BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
Psalm 106:32-33 says, “They angered Him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses on account of them; because they rebelled against His Spirit, so that he spoke rashly with his lips” (NKJV). I would like to look at this scripture from different translations of the Bible in order to appreciate what the writer says.
“At Meribah, too, they angered the LORD, causing Moses serious trouble. They made Moses angry, and he spoke foolishly” (NLT).
“They angered him also at the waters of Meribah, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes; because they were rebellious against his spirit, and he spake unadvisedly with his lips” (ASV). Unadvisedly means without careful consideration or without asking the advice of others.
“The people also made the LORD angry at Meribah, and Moses was in trouble because of them. The people turned against the Spirit of God, so Moses spoke without stopping to think” (NCV).
“They angered the Lord also at the waters of Meribah, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes; for they provoked [Moses’] spirit, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips” (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition).
“They angered God again at Meribah Springs; this time Moses got mixed up in their evil; because they defied God yet again, Moses exploded and lost his temper” (The Message).
Having seen the different translations of Psalm 106:32-33, we need to understand that the original incident at the waters of Meribah is recorded in Numbers 20:2-13. This was the second time God brought out water from the rock for the children of Israel when they lacked water. The first time water came out of the rock is recorded in Exodus 17:1-17.
From the account of the second incident of water from the rock in Numbers 20:2-13, something significant happened there that was a watershed for Moses and Aaron.
“There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The people blamed Moses and said, ‘We wish we had died in the LORD’s presence with our brothers! Did you bring the LORD’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, figs, grapes, or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!’ Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD said to Moses, ‘You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, command the rock over there to pour out its water. You will get enough water from the rock to satisfy all the people and their livestock.’ So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the LORD. Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So all the people and their livestock drank their fill. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them! This place was known as the waters of Meribah, because it was where the people of Israel argued with the LORD, and where he demonstrated his holiness among them’” (Numbers 20:2-13 NLT).
In this second instance, Moses didn’t follow God’s instruction. He was angry because of the attitude of the children of Israel, and, in error, he struck the rock twice, contrary to the instruction that he should speak to the rock. That was very bad. However, that is the danger of reacting to provocation – one is vulnerable to acting wrongly because one loses one’s calm, one is disoriented.
Psalm 106:32-33 does not mention the aspect of Moses striking the rock twice. Rather, the psalmist points out the manner of his speech to the Israelites on that occasion. How did Moses speak, which displeased God in addition to striking the rock twice? Moses spoke rashly with his lips, and Moses and Aaron were denied the opportunity of entering the Promised Land. Numbers 20:10 tells us what Moses said on that occasion: “Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’” (NLT).
If we go back to the different Bible translations of Psalm 106:32-33, we can see that Moses speaking rashly with his lips also means that he spoke foolishly, spoke unadvisedly with his lips, spoke without stopping to think, exploded, and lost his temper. That was what ended abruptly the ministry of Moses and Aaron. The death of Aaron is recorded in Numbers 20:22-29 while the death of Moses is recorded in Deuteronomy 34:1-8.
Control your anger
It appears that Moses had a problem with his temper. You will recall how in Egypt before he fled from Pharaoh, he had killed an Egyptian (Exodus 2). That was a mistake on his part; that was not how God wanted to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Eighty years after, he still had to deal with this same problem – or rather the problem dealt with him. If you do not control your temper, you will be prone to making mistakes. Proverbs 14:29 says, “Those who control their anger have great understanding; those with a hasty temper will make mistakes” (NLT). Moses made a mistake in Egypt, and also, at the water of Meribah. Aaron also suffered from the wrong action of his boss.
As long as you are on this earth and relate with people, it is certain that people will make you angry, knowingly or unknowingly. However, do not allow people to provoke you to speak foolishly, unadvisedly, without thinking. “But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell,” says our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:22 NLT).
People may provoke you, but that is not a sufficient reason not to control yourself. That should not be an excuse. What is at stake is much – your destiny, your health, your marriage, your family, your ministry, your lifetime labour, eternity, etc. Do not explode and lose something that is precious or everything that you’ve labored for; do not scatter what you have built.
James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight” (NLT). Yes, provoking you is wrong, but your decision to speak in anger won’t make things right in God’s sight. Your action will be as wrong as the action of the person who provoked you. No matter how much the provocation, the advice of wisdom is: do not speak rashly. “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Proverbs 12:18 NKJV). Proverbs 14:17 says, “Those who are short-tempered do foolish things, and schemers are hated” (NLT).
The best speech you will ever regret
In the face of provocation, guard your mouth; say nothing when you are angry. If you speak in anger, you may regret what you will say. Someone said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Can anyone fault that statement? If it’s possible for you to ask Moses to tell you one speech he regretted making, this incident I’m talking about must be number one because it ended his ministry abruptly.
If you do not want to make the best speech you will ever regret making, do not speak when you are angry. You are most likely going to say things you ordinarily would not have said. However, once you say it, it is no longer under your control. Even when you say, “I’m withdrawing that statement” or you ask for forgiveness, people can still remember what you said. Someone who didn’t say anything, you can’t misquote him! “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6 NKJV).
If you are provoked and you cannot stay around the person without replying in anger, move away from the scene for your anger to subside – you can revisit the matter later when there is no tension. During the break, the other person may also have reflected on his action and therefore be ready to make amends. Even if he does not, someone who maintains calm in the face of provocation is the winner! He has nothing to regret.
Winning the war of self-control
You cannot make an angry speech and be in control of yourself. Anger controls you at that time. Do not make an angry speech you will regret; an angry speech destroys rather than build. Proverbs 13:3 says, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (NKJV). 1 Peter 3:10 says, “If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies” (NLT).
Reacting to people’s provocation by speaking in anger is surrendering the control of your tongue to them. This should not be. God gave you your tongue – it is yours, but you will give account to God how you used it. Do not allow what somebody else says or does to control how you use it. That is why the Bible talks a lot about self-control (temperance). You will find this in Acts 24:25; 1 Corinthians 9:25; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Timothy 3:2-3; 1 Peter 1:13; and 2 Peter 1:5-6.
Proverbs 16:32 says, “It is better to be patient than powerful; it is better to have self-control than to conquer a city” (NLT). If you lose the war of self-control, it makes no difference if you win other wars! The greatest war and most important war you must constantly fight and win is that of self-control. Whatever you accomplish without constantly winning the war of self-control, you are at the risk of losing. Self-control is a veritable defence. “A person without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls” (Proverbs 25:28 NLT).
Control your tongue. If you can control your tongue, you can also control yourself in every other way (James 3:2-12). James 1:26 says those who claim to be religious but lack control of their tongues deceive themselves.
Think before you speak. Do not speak in reaction to provocation. “There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking” (Proverbs 29:20 NLT).
Conclusion: Walk in love. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love is not provoked. Anger is part of human emotions. Nevertheless, remember that the Bible says, “And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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