Where are you going? Why are you here?
Why are you reading this? Did you just happen to visit this place?
I don’t believe that we are here by coincidence. Actually, I don’t believe in coincidence – or luck. What I do believe is that God’s providence has ordered my steps (compare Ps 37:23 KJV) and brought us together.
Many times, we are totally unaware of the events that transpire in the process of getting us to a place where God wants us to be. After the events begin to happen, we are still not likely to understand them. However, God has a plan and He orders our steps to bring us to the “watershed” points in our lives.
You may ask, “What is God’s plan for my life?” Well, I can’t answer that directly. But, I do know some general things about God’s plan. I know that God’s plan is to bring us to a place of success and eventual good.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
First, God does not measure “prosperity” the same way the current crop of TV preachers often do. Prosperity in God’s view is equated with good success. It refers to our being successful in the things that He has designed for us to accomplish. More than that, God intends to develop hope in us and his plan is to provide us with a future of unimaginable joy and promotion.
I don’t know the details of God’s plans but I do know that the plan of God involves several goals for us:
God wants us to have communion with Him – a relationship of love and worship
God wants us to become complete & mature – to have every good thing
God wants us to make disciples – to win the lost & develop in them a desire for communion
God wants us to finish the race – to continue in the faith all the way to the end
In Numbers 20:1-11, the children of Israel were in dire circumstances. They had wandered in the wilderness for 39 years. Although they didn’t know it, they were getting close to entering Canaan. God’s plan is often unclear to us, but He does have a plan. He orders the steps of a good man and that plan often includes opportunities for learning (also called hardships, difficulties, or trials of our faith.) And the Israelites were being given all the “opportunities” they could handle.
They arrived a Kadesh and found that there was not enough water to support the two million (plus) people in the community. Also, within a few days of their arrival, Miriam, the prophetess of Israel, died and was buried. There is no mention of Israel even mourning for her. Perhaps they were too concerned with their own problems to even consider her death.
This group of Israelites was young. All of the adults who refused to enter Canaan (37 years prior), died in the wilderness. Caleb & Joshua (the two spies who gave a good report) were the only adults permitted to enter the promised land. This group had seen the errors of their parents – and the penalty they had to pay. This group had witnessed the miraculous flow of water from the rock at Rephidim (Ex 17:1-4) as well as the death of Korah and his supporters (see Numbers 16) when they rebelled against Moses.
Even with this history, when they were faced with a lack of water, they chose to play the “blame game.” They gathered in opposition to Moses and asked why HE had brought them, their children and their livestock to this “terrible place” to die. They even said that they would have been better off if they had joined with their “brothers” and also died in Korah’s rebellion.
But that is what adversity does – it brings out the REAL you. Hardships force us to chose which side we are really on. Hypocrites and half-hearted followers will fall away when faced with persecution. On the other hand, true disciples will develop perseverance through the “testing of your faith” (James 1:3).
And that is what this event was all about – God wanted them to CHOOSE Him (compare Joshua 24:15). He was offering them an opportunity to fulfill the first goal – to choose to worship God and have real communion with Him.
Even if God’s plan is not always clear to us at the time, it does make sense later. That’s because God is a logical and organized God. He is not random and capricious. What He does has purpose and meaning. And, there is a reason why He places a person in leadership. God had installed Moses as their leader. When they quarreled with Moses, they were actually fighting against God and His plan. God had directed Moses and Moses had led them through the wilderness. Now, God would use him to provide water to the thirsty nation.
The second goal of God’s plan is for us to be complete. Although we are inclined to think that we are not complete until we can meet all of our own needs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once, when preaching this message, I had the weakest person in the room to break a wooden pencil – which they were able to do without difficulty. Then I offered a dozen wooden pencils to the strongest person in the room and he was NOT able to break them. Why? Because they were bound together with tape.
When bound together (united), the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts. Maturity comes when we recognize that we cannot live for God without the help of others. The only way we can be “complete” is to accept that we need God’s appointed leader. The Israelites were fighting with Moses but he was the very person who would provide water without which they would die.
