The words "self-control" or "self-discipline" are mentioned many times throughout the Bible....and for good reason. They are actually put there for our own benefit, as we see from this very important lesson from the Life of Moses. This account, which occurred during the Exodus and is mentioned more than once in the rest of the Bible, speaks to a human emotion which, if we are not careful, can literally destroy us.
In Numbers Chapter 20, in the Torah (first five books of the Bible), we see almost two million Israelites in major distress in the barren desert. There was no food or water for miles and miles. They are almost to the end of the forty years of wandering in the desert for not just disobedience against God, but complete rebellion. A trip that took between 2-6 weeks from Egypt to Canaan became 40 long years for a reason.
The millions of Israelites had not only had it with the incredible God Who had fed them from the heavens with manna, brought water once before from a rock, parted the Red Sea and more, but they had it with Moses as well. Moses was at the end of his wits and went into the Tabernacle to meet with God, face to Face as he always did. They were wrong, of course, but that never stops those who lack Faith, when it is needed the most. A worried and stressed out Moses did what He always did in these times - he ran to seek the Lord.
Here are the instructions which God gave Moses, when the latter desperately sought His help:
"Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink." (Numbers 20:8)
Here is what Moses actually said and did, as he returned to the multitudes:
"...and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. (Numbers 20:10-11)
Here are the results of Moses' words and actions:
"But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” "(Numbers 20:12)
Here are the facts as culled from these four verses above:
Number 1: Moses (and Aaron) were so overwhelmed by the giant of a problem they faced, that seeking an audience with God was the only answer.
Number 2: God had the answer to the dilemma, as He always does, and gave Moses extremely clear instructions on how to get water to his people below.
Number 3: Moses was so filled with rage, while it is very understandable on a certain level, that he let his anger and temper overrule his usual sense of obedience to God and he acted irrationally.
Number 4: By the aforementioned irrational act and momentary lack of righteous judgment, the Lord shortened Moses' physical life and did not allow him to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.
What can we learn from this? There are some huge life lessons.
Lesson 1: There is nothing wrong with becoming very upset at a situation which seems virtually impossible to overcome. It is one thing for we, flawed humans as we are, to find ourselves in difficult temporary fixes (financially, health-wise or otherwise). It is a whole other thing to thought to be responsible for everyone else.
How does one face these insurmountable odds which Moses faced, in order to look after the literal physical survival of two million plus people? He did the right thing- he ran to the Lord. We too, must go to God. We must NOT only go to the Lord in prayer and supplication as Moses did, but we go HUMBLY and flat on our faces! By doing this, we are acknowledging our complete inability to do anything except recognize the hopelessness of our own weaknesses.
LESSON 2: When we approach the Lord, in all humility in our utter helplessness, and we surrender all to Him, He will answer. When the Lord responds with specifics, it is to our benefit to take note of EVERYTHING He said to do - not just in the letter of His command, but in the spirit of it.
Sometimes the Lord will respond directly to us, that He is in control and has our massive problems in His capable Hands. Sometimes He will respond by sending help via others. Sometimes He will deal directly with the giants in our lives, Himself. Our part in this relationship, is to be constantly looking for His divine Hand in our lives, with the expectant Faith that He can and sometimes, will do, exceedingly above and beyond what He said He would/could do.
LESSON 3: Remember it is NOT about us. The fatal mistake which Moses made was equating Himself with God. Look at his statement again, just before he STRUCK the rock, instead of SPEAKING to it as the Lord instructed. Moses said "“Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Who is this "we" of which Moses spoke? He was not speaking of he (Moses) and God. Moses stood in front of the multitude of people and made it look as if he and Aaron were the ones who were supplying the much needed water! He completely ignored what God told him to say and temporarily forgot Who sent him, Who he represented and Who gave the water, to begin with.
Moses enjoyed an access with the Lord, which only the disciples and the Apostle Paul could boast of, as we read in the New Testament. Therefore, he, most of all, would be held more accountable than those to whom he spoke. The Bible mentions that to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). Then James 3:1 tells us "let not many of you (us) become teachers (pastors, leaders etc.)...knowing that we will incur a stricter judgment".
We Christians, of all people, should be very careful that we do not allow our close relationship with God, through Christ, to allow us to let our guard down and sin. We will be held to account! Attributing words which God did not say as being from Him (as in "God told me to.....fill in the blanks") is just completely ignoring His direct command and to make it look as if we have the power to some miraculous event. When we do this, we not just dishonor the Father, but usurp His Glory, and thus commit a form of idolatry, by bringing attention to ourselves as the "source of some divine power". This serious error is deadly, as Moses discovered. Let us all learn from to not do likewise. Let us exercise more self-control and discipline ourselves to be aware, at all times, of our surroundings and especially, of God's expectations of us, His people.