May 24, 2023

Our Rebellion, His Redemption

Numbers 20–21

Grant Rosener
Wednesday's Devo

May 24, 2023

Wednesday's Devo

May 24, 2023

Big Idea

God's instruction can always be trusted.

Key Verse | Numbers 20:11-12

And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them."

Numbers 20–21

The Death of Miriam

And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. And Miriam died there and was buried there.

The Waters of Meribah

Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him.

Moses Strikes the Rock

10 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?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, 1 20:13 Meribah means quarreling where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and through them he showed himself holy.

Edom Refuses Passage

14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: 15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. 16 And when we cried to the LORD, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. 17 Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King's Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” 18 But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.” 19 And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” 20 But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.

The Death of Aaron

22 And they journeyed from Kadesh, and the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor. 23 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, 24 “Let Aaron be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. 26 And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” 27 Moses did as the LORD commanded. And they went up Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron had perished, all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days.

Arad Destroyed

When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. And Israel vowed a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction.” 2 21:2 That is, set apart (devote) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction); also verse 3 And the LORD heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites, and they devoted them and their cities to destruction. So the name of the place was called Hormah. 3 21:3 Hormah means destruction

The Bronze Serpent

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze 4 21:9 Or copper serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

The Song of the Well

10 And the people of Israel set out and camped in Oboth. 11 And they set out from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, in the wilderness that is opposite Moab, toward the sunrise. 12 From there they set out and camped in the Valley of Zered. 13 From there they set out and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that extends from the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 14 Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD,

“Waheb in Suphah, and the valleys of the Arnon,
15  and the slope of the valleys
that extends to the seat of Ar,
and leans to the border of Moab.”

16 And from there they continued to Beer; 5 21:16 Beer means well that is the well of which the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, so that I may give them water.” 17 Then Israel sang this song:

“Spring up, O well!—Sing to it!—
18  the well that the princes made,
that the nobles of the people dug,
with the scepter and with their staffs.”

And from the wilderness they went on to Mattanah, 19 and from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, 20 and from Bamoth to the valley lying in the region of Moab by the top of Pisgah that looks down on the desert. 6 21:20 Or Jeshimon

King Sihon Defeated

21 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, 22 “Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into field or vineyard. We will not drink the water of a well. We will go by the King's Highway until we have passed through your territory.” 23 But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. He gathered all his people together and went out against Israel to the wilderness and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. 24 And Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as to the Ammonites, for the border of the Ammonites was strong. 25 And Israel took all these cities, and Israel settled in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all its villages. 26 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon. 27 Therefore the ballad singers say,

“Come to Heshbon, let it be built;
    let the city of Sihon be established.
28  For fire came out from Heshbon,
    flame from the city of Sihon.
It devoured Ar of Moab,
    and swallowed 7 21:28 Septuagint; Hebrew the lords of the heights of the Arnon.
29  Woe to you, O Moab!
    You are undone, O people of Chemosh!
He has made his sons fugitives,
    and his daughters captives,
    to an Amorite king, Sihon.
30  So we overthrew them;
    Heshbon, as far as Dibon, perished;
    and we laid waste as far as Nophah;
    fire spread as far as Medeba.” 8 21:30 Compare Samaritan and Septuagint; Hebrew and we laid waste as far as Nophah, which is as far as Medeba

King Og Defeated

31 Thus Israel lived in the land of the Amorites. 32 And Moses sent to spy out Jazer, and they captured its villages and dispossessed the Amorites who were there. 33 Then they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. And Og the king of Bashan came out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. 34 But the LORD said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people, and his land. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” 35 So they defeated him and his sons and all his people, until he had no survivor left. And they possessed his land.


[1] 20:13 Meribah means quarreling
[2] 21:2 That is, set apart (devote) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction); also verse 3
[3] 21:3 Hormah means destruction
[4] 21:9 Or copper
[5] 21:16 Beer means well
[6] 21:20 Or Jeshimon
[7] 21:28 Septuagint; Hebrew the lords of
[8] 21:30 Compare Samaritan and Septuagint; Hebrew and we laid waste as far as Nophah, which is as far as Medeba

Numbers 20:12

Listen Now

Dive Deeper | Numbers 20–21

Numbers 20-21 is a turning point in the redemptive history of the Israelites. Before the events of these chapters, we have seen the priests (Numbers 12), people (Numbers 14), and Levites (Numbers 16) rebel against God. In Numbers 20:1-13, we see the last of the old generation rebel in Moses and Aaron. 

