Through Him, we not only receive cleansing from the defilement of sin, but we also receive eternal redemption.
“He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ASHES OF A HEIFER sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:13–14)
Death in the Wilderness
“…and Miriam died there and was buried there.” (Numbers 20:1)
It is traditionally believed that Moses had been given the law of the Red Heifer in the second year after leaving Egypt during the Exodus account, when the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was erected, but that it appears in this Torah portion since the Israelites needed to be purified following the death of Miriam in the wilderness.
Although a prophetess of Israel who led the women in singing, dancing and rejoicing when the Israelites escaped from Pharaoh’s army through the Red Sea, she also later spoke against the leadership of her brother Moses, after he married an Ethiopian woman.
Her death is so sparsely recorded that it only takes up half a verse in this portion.
Of course, Miriam was over 120 years old. The people seem either prepared for her death or unmoved. There is no mention of their mourning her and almost immediately after her death, they complain about the lack of water.
One of the wondrous things about the Torah is that it does not present only the more positive side of the Jewish People, but also chronicles their failures and infidelities, so that we may learn from their example.
Thirty eight years have gone by since the Israelites believed the evil report of the 10 men who returned from scouting the Promised Land. Their belief in the words of these men doomed them to wander in the wilderness until the entire generation died there.
Rather than learning to walk by faith, trusting God for their provision and protection, out of a heart of fear and unbelief, they spoke into existence the worst possible outcome: “We’re all going to die here—we and our cattle…” (Numbers 20:4)
Like Job who said of his troubles: “That which I feared has come upon me,” when we focus on what we fear, we face the dangerous possibility of it becoming a reality in our lives. Instead, when faced with serious life challenges, we need to maintain an attitude of faith and trust God by meditating on His Word.
This is what two men of faith—Joshua and Caleb—did. Because they believed God’s promise in spite of the serious obstacles they had to overcome, these two men entered the Promised Land with the next generation of Israelites.
Not even Moses and Aaron entered the Promised Land.
Aaron died on the mountain of Hor four months after Miriam’s death.
“…and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain.” (Numbers 20:28)
Moses died in the same year. He did not enter the Promised Land because he disobeyed God after Miriam’s death.
He was sorely tested by the Israelites who again succumbed to fear when there was no water: “Now there was no water for the congregation, so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron.” (Numbers 20:2)
Moses apparently became so fed up with the Israelite’s whining that he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it as God commanded. This act cost him the privilege of personally leading the children of Israel into the Land God had promised.
He seemed to react from sheer exasperation and frustration, which we all do at some point in our lives; nevertheless, the temptation to react instead of act, giving in to rage, can have disastrous consequences—as it did for Moses.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19–20)
While there is a righteous anger, reacting with uncontrolled anger against sin can be no less sinful than the sin itself. In fact, the Bible tells us that people who rule their own spirit and are slow to anger are mightier than a warrior who conquers a whole city (Proverbs 16:32).
Moses was the humblest man on earth, and God favored him for it with face-to-face communication, revelation, miracles, and leadership: he represented God to the people.
“With such privilege comes great responsibility, since more is required of them who have been given much.” (Luke 12:48)
But Moses stepped out of his role of representing God before the people when he twice struck the water-giving rock (a symbol of Messiah) instead of speaking to it as God told him. Moreover, in pride, Moses ridiculed the people and took credit for bringing forth the water.
“Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?’” (Numbers 20:10)
Although God honored the leadership of Moses by releasing the water, he reproved him for his lack of faith and for dishonoring Him before the Israelites.
In a previous incident, God had asked Moses to strike the rock once and life-saving water poured out, an act that may have been a picture of the Messiah being struck once for our spiritual salvation (1 Corinthians 10:4). In other words, striking the rock may have represented Yeshua’s death on the Roman execution stake (Hebrews 7:27).
This time, God asked Moses to speak to the rock, an act which God might have intended to symbolize prayer and the spiritual power of words.
Perhaps the people missed a valuable lesson due to the disobedience of Moses: when we walk with God, empowered by His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and His Word, we can speak to a problem and release the power of God into our circumstances.
Though God does forgive our sin through Yeshua when we repent, our disobedience to God not only has consequences for us, it has consequences for others, especially when we are in a position of leadership.
Do our neighbors, co-workers, and friends know for certain that we represent God as He really is? Do they witness God’s character and will in our actions and words? Most importantly, are we, in obedience to God, acting when we should act and speaking the Words of Life when we should speak?
Of course, we don’t always represent God perfectly. Only Yeshua can do that. But we do have the power to make a difference that can resonate for eternity “because through HaMashiach Yeshua the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)