Miriam died there and was buried there.
· Miriam was a complex character, a study in stark contrasts
o On the one hand, she showed great faith and courage when she followed Moses’ little baby-boat ark along the Nile, and then approached Pharaoh’s daughter to suggest that she find a wet-nurse for the infant Moses
§ and later, when she helped lead the children of Israel through the Red Sea
§ She showed great spiritual insight and prowess when she, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, prophetically sung the praises of God’s victory over Egypt
o But on the other hand, she also showed great failure and rebellion when she apparently went more or less tacitly along with Aaron when he constructed the golden calf (there’s no record she protested at all!)
§ and later, when she and Aaron started to lead a rebellion against Moses’ leadership.
· But even with her great failure, she was still a woman powerfully used by God to bless and lead His people through some of the most difficult times they’d ever encounter
o She demonstrates for us the frustrating and odd tension that we all experience as Christians, what Martin Luther described with the Latin phrase, Simul Justus et Peccator – A saint and a sinner at the same time.
…speak to the rock…
· Back in Exodus 17, God had instructed Moses to strike the rock; here, He commands him to speak to the rock.
…therefore you shall not bring this assembly in…
· [Guzik] We might have thought, Israel might have thought, and Moses might have thought he was exempt from the decree that all the generation that was of age when the Exodus began would perish in the wilderness - after all, Moses was Moses! But Moses, great as leader as he was, was still a man subject to God and God’s law.
· Earlier, in chapter 14, God had declared that that entire generation would die in the wilderness, except Joshua and Caleb.
o Everyone else was “under the ban.”
o God had not included Moses in the two-man exception list…because God knew Moses and what he would eventually do, 38 years later.
§ Now, all that’s under the Law.
§ We’re under grace – and just like Moses, God knows what we are and what we’ll eventually do
· Moses, faithful Moses, blows it once – a massively huge “once,” but still only once – and is barred from entering the Land of Canaan with the rest of the congregation of Israel.
o In that “once,” Moses grossly misrepresented God to His people
§ He made God seem mad, angry
· Moses was certainly at the end of his rope after forty long years of incessant whining and complaining
· But although Moses was frustrated and at the end of his rope, God wasn’t.
· [adapted from Courson] Moses no doubt thought, “This is it. It’s been almost forty years and these people never stop complaining. Certainly, God, You must have had it up to here with Your people.” God’s mercy, however, is inexhaustible. It extends all the way to the heavens (Psalm 36:5).
§ It’s not our job to beat people up or straighten them out. Yes, we are to share the truth with them in love, but anger or bitterness will disqualify us from true leadership, because man’s silly little petty wrath never works the righteousness of God (James 1:20).
· Lamentations tells us that “it is by the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, for they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness, o God.”
§ We can, like Moses, fall for the trap of thinking that God is surely exhausted, upset, and angry with us and the rest of those annoying "sinners" that seem to be all around us - but He's not. His mercies are new every morning, and where sin abounds, grace abounds much more.
§ And here’s the bottom line when it comes to Moses’ having grossly misrepresented God to His people: James 3 tells us that leaders will be held to a higher standard – literally, will face a “stricter” or “harsher judgment.”
o In that “once,” Moses wrecked an object lesson that God was intending to deliver to Israel about their future Messiah
§ [Guzik] Worst of all, Moses defaced a beautiful picture of Jesus’ redemptive work through the rock which provided water in the wilderness. The New Testament makes it clear this water-providing, life-giving rock was a picture of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus, being struck once, provided life for all who would drink of Him (John 7:37). But was unnecessary - and unrighteous - that Jesus would be struck again, much less again twice, because the Son of God needed only to suffer once (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus can now be come to with words of faith (Romans 10:8-10), as Moses should have only used words of faith to bring life-giving water to the nation of Israel. Moses “ruined” this picture of the work of Jesus God intended.
§ [Courson] When the children of Israel began their journey, God told Moses to smite the rock. And out of the rock came water (Exodus 17:6). The Rock is Christ. Christ was smitten once, never to be smitten again. Yes, our sin demanded the Rock be smitten. But He died once for all—for all sin, for all time, for all men. The price has been paid and now Moses was to speak to the rock. The rock was only to be smitten once because Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. But Moses ruined the picture by striking the rock again.
o And there are things which even if I do them “once,” I am as a pastor forever barred from ministering to God’s people in this capacity
§ If I cheat on my wife, for instance.
· But our God is a merciful, gracious God; Moses eventually does make it in, two thousand years later
And He was hallowed among them.
- At the end of it all, God was hallowed among the children of Israel.
- Moses did not hallow God in this incident, but God hallowed Himself through the correction of Moses.
- God will get His glory, God will be hallowed - but will it come through my obedience, or by Him having to take me out behind the woodshed – by my being corrected?
· There is very little record of what happened during these years; they are compressed into only five and one-half chapters, while the single year at Mount Sinai is given almost 50 chapters. This was to demonstrate these years accomplished nothing, except the death of the generation of unbelief. These were just years of surviving in the desert, wasted years, waiting for the “old man” to die.
· During those 38 years, there was much movement - but no progress. Our walk with God can be the same way.
…and Aaron died there on top of the mountain
· Moses, who represented the law, could not lead them into the Promised Land. Miriam, who represents the prophets, could not lead them into the Promised Land. Aaron, who represents the priests, could not lead them into the Promised Land. Only Joshua (Heb. Yahoshua, Gk. Jesus) could lead them into the land of God’s promise.
o The Law can’t lead you into the fullness of the Christian life – yet there’s so many trying to be righteous enough to earn God’s blessing and favor.
o Religion can’t lead you into the fullness of the Christina life – yet there’s so many trying to be religiously faithful and be good little church boys and church girls, trying to earn God’s blessing and favor.
o Only grace, through faith in Jesus and in the finished work that He did for you and me on the cross can lead you into the fullness of the Christian life.
§ Those who are standing on grace, through faith, forever have God’s superabundant blessing and favor.
· Just like his sister Miriam, Aaron died a complex character.
o At the same time a great man used powerfully by the Lord as Moses’ partner in delivering His people and as the first ever High Priest – and through that a vital picture of the true, ultimate High Priest, Jesus; but also a weak, flawed man in many ways, what with the whole Golden Calf thing and trying to lead a rebellion against Moses with Miriam.
· [Guzik] Aaron’s life shows us, among other things, that the office is more important than the man himself. Aaron the man was not always worthy of respect, but Aaron the high priest always was worthy of honor.
· This is the same place where, 38 years earlier, Israel had blown it.
o God had brought them back to the place of their greatest defeat, and in its place given them a great victory
o Our God is a restoring God, a God who “restores the years the locusts have eaten.”