What's surprising in this passage is not that the people quarrel with Moses and Aaron (that had happened many times before), but rather the way Moses responds to their grumbling. Rather than obeying God and trusting Him to provide, Moses takes matters into his own hands (literally). Numbers 20:10 gives us a glimpse of Moses' heart: "Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" It's as if Moses has forgotten that God is the only One who can provide what Israel needs. In Moses' disbelief, he loses his chance to lead the people into the promised land. 

In Numbers 21:4-9, we see provision for sin prophesied and delivered. Much like in the previous episodes of rebellion, the people complain about the provision God has given them. They call the manna God gave them "worthless food." God's anger and subsequent judgment are just, sending fiery serpents to bite the people. Yet, in the midst of judgment, God remembers mercy in what seems to be the strangest of ways: a fiery serpent made of bronze and placed upon a pole. To be rescued from the wages of their sinful rebellion, the people had to look away from that which was attacking them and look up to that which hung on a pole. It was an act of faith in God.

The same is true of us today. We all, like the Israelites, deserve judgment for our sin. But God has made provision for sin by sending His Son to die on a Roman cross. The Apostle John connects Moses' bronze serpent in Numbers 21 and Jesus, the Son of Man, who was lifted up on a tree (see John 3:14-15). Like those Israelites who were bitten and received life by looking at the bronze serpent, the inheritance received by those who look in faith to Jesus is eternal life, and there's only one way to it—faith in Jesus.

For more about the faith needed for salvation from our sinful rebellion, read Galatians 3:6-18 and Hebrews 11.

This month's memory verse

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

– Philippians 2:3–4

Discussion Questions

1. Are you content with the ways God has provided for you and your family? Give praise to Him today for that provision if so. If not, talk to community about where you're struggling.

2. Are you trusting in God to provide for your needs? How have you trusted in God to provide for your needs?

3. Do you think God's judgment of sin is fair or unfair? Why?

4. Have you trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? If so, are you continuing to trust in Jesus in the challenges of your daily life? If not, talk to someone today or come visit us at Great Questions.

Respond to Today's Passage

Sign In to Respond

Hugh Stephenson

Good morning Grant!! THANK YOU for all the great work you and your team do to keep our expansive facilities in tip-top shape. We are so blessed to have them AND all of the highly dedicated facilities team serving us. Q1. God has provided for me and Amy in ways that are crazy. Through Him we have been able to have food, clothing, and shelter, as well as three healthy children who are now all adults. In all our parenting mistakes, He never saved us from the consequences of our bad decisions. The lessons we learned about us and Him from these mistakes have been the foundation of our blessings. Q2. For my answer- I link back to Kyle Thompson’s message from this past Sunday. Like Kyle, I thought making money and having money would make me happy and secure. God blessed me and Amy enormously when He showed me that without Him, I had nothing. Through Him I have everything I will ever need, (Psalm 23:1). Q3. This is a HAHA questions. No. God’s judgment on sin is not fair. My sin and rebellion merit life eternally apart from God. That would be the fair result. For me and for everyone else. But God… (Ephesians 2:4-8). Q4. Forgiveness and challenges. One pastor separates these as eternal life and abundant life. Through Jesus I can “easily” have eternal life in trusting His finished work on the cross. Then, since Satan can’t have my eternal life, he goes after my abundant life. So I have to trust in Him to meet these challenges. There is no other option, (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Hugh Stephenson

Does a fish rot from the head down? That’s the old saying about organizational rot. Yet, in these chapters from Numbers we see the reverse. The sin and rebellion start at the bottom and goes up to the top. Thinking about the death of Aaron and Miriam. And the eventual death of Moses. Among the best elements of God’s character is that he deals in absolutes. Some samples… -Follower or Foe. -Faithfulness or faithlessness -Serve self or serve others. -Rebellion or obedience. This last pair is what constantly calls me out. There is no such thing as partial obedience. No one can do it. Believers have Jesus to pay the debt we owe. Everyone else has a shot clock ticking away before judgement comes. As this passage shows, it doesn’t matter who you are. Obedience is the call. Period. Why is that? For me, I see the God of the universe who created me, loves me, wants the best for me, is my inheritance, etc. He KNOWS what is best for me. He doesn’t want me to sin in the same way that I don’t want my kids playing the street; it won’t end well. So, in order to preserve the best for all, he will not tolerate disobedience. Please read the pieces below from Got Qs on Moses, Aaron and Miriam. They are almost like a royal family. God, through Moses promised “ a prophet like me.” DT 18:15-19 And how much slack did God cut Miriam and Aaron. ZERO And Moses ZERO No one is immune from His standards and His judgment. Yet, in today’s world, think about fallen pastors, indicted CEO’s, (and the ones that should be indicted), high level politicians who are crooked, false info used to influence political, business, and healthcare decisions, etc., etc., etc. From the notes- “So ends the dark chapter. In it has been recorded the death of a prophetess, the critical sin of Moses and Aaron, the refusal of negotiation, the death of Aaron, and the mourning of the people. The chapter has emphasized the limitations of man—even God's leaders! Now with a brighter spotlight on the grace and glory of God, Numbers resumes its story of advance."

