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Monday, June 3, 2013

What Does t Mean to “Honor God?”

Worship leaders as well as other in ministry positions say we want to “honor God in all we do,” as well we should. But too often we only have some vague notion of what honoring God means.  When we think of honoring someone, we generally think of some special recognition that is accompanied with some kind of plaque or reward.   However, Scripture provides an interesting insight to honor that we might miss if we are not careful. Let’s follow the story found in Numbers 20:

    1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.
    2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! 4 Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
    6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 7 The Lord said to Moses, 8 “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.”
    9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
    12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “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.”
    13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them.

The story is a familiar one.  The Israelites were in need of water during their desert wandering and God instructed Moses to speak to the rock, rather than strike it as he had done previously. One can understand his frustration: there were over one million people, including young children crying for thirst from lack of water; animals might have been dying, there weren’t any lakes or rivers nearby and all eyes were on the man that had led them into this desolate place. God had told him to strike the rock the last time, why not this time as well?

Look at the progression of events:
1. Moses reacts, rather than responds to their frustration and complaints: “Listen you rebels...”
2. Moses assumes personal responsibility for meeting the needs of the people, rather than depending on God: “must we bring you water out of this rock?”
3. Moses operates out of his own strength to do what God had asked him to do: “Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.”
4. God responds in grace and gives water, in spite of Moses’ action, not because of it: “Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.”

God provides the commentary for Moses’ action:
“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.”

The Study notes in the NET Bible states that Moses was showing that he was not satisfied with what God had said, wanting something more forceful, giving the wrong picture of God to the people.”\ Moses did not display trust in God or His character to act.  In that moment, he wanted them to fear Moses more than God. Rather than Yahweh, whose loving kindness is everlasting, Moses gave an image of a god who was capricious. [note 17, Numbers 20:12, Loc 97126]
God describes Moses’ action in terms of a lack of trust and lack of honor.  So what does God mean by “honor” in this passage?  The transliteration of the verb is “Qadash” and it means “to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate” [

So what does the word ‘honor’ mean in this context? He failed to trust God to do what He said He would do. He failed to obey a direct commandment.  By his disobedience, Moses had failed to reflect the character of God. He allowed the frustrations and complaints of the multitudes to bother him, because he was assuming the responsibility of meeting their needs, rather than just allowing God to do so. He had been the central figure for so long he began to believe in his own importance, and his pride pushed him to take matters into his own hands. 

Honor in this context means an acknowledgment in the absolute power and authority of the One being honored, and surrendering total allegiance to His command and will.  When we honor other persons, we do so for some achievement, but when we honor God, it is not just for what He has done, it is for Who He is. Moses failed to trust God for who God was, he failed to respond to the One who was in absolute authority and control, and in anger he strikes the rock not just once, but twice.

His failure to show God the proper honor as a leader was extremely costly; he forfeited the privilege of going into the Promised Land, Canaan. Some might consider the punishment beyond the severity of the crime, but in the eyes of God, those that would represent His nature and character as leaders are held to a higher standard. Think of Saul and his failure to obey God completely with the destruction of the Amalekites; his partial obedience cost him a lasting dynasty. James underscores this principle in his letter: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” [James 3:1]  
What is the take away from this?  Are we honoring God? Are we acknowledging His greatness, and living in such a way that shows His absolute power and authority over all and surrendering completely to His command and will? What does such obedience looks like in real life?

1. We do not assume for ourselves the position of God in the lives with whom we work.  God may have called us into leadership, but only He can supply the needs of those to whom we have been called.
2. We do not allow personal pride and position to cause us to respond in a manner that does not reflect the nature and character of Christ.
3. We give God the freedom to work in a new way. We obey God just as He leads, even if it seems different than the way we might have previously done so.
4. We realize that failure to obey completely can have drastic and costly consequences.
5. Thank God for His love and grace that are constant.