees every one differently because he knows who is what.
He has put every one in a particular role or place in his church and he wants that to be respected. When Aaron and Miriam did not honor the choice of God, God was not happy with that. The Bible says the anger of the Lord burned against Aaron and Miriam. The Bible says Miriam was leprous because of what she did. It's not about people, it's about God. The church is all about God and not about who is the leader, who is this and who is that. It's all about God. We're here because of God and we'll stay because of God.
1 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.
2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!
3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?"
4 And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt."
Here the people started grumbling, the Bible says. 'Oh, why did we leave Egypt, why did we come. It was so nice there. God brought us all the way here for us to fall by the sword and for our children and wives to be taken captive'. They said, 'It is better for us to go back to Egypt'. They even went to the point of deciding to choose a leader who could take them back to Egypt. This is what the Israelites were doing. Grumbling.
And we take grumbling lightly. But God notices what we grumble about. In their grumbling tone is there anywhere they are giving any credit to God for all the good things that they experienced and felt all these years they were with Moses and the people of God? No! When we get into a grumbling mode we just grumble. We don't care about what God did, what miracles God has done, all the good things we enjoyed in our life, all the places he has taken care of us - we forget all that and just focus on our grumbling.
Why they grumbled? Moses had sent twelve people to check out the Promised Land. These twelve men chosen by Moses go to this land and come back with a report. Out of the twelve, ten came back with a bad report. Only two had good reports. What spreads faster - good news or bad news? If we switch on our T.V. what do we hear all the time? Bad news. People talk bad news to each other all the time. If there is some good news, they either ignore it or put it in one corner of the newspaper. People don't even want to see it; not interesting. Even in Israel, among God's people what spread fast? It was the bad news that spread fast. There were two faithful men and they stood up and said, 'Don't listen to the bad news. This is the good news. God will be with us and God will deliver us'. Nobody listened to them.
Even in the church, what spreads fast? Bad news. If somebody is baptized, is everybody rejoicing? Do we secretly tell everybody, 'By the way this person got baptized'. Do we spread that news like fire around the church? 'Oh, he got baptized? Okay, bro. Thank you very much'. But, 'Bro, I saw this brother sinning'. This will spread like wild fire in the church. There is a lot of good news happening in the church. Are we aware? 'Bro, what is happening in the church. Nobody tells us'.
But if there are some things that are not good, that we will know. And we tend to focus on all the negative things in the church, in our family, with each other. Because that's what we are tuned into. Our sinful nature is tuned into this nonsense. What is the Bible all about? It is the good news of Jesus Christ. It is supposed to be so much of a good news that the whole world is supposed to accept it and follow and become part of God's kingdom.
People are so filled with all the negative things and the nonsense and the sins of the world, they can't hear the good news. Even if they hear the good news, they quickly shut it down and look for more negative things to hear. That is what made these people grumble.
Do we pray for people out on the mission field? Do we pray for our Family Group leaders? Do we pray for our leaders in the church? Do we pray for each other? So often we focus on the wrong things that we don't focus on the right things and the godly things that will make God happy.
What happened after this grumbling session finished.
26 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron:
27 "How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites.
28 So tell them, 'As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say:
29 In this desert your bodies will fall--every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me.
30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.
31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.
32 But you--your bodies will fall in this desert.
33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert.
34 For forty years--one year for each of the forty days you explored the land--you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.'
Wow! Do you know what happened? These people went to explore the land for 40 days. They came back and spread bad news and the people took it and started grumbling. Do you know what God did? Every day for the 40 days that you spent exploring the promised land (about which you grumbled) will stand for one year and you will spend 40 years more in the desert because you did not respect the glory of God. You did not stand in awe of God so you and your family are going to be in the desert for another 40 years.
God was hard-line with his people because he did everything possible to rescue them from the Egyptians but they were not grateful. They were still finding fault, still grumbling about all that is happening to them and not appreciating the miracles that God had done for them. So, let us be careful before we grumble. When we grumble we are telling God, 'You don't care and you don't care about me'. God is warning us that if we grumble after all the things he has done for us till now, and we're still not happy with our life, he'll teach us to persevere and bear with this present situation we're in for another 40 years if we don't repent. We 've got to be careful and stand in awe of our living God.
Look into Numbers 20. The people have come to a place called Kadesh and there's no water. They started quarreling. So Moses goes to God and God gives him a plan.
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 showed himself holy among them.
There was no water and God gave specific instructions to Moses. 'Take the staff, you and your brother. Get everybody together and speak to this rock and water will come out'. What did Moses do? He took the staff (just like God told him to) and got everybody together with Aaron. He was very upset with the Israelites. He said, 'Listen, you rebels. You want water from the rock? Okay'. Moses raised the staff and struck the rock twice. Water came out. But is that what God told him to do?
God did not tell him to strike the rock, he asked him to speak to the rock. As Moses disobeyed him, God told Moses something. This is what God told him, 'because you did not trust me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you're not going to bring this community into the Promised Land I'm going to give them'. God is a just God. If anybody sins, God treats them and disciplines them for their sin. When Moses sinned against God by disobeying his instructions, God disciplined Moses and Aaron. Each one of us has to face discipline for our own sins. Don't think that we're going to be spared for all the wickedness we do. There is forgiveness in God but there is also discipline from God. For every wrong we do we will be disciplined by God, because he loves us.
We've got to stand in awe of God. In the eyes of God there is no favoritism. We have to fear God and we have to stand in awe of our living God. And God always fulfils his promises. He promised them that he would take them into the Promised Land. But on the way to the Promised Land, he expects us to revere him, honor him, trust him with our lives and our families' lives. God wants us to trust him always. Let us never take our eyes off him. Let us never take life in our own hands and ignore the word of God or ignore the warnings of God or ignore the discipline of God.
God wants the best for us. God wants good for us. He promises he'll never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised that he is preparing a room for every one of us because there are many rooms in the Father's house. But while we are on the journey - as we have left Egypt with our sins when we got baptized - and as we walk this journey with faith as Christians let us revere him, fear him, listen to the word of God, be convicted and convinced that this is what is going to keep us strong as Christians. One day we'll all be together in the Promised Land i.e. heaven. God bless.