Muddying the waters

There will be consequences when we disregard the directives given by God. When Scripture provides us with clear instruction and we, even with good intention, muddy His direction, we’ll surely be held accountable just as Moses was with the waters of Meribah. Moses, with whom “The Lord would speak to face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Exodus 33:11), the man chosen to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, the very man God picked to receive the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (twice!), learned this lesson himself after he received instruction from God on how to bring water from the rock, but changed that instruction to suit himself.

In Numbers 20:2-13, we read that the Israelites are complaining and quarreling, yet again, with Moses and Aaron, this time, about their lack of water. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink'” (v.8). For whatever reason, Moses instead “raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff” (v.11) and although the results were the same, the Israelites were given water from the rock, the method Moses chose was not as instructed by the Lord. Both he and Aaron were reprimanded soon after when God said, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (v.12). Admittedly, I passed by this reprimand, not understanding exactly what they’d done so wrong, until I came across a later verse repeating how they were to be disciplined for their actions. “‘Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah'” (Numbers 20:24). Neither Moses, nor Aaron, entered the land of Canaan; they both died beforehand.

Where am I going with this, you may ask? Straight to the absoluteness of the authority of Scripture. When God explicitly commands something, we are expected, given the perspicuity of Scripture, to understand it enough to follow. Some churches are failing in this regard, specifically those denominations that are muddying the waters by ordaining women as pastors and affirming the homosexual lifestyle. While it is right to welcome those that are struggling in sin, as we all are, affirming their sin is not going to come without consequences. I love women and I love pastors, but Scripture clearly speaks against the two being combined. I love those that identify with the “other than heterosexual” lifestyle, but Scripture is also quite succinct in calling this sin. There are no in betweens on these two issues that appear to be at the forefront of today’s Church culture. For those intentionally trespassing against the Word of God in these two specific areas, there will be discipline as there is for any of us in any area of perpetual sin. If you’re hearing me say that those engaged in muddying the waters of Christ’s church are destined for eternal damnation, please hold.

As with Moses and Aaron, two believers who obviously made their way to spending eternity with God, today’s believers that are guilty of twisting God’s Word will undoubtedly enter His kingdom as well. Moses was talking with Jesus on the mountain during the transfiguration (Matthew 17:3), so his rebellion back at the waters of Meribah did not preclude him from experiencing eternal salvation. This is to say that those today, whose hearts only God truly knows, aren’t necessarily going to be failing to follow God’s directives to the point that they’ll be thrown into hell. Surely, once saved, always saved. Thank God for that, because I have disobeyed many of His commands, and done so knowing full well they were indisputably sinful. However, from the testimony of Scripture back in Numbers 20, we can see that there is discipline for our trespassing. Note the use of the word discipline, not punishment, because the Lord disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6; Proverbs 3:12). Our deserved punishment was taken care of by Christ.

Of course, we can grumble and quarrel with eachother regarding what the Bible “means” when it speaks on certain issues of sin and what it should look like to carry out the commands given, but in doing so, we’re also quarreling with God. It doesn’t take a seminary degree to read the Word and comprehend what it communicates, especially with these two areas that the Church seems so divided on. It didn’t feel right to the Israelites to be hungry, or thirsty, after their exodus from Egypt; so they complained, incessantly. They were rebuked, plagued, and corrected in their distrust. But, in this Numbers passage, we can also see God reprimanding their leaders for choosing not to honor God and take Him at His word. So leaders and followers alike who participate in contorting Scripture must be aware and prepare to deal with the Holy God that breathes it. Perhaps they are, studied and sure of their stance, ready to sacrifice for the sake of their convictions. To those I ask: in what other areas do you find the Bible fallible?

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