Another issue that arises in our attempts to follow the plan of God is that we sometimes fail (would “often” be a better term?) Moses is one of the most respected persons in all of history. He is honored by Jews and Christians alike. He was described as “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). But he was still a man. He was a man who let his anger get the best of him at times – like this time. God told Moses to speak to the rock but Moses struck the rock instead. It was a dramatic failure! But God was not surprised by Moses’ actions. God’s plan is not derailed by the mistakes, sins or moral failures of a leader.
I have heard people say, “someone is hindering the Spirit of God.” But I serve a God who is GREATER than any individual, group or even the devil and all of his cohorts! When the Holy Spirit wants to act, NO ONE can interfere!! Notice that Moses missed God BUT the water still gushed out of the rock!!
This is the place that many “fruit inspectors” (those who claim that they can recognize another’s failure by observing their fruit) would jump in and demand Moses’ resignation. But let me offer a bit of advice, when it looks a leader has made a mistake or a wrong decision, let God take care of it. He is the Judge – not us. Even though Moses missed God, God STILL operated through him – the water gushed from the rock!
The reality of this matter is that Moses’ failure was NOT in striking the rock. That was just a symptom of the real issue. Verse 12 says that Moses and Aaron “did not trust in [God] enough…” But Moses DID trust God – He expected the water to flow – and it did! Neither did God throw Moses away in punishment for his failure. Instead, we are all convinced that Moses is in heaven right now! The belief that Moses went to heaven is practically universal.
The real issue was NOT about Moses at all. Verse 12 continues, “in the sight of the Israelites.” The REAL issue was how the Israelites viewed God. God’s plan was for Moses to teach the people to trust God. Ideally, Moses would have taught the people, “Observe as God opens the rock and provides plenty of water – without any human intervention.” This would have helped them to trust God – not man. But Moses (and Aaron) failed. When we fail to fulfill God’s plan, deliverance will come from another place (Esther 4:14). But deliverance still comes.
One of the first rules of leadership is that a good leader will train his replacement. That is what God had in mind for this situation. Moses was supposed to make disciples of the people – the third goal of God’s plan for our lives
Moses failed but Paul serves as a better role model. In 2nd Timothy 2:2 Paul told Timothy to learn all that he had heard Paul teach, then practice it and finally to teach it to others who would then replace Timothy. Discipleship is God’s plan for continuing the Kingdom of God on earth.
The final goal in God’s plan is for us to finish the race. It is not satisfactory for sinners to accept God’s forgiveness, only to go back into sin. “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning” (2Peter 2:20). God’s plan is for us to FINISH the race.
Paul said, (2Timothy 4:6,7) “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering [the road is becoming rocky], and the time has come for my departure. [But that is OK because…] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Two things seem to be significant in Paul’s race, 1) Keep the faith – don’t give up on God and He will not give up on you; 2) Fight a good fight – do your best, even if you miss it sometimes (as Moses did).
With the children of Israel, as they neared Canaan, the troubles got more difficult. This is consistent with my experience. The rougher and more narrow the road, the closer we are to the end.
And at the end of a successful race, God will award the “crown of righteousness” to “all who have longed for his appearing” (2Timothy 4:8). Longing for Christ’s appearing is another way of saying, “finish the race.”
My prayer (and your’s also, I hope)… “Lord, give me grace to follow the plans that you have for my life. Even when your plan is not clear to me, guide my steps to that place where I develop true communion with you. Teach me that I am not complete until I learn to depend upon others. And when I fail to follow your plan, forgive me and draw me back. Inspire me to live my life in such a way that others will desire to follow the God who has guided my life. And finally, give me strength and patience to complete the course and finish the race successfully so that I can inherit the crown of righteousness.”
If you would like to download my sermon notes & this manuscript, click here.
I wrote a similar article on my “James on Trial” site: What Does God Want?