How often do we hear of royal families, politicians, religious leaders, CEOs, teachers, coaches, judges and other respected citizens — men and women — caught in the most outrageous scandals.
Warren Buffett, considered the most successful investor of the 20th century, stated, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Yes, people expect the speech and actions of those holding positions of responsibility to be above reproach. This brings to mind a tough lesson learned by the meekest man in his time — Moses. It was near the end of their wandering in the wilderness when the Israelites began quarreling with Moses and Aaron over a water shortage.
According to Numbers 20:4 they said, “Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?” — New King James Version.
As distasteful as their attitude was, God did not reject His people for murmuring on this occasion. Instead, He directed Moses to do three things: In verse 8 Jehovah said, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water.”
Sounds simple enough. 1. Take the rod. 2. Gather the people. 3. Speak to the rock. Is that what happened? Look closely. Moses followed the first two commands. But he failed to be obedient in the third command. What did he do? According to verses 10, instead of speaking to the rock, Moses spoke to the people with condemnation, saying, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”
Instead of simply speaking to the rock, verse 11 says, “Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod.” Can you imagine the look on the Israelites faces as this humble man started hitting that rock? What was worse, instead of giving the glory to God, Moses spoke as if he and Aaron had provided the water when he said, “Must WE bring water for you...”
In verse 12 God spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Ironically, by Moses going against God’s directive in this instance, he and Aaron became, in that brief moment, what Moses accused the people of being — rebels. In verse 24 God told them, “The time has come for Aaron to join his ancestors in death. He will not enter the land I am giving the people of Israel, because the two of you rebelled against my instructions concerning the water at Meribah.” — New Living Translation.
Was this punishment too severe? Think about it. God did not direct Moses to speak to the people, let alone judge them as rebels. More importantly, he and Aaron failed to glorify God, choosing to take credit for a miracle they did not perform. Besides, this sentence was consistent with what God had done earlier when He denied a generation of rebels from going into the Promised Land.
At Numbers 14:22-23, God said, “Not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times — not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.” — New International Version.
The sentence was the same for Moses and Aaron who were leaders with a much greater accountability to God. This is in harmony with what Jesus Christ said centuries later at Luke 12:48, “Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.” — Common English Bible.
Because He is all-wise, reads hearts and is perfect in justice, we can always count on God’s judgement to be superior to humans and far more comprehensive in its scope of fairness than we may fully understand. Moses’ momentary slip may have tainted his reputation, but his humility afterward set a higher standard of Godly devotion than any Israelite had ever seen in a man.
Yes, we all make mistakes. We must all accept responsibility for our actions and some actions have unpleasant consequences. Those consequences must be respected, just as Moses respected his, according to Deuteronomy 31:1-3. By continuing to serve God with this new restriction on his privileges, Moses made an even greater reputation for himself and maintained a close relationship with God.
So even when we fall short because of a character flaw or a momentary slip, do not give up in serving God. By this we can earn a better reputation — as faithful servants.
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