The bitter waters...
In Numbers today, the people of Israel are starting to live into the bad news they got when God told them that this entire generation would fall to the dust in the desert due to their lack of faith. Their glimpse into the Promised Land did not go well, for when the scosts sent out to see the Land returned, the people chose the lurid and sensational rumors spread by smear to the facts of others. On top of that, there were two attempts to stage coups against first Moses and then the Aaronic priesthood.
These were not Israel's finest hours.
And so, the journey begins again. Israel continues to learn from God the particulars of a sacrificial life as it sojourn before the tent of meeting; and are brought into the waste again, and again they felt the real thirst of the desert. There is no water in or near the camp. The people grumble. Moses prays. God tells him to go with Aaron and strike the rock, so that the people will see and know that God continues to be with them, and for them.
And Moses strikes the rock. Twice.
Now God must contend with Moses, Aaron, Miriam and this generation of Israelites. All have broken faith and covenant with God. Thus, none will pass into the Land. Miriam dies, and is buried in the desert waste. Aaron dies on Horeb, and Eleazar inherits his mantle. Moses will live, but only to glimpse the Land. This is a poignant ending for the delivered, but at the same time a testimony to us that Covenantal life with God sometimes means letting go of the expectation that it is all about us while at the same time letting the next generation inherit the proverbial Land that we think is our legacy from the Creator. Harsh as these lessons are, they remind us that in the end, God makes a covenant with humanity, in all its generations.
It is not all about us.That
Jesus models what that really looks like for us today in Luke. Both in the temptations in the desert wastes and in his preaching at the synagogue in his hometown, he offers us signal models how God calls us to live, walk and talk in the world. Our lives are not our own, and our service is not to our glory...but to the glory of God. When scripture is fulfilled in our hearing, it is so that the world may see and know the God is active and involved...and it is our witness that confirms the reality of God to all those on the outside looking in. It is NOT for us on the inside, so that we can look out and presume ourselves justified.
Not an easy lesson to learn. Moses, Aaron, Miriam and a whole generation of the host of Israel paid for that with their lives. Jesus suffered 40 days in the wilderness as well as the temptations of Satan. All in order to remind us that with God, our witness and faith are to be signs to the world, so that others might see and know God has been honored in our witness generations to see and know that God is working out God's purpose through us.