Christian Churches of God

No. 169





Numbers 20:1-13

(Edition 2 19990919-20040828)


Numbers 20:1-13 concerns the activities of Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, the comments made by Jesus Christ as the Angel of the Presence and their interaction together.




Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA





(Copyright © 1999, 2004 Wade Cox)


This paper may be freely copied and distributed provided it is copied in total with no alterations or deletions. The publisher’s name and address and the copyright notice must be included.  No charge may be levied on recipients of distributed copies.  Brief quotations may be embodied in critical articles and reviews without breaching copyright.


This paper is available from the World Wide Web page: and


Numbers 20:1-13


This text in Numbers chapter 20 verses 1-13  concerns the activities of Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, the comments made by Jesus Christ as the Angel of the Presence, and their interaction together. We will read the text and comment on how it relates to the message for our activities in these days. It is probably a very good preliminary lesson to consider on the Day of Atonement.

Numbers 20:1-13 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. 2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? 5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. 6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. 7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them. (KJV)


This is a very interesting text. Here is God’s high priest and God’s anointed prophet being reprimanded by Jesus Christ, who was the being, the Glory of the Lord, who spoke to them. He said to them that they should speak to the rock and he will give forth water. In these texts it is made evident that “speaking to a rock” would be enough and that the rock is referred to as he. That rock was Christ. We know that from the New Testament (1Cor. 10:4), when we are talking about the rock that was with them in the wilderness.


This lesson was clear. Moses and Aaron were told simply to speak to the rock, to entreat it. But Moses and Aaron: a) were angry, and b) decided to use this example because they knew the Glory of the Lord spoke face to face to them (i.e. God spoke to them through Jesus Christ). They knew that if they had simply spoken to the rock the water would have come out, but they decided to make it appear as though they were the ones responsible for providing the sustenance to Israel. It also carried with it the implication that they were plagued by the incessant whining of God’s people and that the assistance was coming directly from the efforts of Moses and Aaron.


So they struck the rock, and they did it in anger, in glamour, and demonstration by smiting a rock twice when they were told to simply speak to it. They did not hallow and sanctify God. They exalted themselves in anger and violence. This whole concept has been a story that relates to the Church of God over 2,000 years. While the church is in the wilderness we, i.e. the whole congregation in the wilderness of sin, are commanded to sanctify ourselves and to be hallowed and to prepare for and from the first month. The first month of the year is the month of Abib or Nisan. It is not the month of Tishri, which the Jews and the Babylonians would have us believe was the beginning of the year. There was a sanctification process that continues on from that first month.


Miriam died here in the first month. Aaron died in the fifth month of the fortieth year. These are very important concepts. Miriam died in the first month, Aaron in the fifth and then Moses. These people had been through the wilderness. They were God’s prophets. Miriam was a prophetess. They had been through the wilderness for forty years and this action prevented them from entering the promised land; perhaps there was also stress.


There were a number of reasons why their bodies were not allowed to be taken into the promised land; chiefly because of the concepts and problems of idolatry. This whole concept has been noticeable over a long period of time. People often exalt themselves – self-exaltation. People often express anger in dealing with others and have no concept of hallowing and exalting God, and trying to develop the relationships of themselves and others with God. There are times when things are so clearly wrong that we become less than patient with people who cannot or will not see error. That is, the lesson here is the development and sanctification of God in righteous patience in dealing with people individually in care and concern.


It is also noticeable from the people who come to us from the various denominations - Doctors of Divinity and people from congregations of different Baptist denominations and of the Adventist organisations of the Churches of God. All of them have different characters and different views. We have noticed the way God has been dealing with them and through them. When we look at the way they deal with things, some of them appear fitter and more cohesive as congregations. They appear more righteous in their own eyes and yet we have seen Jesus Christ sideline (bypass) them.


We have seen him decide to use people who are not as fit. In fact, in two church systems we have seen one righteous in its own eyes and healthier than the other, but not growing as fast as it should and not even being aware of it. We have seen another group of people malnourished and oppressed but trying to grow in the knowledge and grace of God. We saw Jesus Christ use one group over the other, all despite our initial reaction and the personal preferences of our officers.


We were told by a minister heading a national church organisation that God was only dealing through them and one other organisation that they happened to be amalgamated with at the time and which is now defunct. We would not be so presumptuous as to determine what God was doing with other people, or what Jesus Christ had been told to do and how he would work. Quite frankly we have seen the way Jesus Christ has acted in the past. Some of it was contrary to our initial perceptions and against what perhaps might be the desires of some of the figures leading those organisations.


This whole text of Numbers 20 and what was happening with Moses and Aaron is important. Too often we assume, because we are doing a work, that God will use us because He has no choice, and place us at the head of His people. God is not limited and as we know the stones would cry out if people did not work and do the job that has been given them in the last days. God would raise up stones to do the job, as the Bible says. We saw a group virtually disintegrate because they were confronted with something they were doing which was wrong. They had a false understanding of a text concerning the Feasts and going to the Feasts. When it was pointed out to them quite clearly that their understanding was wrong – that there was not the let-out in the text as they had assumed and indeed which they had been working on for some years – they assumed they were being ordered about by individuals and so decided that they did not want to be.