Hugh Stephenson

Bible Nerd stuff- Tomb of Aaron (Jordan) - Wikipedia Who/what is Caduceus and where does the symbol come from? Why do medical organizations use it?,negotiation%2C%20alchemy%2C%20and%20wisdom. Do the wiki guys know about John 3:14? And how the bronze serpent on a pole links to John 3:16?

Michael Sisson

Re: Num 20:1-7 >>>Note: Numbers 20 begins 38 years AFTER the end of Numbers 19.<<< According to Jewish tradition, the instructions regarding the Red Heifer were initially given to Moses in the second year of the Exodus, on Nisan 1, the day the mishkan (Tabernacle) was first erected. However, they are recorded in Numbers 19, so as to link purification through the ashes of the Red Heifer with the people’s need to purify themselves in the wake of Miriam’s death in the subsequent chapter. Re: Num 20:8-13 “…And God said, ‘Speak to the rock...’ but Moses struck the rock twice with his staff’ (Num 20:8,11). This was Moses' transgression for which his punishment was exile from the Promised Land. The punishment might seem severe, but God intended Moses' actions to be prophetic. When the people first demanded water at Rephidim, Moses was told to strike the rock with his staff (Ex 17:6). The Hebrew word used to describe how Moses ‘struck’ the rock is the same used to describe how Yeshua was ‘smitten by God’ (Isa 53:4). The Rock symbolized the Messiah, the One stricken for His people to give them waters of life (Isa 55:1; 1Cor 10:4; Jn 7:37-39). Moses' act of disobedience implied that rock needed to be stricken again to give life, instead of speaking to it as the ‘Living Rock.’ In his frustration, Moses lost sight of the LORD by suggesting that he and Aaron were responsible for the miracle of the water (‘listen, you rebels, shall >>>we<<< bring forth water for you?’ [Num 20:10]), and God could not leave those words unanswered before the people. That is why God told Moses that his exile from the land was the result of his sin not sanctifying (i.e., honoring) the LORD before the people of Israel (Num 20:12).” — Hebrew For Christians For a deeper dive into the incident at Meribah, see “Yeshua Our Living Rock” Re: Num 20:14-21 You’ll recall Israel’s (Jacob’s) brother, Esau, was the father of the Edomites. In this passage, they demonstrate anything but brotherly consideration of their Israelite brethren. Throughout the Bible, the Edomites personify the eternal enemies of Israel (Ps 83:5-6; Eze 35:5; Amos 1:11; Ob 1:10). Many notable biblical villains were descended from Esau including: Eliphaz (“friend” of Job; father of Amalek), Amalek & the Amalekites, Agag, Haman the Agagite, Doeg the Edomite, Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, and Herod Agrippa. I believe there is a cautionary tale for the Church in this passage. Today, gentile churches welcome Jews who believe in Jesus (Yeshua), as brothers. However, those same churches are less welcoming of >>>the Torah observant orthopraxy of those same Jewish believers,<<< preferring instead to see them (needlessly) assimilate into predominantly gentile congregations in the name of collectively being “one new man” (Eph 2:14-16). >>>However, this ultimately amounts to a kind of soft Replacement Theology, where Jewish believers are expected to cease living and pursuing Christ AS JEWS. (See 1Cor 7:17-20)<<< We should ask ourselves, “Is the gentile Church guilty of being as unwelcoming to Torah observant Jewish followers of Yeshua (G-d’s chosen remnant; Rom 11:5) passing through Christian congregations on their return from exile in an unbelieving Diaspora (their return from “Galut Edom” [Exile in Edom]), as the Edomites were unwelcoming to their Jewish brothers passing through Edom on their return from exile in Egypt? Shouldn’t WE be welcoming, encouraging, and even aiding our Jewish brethren to follow Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus Christ) as Torah observant Jews?” Re: Num 21:7-9 Num 21:9 (NASB) And Moses made a >>>bronze serpent<<< and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the >>>bronze serpent<<<, he lived. Got Questions asserts, “There is no connection between this serpent [Num 21:9] and the serpent which Satan spoke through in the Garden of Eden.” I beg to differ. There IS a connection. >>>Both serpents reflect man’s rejection of G-d’s provision…particularly G-d’s provision embodied in the Despised Messiah, Who is Yeshua (Jesus).<<< Satan has no identity to call his own. Like the rest of creation, his identity is wrapped up in the Messiah (Col 1:16). Consequently, we see Satan (Rev 12:9; Rev 20:2) in the Garden of Eden coming to Eve as a serpent to lead mankind to question G-d’s goodness, to reject G-d’s authority, and to reject His ultimate provision through Yeshua, the Despised Messiah (Isa 49:7; Isa 53:3). Satan taking the form of a serpent merely >>>reflects his role in inviting mankind to unbelief.<<< In Numbers 21:6-9, again the people are questioning G-d’s goodness and grumbling against His provision. They’re sinning in their unbelief. >>>The people’s rejection of G-d and His provision is reflected in the “nachash“ (“serpents” or “shiny ones”) which afflict them.<<< However, G-d providentially knows His provision of the Messiah Whom the world will reject, the Despised Messiah, will be our ultimate healing. Thus, in a bit of divine foreshadowing, He instructs Moses to erect a bronze serpent on a staff, and to call the people to look upon this type of the Despised Messiah for their healing. (Num 21:8-9) John 3:14 later confirms the bronze serpent’s anti-type (Messiah Yeshua) when it alludes to Yeshua’s impending Crucifixion as a prophetic fulfillment of Moses’ serpent on a staff. “The word for ‘bronze’ or ‘copper’ in Hebrew is nechoshet (נְחֹשֶׁת), which carries the Hebrew root nachash (נָחָשׁ), which means ‘serpent.’ The kabbalists noted that the numerical value of both Hebrew words nachash (serpent), נחש and mashiach (Messiah), משיח is 358. They interpreted this to mean that the ‘holy serpent’ (the Messiah) will ultimately destroy the ‘evil serpent’ (Satan).” — First Fruits of Zion

