The Importance of Glorifying God


More than one Bible scholar has noted that Numbers 27 has a “distinctly modern” tone to it. Indeed, the first part of it deals with something we’ve heard a lot about: women’s rights. But there’s more going on here than meets the eye. The problem only seems to be about gender. It’s really about something else. It’s about a fundamental building block of a free society: private property or property rights. It started like this –

“Our father died in the wilderness,” they said, “and he was not one of those who perished in Korah’s revolt against the Lord—it was a natural death, but he had no sons. Why should the name of our father disappear just because he had no son? We feel that we should be given property along with our father’s brothers.” (Numbers 27:3, 4 TLB)

Here was something not dealt with in the Law the Lord gave to Moses some 40 years ago. It’s been that long since Israel had left Mount Sinai and traveled to the border of the Promised Land. Because of their lack of faith and rebellious, mutinous attitude, God would not allow any Israelite to enter the land. In fact, God’s will for Israel now changed. Where once it had been for them to march in and just take possession of the land He gave them, now His will was for the whole nation to turn around and march through the desert for 40 years until the present faithless generation died off.

Yes, it’s a serious thing to go against God’s will. If you’re like the minority of Christians that actually knows God’s will (most do not, by the way), you probably find yourself going against it, like the Israelites did. What you don’t find yourself doing, however, is being forced to wander around a desert as punishment. That doesn’t mean God hasn’t noticed the fact that you rebelled against Him nor does it mean you haven’t disappointed Him. What it does mean is this: If you habitually find yourself out of God’s will, you may do just fine in life. But you’ll never know the full blessing of God; you’ll never know what it feels like to be in the very center of His will. In other words, you’ll won’t be living life to the fullest unless or until you get into the mainstream of the will of God.

God’s solution

So one day, some women came to Moses with a complaint. But it wasn’t like the many other complaints he had to endure; this one had merit and Moses did just what he should have done:

So Moses brought their case before the Lord. (Numbers 27:5 NIV)

This problem was unprecedented. Moses needed a special kind of wisdom; wisdom from above.

And the Lord replied to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are correct. Give them land along with their uncles; give them the property that would have been given to their father if he had lived. Moreover, this is a general law among you, that if a man dies and has no sons, then his inheritance shall be passed on to his daughters. And if he has no daughter, it shall belong to his brothers. And if he has no brother, then it shall go to his uncles. But if he has no uncles, then it shall go to the nearest relative.” (Numbers 27:6 – 11 NIV)

There are ignorant people in the world who think that the Bible – and Judaism and Christianity – put women down or keep women down. Nothing could be further from the truth. Judaism, and later Christianity, liberated women from all kinds of oppression. The notion that women should have an equal place with men in society is unique to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26 – 29 NIV)

Far from being mere baby-producing machines and chefs, women were given a dignity they never had before, in any other culture on earth. Indeed, she became an integral part of the family for all time.

A sin comes home to roost

The good news for women soon gave way to bad news for Moses. The time had come for the Lord to judge Moses for a sin he committed back at the waters of Meribah.

[T]hen Moses and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock; and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring you water from this rock?”

Then Moses lifted the rod and struck the rock twice, and water gushed out; and the people and their cattle drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe me and did not sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, you shall not bring them into the land I have promised them!” (Numbers 20:10 – 12 TLB)

It took a while, but it was time for Moses to step aside as leader of the Israelites. Many times in the Old Testament we read about the swift judgment and punishment of God, but here is an incident that seems more commonplace to the modern Christian. He is a lot like Moses in that he sins, he knows he has sinned and he knows that without the forgiveness provided by Christ on the Cross he will be face judgment and punishment eventually. But he will live a lifetime before facing his Maker and Judge. Moses knew what his punishment would be but it took a while for it to come to pass. He would live with the knowledge of what he had done and he would live with the knowledge that he would not escape punishment. But in an act of mercy, Moses would be allowed to look into the Promised Land but not to enter into it.

What was the sin Moses was guilty of at Meribah? He struck a rock twice, but was that the sin? According to the text, something else was going on.

When the people of Israel rebelled, you did not glorify me before them by following my instructions to order water to come out of the rock. (Numbers 27:15 TLB)

It appears as though not glorifying God when you have the chance to do so is a serious sin. How many times have we done this very thing? How many times have we not only not glorified God, but actually made God look bad by our words or actions? Thank God for His mercy! But what happened to Moses should serve as a solemn lesson to all believers.

Moses was generally an obedient and faithful servant of the Lord, yet this single incident caused his whole life to be a bitter-sweet experience for him. Maybe you’re like that. Maybe you’re obedient to the Lord sometimes, but often you wander off and try your hand at doing your own thing. Life for you – and other believers like you – must surely be bitter-sweet. There are moments when God seems so close that He feels like He’s right beside you, yet other times He seems to be a million miles away. Bitter-sweet; a life no Christian needs to live.

Moses didn’t have the benefit of the kind of grace you and I experience in Christ, so he had to pay the price for his arrogant presumption that resulted in God not being glorified. Not only he, but Aaron, for Aaron also died before coming to the Promised Land. In graphic fashion we see a before-hand fulfillment of verse in the New Testament, 1 Peter 4:17 –

For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (NIV)

The solemnity of this section of Numbers is made all the more striking because of what preceded it. In the first 11 verses of Numbers 27, we read about the remarkable righteousness of God in how He dealt with a group of unfortunate women. And here we see the utter holiness of God. God did not take lightly Moses’ assault on His holiness. We shouldn’t be afraid of God, but we need to learn how to revere Him; how to respect His Person. He is a real Person; He may be offended; He may be hurt; He may be angered.

Moses’ failure and victory

Obviously, there is the main lesson of this section of Numbers, which deals with how one treats God and how God should be treated. But there’s something else going on, sort of percolating just under the surface; a spiritual lesson about the weakness of the Law, exemplified by Moses. Spiritually, Moses (the Law) was not allowed to ender the Promised Land (Heaven). Only through faith and not the Law may one gain entrance into Heaven. Even our best efforts are never enough for God because we are unable to do for ourselves what only Jesus can do for us.

Moses could not enter the Promised Land because of the imperfection of his character. What Moses did he did in front of everybody; for all to see. Moses wasn’t a wicked or evil man; he was imperfect. Moses’ successor, Joshua, was not perfect – nobody is – yet he was permitted by an act of God’s grace to lead Israel into the Land.

Moses could look at the Promised Land but not enter it. The Law could lead a person only so far, but grace brings him home. Paul described the Law as a “schoolmaster,” that leads and teaches but eventually hands a person over to grace to finish the job.

Moses didn’t complain about God’s judgment, he wanted others to reap what he had sown. Even as Moses was given the bad news, he was concerned about who would get Israel into the Promised Land. He wanted Joshua to succeed where he failed. Moses was a class act all the way to the end. His love was for his people and he wanted only was best for them.

God could have judged and punished Moses back at Meribah. Why didn’t He? It was because, in spite of his sin, God wasn’t finished with Moses; Moses still had to finish the job God had for him. He had to get his people back to the border of Canaan Land.

1 Response to “The Importance of Glorifying God”

  1. 1 valary cherono April 14, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Wow am always blessed by your inspiring bible teaching thank you very much God bless you. Amen

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