Now this whole question of the holy days, and the operations on the holy days and our performance on those days is not something that we have any choice over. For instance, Atonement is a holy convocation. The three feast seasons are three feasts in which we are ordered to attend. If our females cannot attend for various reasons the males must go up. It is all of the males must go up. We will see as we study Atonement that if we don’t keep Atonement and we work on the Day of Atonement God will remove us from His people. There aren’t any choices. The decision is ours as to whether we obey and we wish to be in the first resurrection. If we don’t wish to obey then we go to the second resurrection with everybody else.


Everyone will get a chance. Everyone will be taught correctly. It is just a question of whether or not we are prepared to obey God and do what He says and to do it in a manner in which He says.


Moses was blameless in the things he did in the forty years in the wilderness. At the end of that period he hit a rock twice and did not go into the promised land. God is not a respecter of persons. In the same way each of us can sin and forfeit our position in the kingdom of God. Each of us can fail and fall short of the glory of God. It is most important that we don’t forget this structure that God has laid down and the task He has put before us. Remember that Miriam was rebuked and made leprous during this period and then she was cured.


The whole question of rebellion is punished by God's actions. At present He is dealing with some people and not others. If we are in a congregation of God then God will deal with us. If we don’t abide by the words of God then we will fall under the wrath of God. That is: it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God as we know. But the Atonement process is to develop us in our relationship with God; to reconcile us and to prepare us to look forward to the coming of Messiah. The Feast of Trumpets represents the coming of the Messiah. The Day of Atonement represents our reconciliation. The real point is that this sequence is all in preparation for specific activities and that all of us are meant to do our job in the correct way, and to learn and grow in the grace of God (see also the papers Atonement (No. 138) and Trumpets (No. 136)).


Christ is not limited. There is a mighty work being raised up now with people who have never kept the Passover before. They have been baptised and for the first time in their lives and in their congregations they are keeping the Passover. Only some of their ministers have kept the Passover privately in the past, in the knowledge of what they had to do.


That is very important. We must understand that Christ leads us into truth and Christ prepares us. The Day of Atonement is a preparation to get us ready and prepared for our relationship with God. Christ takes part in that and he gives us specific directions. He does not want bullies; he does not want people who are devious; he does not want deceit and he does not want dishonesty. He wants people who are able to stand for the truth and deliver in clear and concise terms a statement of the faith that lies within them. We are to carry out his orders and obey his directions as the Bible lays down; the sequence or method of whom we worship, the when and the how we worship.


It is important that we look and reflect on that point. There are things happening now with people that are quite significant and there are people God is choosing not to use at present. We have to be aware of that fact. There are some people who are righteous in their own eyes. That is a very serious problem. It is the biggest single sin we have and it is a thing we can’t deal with. It is very difficult to deal with people who are righteous in their own eyes.


One of the most serious problems we have encountered in dealing with self-righteousness is vegetarianism. It seems to impute some sort of righteousness as a doctrine of salvation by works to the person who follows this pseudo-health regime. They seem to think that it makes them more righteous than other people who don’t aspire to vegetarianism. It makes them intolerant of any ill-health in people who are non-vegetarians (see the paper Vegetarianism and the Bible (No. 183)).


It is important that all of us look forward to our Feast, but more importantly to look forward to the meaning behind everything we do in all of the Feast seasons from the first month right through. There are wars coming later, more horrendous than the previous ones. The peace process in the Middle East remains unobtainable. The Bible text says that they will declare peace and then disaster will descend on them without warning. From that time the wars will increase more significantly. We have a choice and a chance of declaring the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God. We have a chance and an ability to work with other people in other nations to help them to improve their lot in life and help them to work towards the gospel of the kingdom of God.


We are small and we have but little strength, but God has set before us an open door and no man can shut it. The real reason this matter is being examined is that it does not matter who we are and how high we are in the church, nor does it matter what our place is and how important it is, we have to hang onto our crown so we don’t lose it. We have to be aware and make sure that nobody can just take it from us and that we do not give it up because of our stresses or problems or the cares of the world, or our inability to interact with others.


We have so much to do and so few people who actually understand or are capable of coming into sound doctrine. Other doctrinal issues will be examined in the near future, which need to be expounded, because they are not understood and they are a source of error in the church. More particularly, think back and remember that God is not a respecter of persons (see the paper Respect of Persons (No. 221)). Even Moses and Aaron were rebuked. They were rebuked because they failed to deal with the rock that was Christ and entreat and teach and give example in the true spirit in which Christ had given them direction.


That is most important. We are to work as Christ has given us direction.