Hugh Stephenson

Michael - thanks as always for great thought provoking comments. Very edifying.

Michael Scaman

Tim Keller died lat week of cancer. I remember a sermon he had on Moses striking the rock that had many good points. God was in the dock before the rock and the punishment was given and the rock was struck once. Life giving water came. Then similar happened and the rock struck again ( Life giving water came although it was not as God commanded. God said speak to the rock. But Jesus was never to die again and striking again a serious violation of the model of the coming Messiah.) God in the Dock by Tim Keller The way Jesus used the bronze serpent must have torqued Nicodemus head. The Son of Man is lifted up from earth like the bronze serpent to look at and in the same breath Jesus then says the son of God is a gift given coming down from heaven to be believed on. Two ways to look at the same salvation. People too proud to look up at the snake on the pole would die.

Sue Bohlin

Bless you, Grant! I am just marveling at the grace of God in Numbers 21. All the people had to do to live was to look to the "snake on a stick" in faith. That's it. And God healed them. And since Jesus explicitly connected the dots between Himself being lifted up on a stick and the snake on a stick, He's telling us about the simplicity of being saved, a gift God longs to give us and which we cannot work for. It is a gift to be received by faith, by looking to Jesus with trust. That's it. The majority of people in the world wrongly believe that you get to heaven by being good, by doing good. Nope. It's SO illogical that we can't do anything do earn salvation, we can only receive it, gratefully. I'm just sitting here shaking my head in wonder. And gratitude.

Amy Lowther

1. Yes. Prayer: God thank you for your words, your examples, your courage, and your love. Thank you for helping parents and children talk. Thank you for encouraging truth and how valuable truth is. Amen. 2. I trust in God. I include His values in my approach to life because they help me appreciate what I have and appreciate what is available. 3. Yes I think God is fair because He offers experience from which we all can learn. God is also fair because He works to help all of us improve our lives. 4. Yes. Yes.