Sunday, August 14, 2011

God's Holiness in Us

1 Peter 1:15-16 “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; (16) for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Have you ever had a relationship with someone who rubbed you the wrong way? It might be a family member, a coworker, or even a client or a client’s spouse. You know that find yourself being reactive or impatient with that person.  As counselors, we are trained to pay attention to our inner feelings and notice when we are responding reactively to our client or even a family member of our client. [If you have never felt this way toward a client, you may not have ever worked with someone who has narcissistic or borderline tendencies.] Moses struggled with the children of Israel in this way. It didn’t seem to matter how many times God showed His faithfulness to them, or Moses told them God’s commandments or directions, they still continued to whine, complain, and disobey.  Sometimes our “difficult person” may not be whining or complaining, but may have some other trait that irritates us.  It could be that they seem unable to recognize their own weaknesses, or they dig in their heels and refuse to make a change even when they knowledge changing would be a good thing. The important factor for us to consider is our response.

Mothers (myself included) often find ourselves being reactive with our children–“why can’t they just do what I ask?!!!! How many times do I have to tell them?” or “Why can’t they just do what they are suppose to do?”  Usually the persons we struggle the most with are those God has entrusted to our care or our shepherding. Jesus described himself as the good shepherd. (John 10:11). “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” That whole concept of “dying to self” or “laying down my life” blossoms in the New Testament. Those God has entrusted to me in the circles of my life are the “sheep” He has given me.  That might be a new colleague at work, a new believer at church or someone God has called you to disciple, or even a new client.

In Numbers 20, once again the children of Israel came to a place where there was no water. They began blaming Moses and Aaron, declaring Moses and Aaron had brought them to this place to die. [Just as an aside–isn’t it so very painful to be accused of something you were not guilty of?] Moses and Aaron went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, and fell on their faces before the Lord.  We have shared the experience of going to the Lord about those we are working with (shepherding) who seem to never move forward, who keep repeating the same mistakes. Going to God, of course, was the right thing to do, and God gave Moses and Aaron instructions to assemble the people, speak to the rock, and water would pour out.

Numbers 20:9 says Moses did as he was told.  His actions were in obedience to the Lord. However, Moses struggled with the same thing we struggle with–our attitude. Numbers 20:10-11 “Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ (11) Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So all the people and their livestock drank their fill.”

God completed his commitment to Moses and Aaron --he did what he said he would do–bring water out of the rock. Moses obeyed by bringing the people to the rock, and using it as a source of water for the people.

Why, then, did God discipline Moses? Numbers 20:12 “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!’”.  Whew! That is pretty strong disciplinary action!
Why was God so upset that Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to the rock?

God pointed out to Moses that he did not “demonstrate my holiness” to the people of Israel–and that was a lack of trust in God. For a long time I wondered what “striking the rock” instead of
speaking to the rock” had to do with demonstrating God’s holiness. Then as I thought about what Moses actually did differently, I realized maybe it had to do with his attitude, the condition of his heart. Perhaps Moses’ impatience with the people was the opposite of God’s patience–His character and His holiness. Moses obeyed in his actions, but his emotional response (attitude) was not consistent with God’s character and nature. God has long-lasting patience with us. He never gives up on us.  He continually works with us and patiently waits for us to learn to obey. When I am not patient with someone God has placed in my life (client, coworker, child, husband, etc), I am not demonstrating the character of God. Jesus displayed that same character of patience as he dealt with the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, even his own disciples.

Am I a good shepherd? Am I displaying God’s holiness to my client, my child, my coworker, my spouse? Or am I striking the rock and shouting at the person God has entrusted to me?

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