Hukkat & Balak
For the week of July 8, 2006 / 12 Tammuz 5766
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 19:1 - 25:9
Haftarah: Micah 5:6 - 6:8


Helping God

Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (Bemidbar / Numbers 20:11)

There's a story about a man who needed transportation to another town. A kind stranger with a horse and cart stopped to give him a ride. The man climbed up with his heavy bag, took the empty seat next to the stranger, and placed his bag upon his lap. When the stranger invited him to put his bag in the cart, the man replied, "Oh no, you have already been so kind to me. I cannot expect you to carry my bag also."

The man's convoluted logic illustrates how we often relate to God. Many of us have the tendency to take upon ourselves burdens that God wants to carry for us. Not only does he want to carry them, he is already carrying them for us - like the stranger and the man's bag - while we insist on unnecessarily bearing the load ourselves.

One of Yeshua's most radical teachings is that of God's provision (Matthew 6:25-33). You may not think of this as radical in the common use of the word, but when you compare what he said to the common thinking of that day as well as our own, it is about as radical as one can get. Yeshua taught his followers that those who have a right relationship with God need not be concerned about their provision. He claimed (and rightly so!) that we have a Father in heaven who not only cares for our every need, but will make sure that those needs are taken care of. He contrasts this with non-believers, who have no concept of such a God, and therefore need to take care of their physical needs themselves. But believers, having such a loving God, can give themselves to heavenly matters, leaving the physical concerns to him.

I have experienced this truth in my own life countless times. I have seen God come through for me and my family in the hour of need over and over again. In between the more dramatic times, I am aware that it is God and not myself who provides for us. Yet, like the man in the story, I have illogically burdened myself with concern over our physical needs.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the verse quoted at the beginning of this message. The people of Israel were in desperate need of water. God told Moses to speak to a particular rock, resulting in an outflow of water. Moses had been angry with the people for their bad attitude. In the pressure of the moment and in his anger, he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. He may have also spoken to it, but that is not recorded. The water did appear, but Moses' misdeed prevented him from entering the Promised Land.

I think most of us would hesitate to be critical of Moses. Besides the great pressure he was under, the previous time God brought forth water from a rock, he was supposed to hit it (Shemot / Exodus 17:5-7). Yet God dealt with him most severely this second time. Why?

Unbelief has many forms. It's most common form is found in our turning our backs on him - whether we completely deny his existence, or, when we do acknowledge him, still refuse to submit to him. Another aspect of unbelief is in what Moses did. It is similar to the man who thought he was lessening the stranger's burden by keeping his heavy bag on his lap. It is also unbelief to add our own efforts to what God has done for us. For Moses to add his own efforts to God's miracle is to put himself in God's place, which is a very serious thing.

When we grunt and groan under burdens that God is committed to carrying on our behalf, we are contradicting his promises and denying his love. When we deny his love, we demonstrate that we don't know him as he really is.

This form of unbelief is not as serious as outright rejecting or neglecting him - both of which place us outside of fellowship with him. This kind of unbelief - adding our own efforts to what God has done for us - may result in our, like Moses, failing to enter into all God has for us.

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