Faith describes trust and reliance. It exists when people trust or rely upon someone or something. Trusting in God characterizes godly people.
Yet, faith can become twisted as Moses discovered. But I have gotten ahead of myself.
By the time Miriam died in the wilderness, Moses and Israel had experienced God’s powerful interventions on multiple occasions. Their memories should have been saturated by ten devastating plagues and deliverance through the Red Sea on dry ground. Furthermore, at God’s command Moses had struck the rock at Horeb resulting in water gushing out. Manna could be collected each morning. Birds provided food in the evening. More recently over a single night Aaron’s staff had produced buds, flowers and fully formed almonds!
The Law proclaimed and Israel had experienced, God is holy. None other is like the LORD. God is not like us. The people were to regard the LORD as holy.
All of this brings us to Israel arriving at Kadesh where Miriam died. One other detail about Kadesh. “Now there was no water for the congregation” (Numbers 20:2).
Thirsty people tend to become cranky people, even desperate people. Knowing what God had done and what God could do was not slating their parched throats in Kadesh. And so, the people unleashed their drama by quarrelling with Moses.
God instructed Moses:
Take the staff and assemble the community, you and Aaron your brother, and then speak to the rock before their eyes. It will pour forth its water, and you will bring water out of the rock for them, and so you will give the community and their beasts water to drink” (Numbers 20:8).
God revealed to Moses that God would use him to bring forth water for the people and flocks. We should note that Moses trusted God. He picked up the staff. He gathered the people. He knew water was about to flow. Moses possessed neither doubt nor fear.
What did fill Moses’ heart was bitterness and anger at Israel (Psalm 106:32-33). Nothing indicates God was angry. God planned on providing what his people needed.
The stage was set. Complaining Israel had been summoned before Moses and Aaron. They knew Moses had consulted with God. Now Moses stood before them to reveal God’s verdict. How would the God of Israel respond?
Moses unleashed vitriolic words, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock for you?” (Numbers 20:10). The moment’s terseness was punctuated by two swift strikes on a rock. Water flowed. Israel certainly had an impression of their God and it looked a lot like a frustrated Moses.
When people who trust in the Lord combine faith with their own hubris, the result is a twisted faith. Although Moses trusted in God’s word and power, his feelings regarding how Israel should be handled contravened relying upon honoring God’s holiness. In God’s words,
Because you did not trust in me to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (Numbers 20:12).
To coalesce our trust in God with our own hubris amounts to rebellion (Numbers 27:14).
Enter Uzziah. He too exemplified a twisted faith. Uzziah believed in God and desired to worship God. However, on one occasion he inserted his pride into his devotion to the Lord. Such distorted trust to worship God in his own way amounted to disobedience resulting in leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
Let’s not forget leprous Naaman. He believed that the prophet of God within Israel could heal him. He expected the prophet to call upon the LORD his God to rid him of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:11). He trusted that God’s power could heal him.
Yet, when the prophet told him he should go dip seven times in the Jordan river to be cleansed, his pride kicked in. Naaman resolved to trust in God in his own way by using better water. To consolidate trust in God with his own hubris would amount to rebellion.
Fortunately, a servant talked some sense into him. He obediently relied upon God. His leprosy was cured.
How often do we trust in God, but determine we can trust him in our own way? Will we fare any better? How much do we value the New Testament phrase “the obedience of faith?”
God is holy. We can not trust in God by imposing our will as though our will is what matters.