Today, the 22nd day of Tishri, is called Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day). Traditionally, it was on this day that Moses received the message that he was soon to die and that he would not enter into Canaan. This was greatly disappointing to Moses who, on more than one occasion, petitioned the LORD to allow him into the land – but to no avail. Therefore, the reason for this decision merits our attention.
“Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, ‘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.’”
This message given to Moses and to Aaron is a warning to all of us, in particular, those who regard themselves as leaders or those wanting to be leaders. Here’s what happened: Moses lost his cool and losing his cool caused him to disobey God. Moses let his frustration get the better of him and, consequently, his actions set a bad example before all of the people; he didn’t sanctify the LORD in the sight of the people.
It’s one thing to get angry and frustrated, but it’s another thing entirely to let that anger and frustration provoke you to do or say something in front of people that diminishes God’s name in their eyes. And so, his inability or unwillingness to control his temper played a major role in being forbidden to go into the Promised Land.
It is important for us to understand that, from the beginning of time, God’s desire has been to have a relationship with man to the extent that He wishes to dwell among us. So everything about what He does and what He commands us to do is based on having a relationship with Him and having good relationships with one another. God’s desire to have a relationship with us is so strong that it compels Him to bestow mercy upon us every day because we always fall short of His standards. We know that He is committed to this relationship and, so, the question becomes, “How desperate are we to have a relationship with Him?”
If we are committed to having a relationship with Him, we must be committed to loving one another and that means being merciful, compassionate and long suffering with our neighbor. In doing so, we demonstrate to those we encounter the attributes of the Creator. When we behave in a manner that is contrary to His character we are, potentially, diminishing His name in the sight of others which might then cause them to balk at having a relationship with Him.
Think of it this way: the people of Israel looked to Moses as God’s minister and seeing him lose his cool might have caused some of them to look at God in a not so flattering way. When people have an inaccurate perception of God, it might cause them to turn away from a relationship with Him. The lesson is this: we should all be careful to always sanctify His Name in the sight of people, especially if one is in some type of leadership position. Furthermore, in order to fulfill this mandate, we will be required to display patience and mercy.
It should be noted that extending mercy doesn’t constitute approval of someone’s actions. It just means that you’re giving them the opportunity to grow and to mature. Isn’t that what God does for all of us? He grants mercy that we might have a chance to adjust our behavior and grow stronger in our relationship with Him. So the next time God’s people anger and frustrate you, it might not be a good idea to take a stick and hit something.