The Source of All Fear

It is one of the most stunning moments in the Old Testament. Moses, one of those honored in the “faith all of fame” in Hebrews 11, fails to trust God.  It comes in Numbers 20.  Here is the scene:

The Israelite community arrives at Kadesh. There is no water. And the community lets Moses know they’re not happy about it: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” A similar situation arose in Horeb and God directed Moses to strike a rock. After he did, water gushed forth from it. This time, God will use a rock again to yield water, but His instructions are different:

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 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. Numbers 20:6-8 (NIV)

But that’s not what happens:

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 . Numbers 20:9-11(NIV)

God then let Moses know what the consequences of his disobedience would be:

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. Numbers 20:12 (NIV)

Moses is held up as one of the most faithful men in the Bible, so what happened? He trusted in what God had already done, but not what God said He was about to do. Simply put, Moses was afraid God wouldn’t do what he promised to do. This doesn’t mean Moses was suddenly a faithless soul. Thankfully a momentary lapse in faith doesn’t mean that for us either.  It is, however, critical for us to understand the source of Moses’ fear. It’s the same source of all fear Christ-followers experience. Oswald Chambers put it this way:

Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated. Also, our fear is that the very things our Lord stood for— love, justice, forgiveness, and kindness among men— will not win out in the end and will represent an unattainable goal for us.

Think about it, if you had 100% certainty in God’s faithfulness, would you ever fear anything, ever again? Moses didn’t accomplish this, so we won’t either. But what a blessing to know that when we’re in fear of anything: homelessness, joblessness, loneliness, or any other “ness” we can think of, that all we must do is remember that God is faithful, and we can trust Him with whatever direction He gives us in those moments of fear. Chambers is right: we can persevere without fear. That’s the life God’s grace guarantees us!

Pastor Jerry Bader

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