Moses: The 40th Year

The Book of Numbers consists of alternating records of the laws that God gave Moses for the people and their rebellion and disobedience, then their forgiveness and salvation. God calls the people stubborn and stiff-necked. Their actions and unbelief frequently got them into trouble and God had to step in to rescue them.

Looking at the map "Map of the Exodus." Egypt is in the west. When they left Egypt they traveled southeast about 100 miles to cross the Red Sea then southward to Mt. Sinai, about 125 miles. No one is really sure which mountain is Mt. Sinai, but this is the general vicinity. In Chapter 10 on the 20th day of the second month of the second year since they left Egypt they pick up camp from Mt Sinai and headed north to the wilderness of Paran (150 - 200 mi.). It was from the wilderness of Paran that the spies were sent out to Canaan and then later some of the people tried to go defeat the Amalekites and Canaanites by Hormah which is farther north in The Negeb east of Beersheba.

Unrest wells up in the camps once again and in Numbers 16 Korah, a Levite, one who had the duties of the tabernacle gathered 250 princes among the people in an attempt to over take the leadership of Moses and Aaron. When they all gathered together to see who God would choose to lead God told Moses and Aaron to leave the area and Korah and his group were caught in an earthquake and fire and destroyed along with their houses. The next day the all of the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron saying they had killed the people of the Lord. Because of their unbelief a plague started in the congregation and it ended up killing 14,700 people until God stayed the plague by the hand of Moses. God then confirms the selection of the household of Aaron to take care of the tabernacle itself by having Aaron's rod bud in Numbers 17.

Now we have a jump in time. God has not told us of any events for about 37 years. In chapter 20 we are now in the first month of the 40th year of Israel's wandering in the desert (Num 20:28 and Num 33:38). They move to the Wilderness of Zin to Kadesh and in the first month of the 40th year Miriam, Aaron's sister, dies. Then the people are up against another obstacle, there is no water for them and they rise up against Moses and Aaron. God tells Moses and Aaron what to do:

Numbers 20
:1 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation,
        into the desert of Zin in the first month:
    and the people abode in Kadesh;
    and Miriam died there,
    and was buried there.
:2 And there was no water for the congregation:
    and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
:3 And the people chode [complain, contend, debate] with Moses,
    and spake, saying,
        Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!
:4     And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness,
        that we and our cattle should die there?
:5     And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt,
        to bring us in unto this evil place?
        it is no place of seed,
        or of figs,
        or of vines,
        or of pomegranates;
        neither is there any water to drink.
:6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly
        unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation,
    and they fell upon their faces:
    and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.
:7 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
:8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together,
        thou, and Aaron thy brother,
    and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes;
        [teach them of the rock of salvation, Christ, one more time]
    and it shall give forth his water,
   and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock:
    so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
        [Symbolic of Jesus Christ I Cor. 10:1 - 4]
:9 And Moses took the rod from before the Lord,
        as he commanded him.
:10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock,
    and he said unto them,
        Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
    [This is not what God told him to do, he must be growing weary of leading this people]
:11 And Moses lifted up his hand,
    and with his rod he smote the rock twice:
    and the water came out abundantly,
    and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
:12 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron,
        Because ye believed me not,
            to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel,
        therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land 
            which I have given them.
:13 This is the water of Meribah; [contention or strive]
        because the children of Israel strove with the Lord,
        and he was sanctified in them.

Even though Moses was a friend of God and God knew him face to face he was a man. He was tempted by Satan as well as anyone. He received the revelation of the first five books of the Bible-Genesis through Deuteronomy. He led this stiff-necked people through hard times. They continually manifested unbelief. Since his return to Egypt when he was 80 he was totally obedient to God except for this occurrence. Unfortunately it had far reaching effects.

Later on in chapter 20 Aaron, Moses mouthpiece and brother also dies. God instructs Moses to anoint Eleazar Aaron's son to be the priest in Aaron's stead and they ascend Mount Hor (located somewhere on the border of Edom) for the transfer of leadership. Aaron dies there and Israel mourns for 30 days.

Moses could have been quite discouraged at this point; his sister has died, his brother has died, he has been leading this people for 40 years and he is told that he will not enter the promised land. But, he still stands with God to complete his calling.

Our exhortation:

I Peter 3:15 But sanctify [set apart] the Lord God in your hearts:
    and be ready always
    to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope
    that is in you with meekness and fear: