Water From The Rock.
I’ve been on a mission of late. I have been seeking God so deeply – looking for answers, real answers to all sorts of questions. Last week I was privileged to be able to share a revelation on how to ask God for provision. The account of Caleb and his daughter has such a gentle quality about it; such a soft and tender image of a child simply asking for something from her father. It has revolutionised our prayer life as a couple. Up until then, so much of what we had been doing was the spiritual equivalency of clutching at straws. This got me thinking.
Something about that particular story kept nudging my spirit. I kept looking at it. Then I saw it. Achsah’s request was granted not only because she knew what she wanted before she asked, but because she came in humility. She dismounted from her donkey before she asked anything of her father. Caleb, we know, was one of the two eldest of the entire nation of Israel. He and Joshua were all who remained of those who left Egypt; the rest fell in the desert. Even if Achsah hadn’t have been Caleb’s daughter, he would have warranted such respect.
So, what did we learn that revolutionised our prayer life? Well, we learnt that we needed to be specific in what we ask for; that we need to come before the throne of grace in humility; but there was one more thing we needed…faith.
On Monday morning I had intervened into a situation that we had previously handed over to God to sort out. I intervened because we had been put under pressure and it looked as if God wasn’t going to act. As it turned out, God was very gracious to us when I realised my mistake. I repented and He worked it to the good, as He does for all who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I only mention it now because it was the catalyst that led to the revelation that I am about to share with you. In my seeking of His ways, I came upon a conundrum that has been a puzzle for many years. And, because He does work all things to the good, He used my mistake to show me the answer that I had been seeking for so long – What stops God from answering my prayers?
Now, I need to qualify that question before I take you any further. What I am talking about is the prayers I pray that I know are in line with His perfect will. I’m not talking about the prayers I might pray for stuff or outcomes that are in line with my will (however I might dress them up to look like God’s will). No, I am talking about the stuff that God has told us is His will for our lives and yet He then seemingly ignores our prayers when we bring the matter before Him.
In my last posting I told you the story of the vacuum cleaner. This particular lesson hasn’t gone away. It is still active and so it reappears here as part of God’s grace towards me. God showed me previously that if we prayed in the way I had prayed for the vacuum cleaner He would provide. All very simple and I thought I’d cracked it. However, I was wrong…but just how wrong I was I found very unsettling.
On Monday I had taken my eyes off of God and decided that a particular situation that involved (believe it or not) the General Register Office, King’s Lynn Registration Office and the Valuation Office in Norwich, needed my sharp tongue to expedite the floundering process. This particular situation had been going on since February this year and was becoming a hindrance to all sorts of other issues to do with Cornerstone. Thinking that God was busy or had decided that the urgency I saw was unwarranted, I stepped up to the plate and sorted the matter out. All good. Except for when I woke on Tuesday morning I found myself so heavily convicted by the Holy Spirit that I had stepped out rather than up. I was off the proverbial reservation.
When the Holy Spirit convicts me of something I have chosen to follow the example of King David – fess up straight away. Don’t delay. Humble yourself before God and accept whatever comes your way as a result. Take a look at what I am talking about in the 2nd Book of Samuel and chapter 12. David went on to write Psalm 51 as a result of this encounter.
What the Holy Spirit showed me wasn’t particularly gentle. It was more like a spiritual version of open-heart surgery. I was so convinced of my own guilt that I had nowhere to go except to confess and repent. He showed me that my intervention wasn’t required because, if I had have let God, He would have resolved the situation according to His timing. He showed me that I intervened because I didn’t trust God to do it Himself. He showed me that at the very root of my actions was a sin that is so subtle that it has the ability to shape-shift and present itself as humility. He showed me that I was guilty of the sin of unbelief. Unbelief. The anti-matter of faith. The Kryptonite of all Christians. The Original Sin.
With the story of the vacuum cleaner I had learnt something simple – ask and just believe. I did and it worked. I had been specific, humble in the asking, and simply believed that it would be done. And it was – beyond my expectations. But, with the situation on Monday several factors played a role in this sorry little play. Firstly, in my prayers over this issue I had been vague. I didn’t really know what I was praying for, I just wanted it sorted. Secondly, my intervention exposes my lack of humility like I had taken an axe to it. And clearly, my lack of faith had driven that intervention. But something altogether more important revealed itself – something of the way that God works. Now, this is going to sound complicated, but that is only because it is really very simple and because it is very simple we find it hard to believe. Ironic isn’t it?
God will only act if we ask Him.
If we ask Him, we give Him permission to act on our behalf and in line with His will.
If we then intervene, we take back our permission for God to act.
Because we take back that permission, God withdraws and lets us get on with it.
Why? Because He loves us and will let us learn through our own mistakes and, most importantly, He will never prevent us from having our own sovereign free will.
Now apply those rules to anything that you give to God in prayer and then take back.
You see, when we pray ‘your will be done’ we are giving Him permission to work in our lives. But if we don’t mean it we shouldn’t pray it.
As I have already said, God was gracious to us because the situation that we had given Him in prayer and then took back control of, actually got all sorted out according to His purpose, despite my unbelief.
Unbelief. Lack of faith. Failure to trust in God’s promises. Just like Adam and Eve, back in the Garden. The root of all sin. Satan used words to cause these two children of God to doubt and not believe what God had previously said to them. It is the same tactic that Satan uses today. He has no new tricks.
Can you just imagine this – that we simply believed everything that God says to us. Really believed it. With no doubt. And then we lived out our lives in line with those beliefs. How different things would be. Well, that’s how simple it could be…if we just believe.
Let’s take a look at a good example of what unbelief does. The consequences of this subtle sin are dire for all of us.
“Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying:
“If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.”
So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
“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; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”
So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them,
“Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”
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 said 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.”” [Numbers 20:2-12 NKJV]
As you can see from the text, the direct result of the unbelief of Moses was that the entire Israelite nation was prevented from entering the very land promised to them when God provided escape from the tyranny of Egypt. I should say here that two people present that day did make it into the promised land. But only two. Joshua and Caleb. The rest died in the desert. You might think it sounds a little harsh on God’s part but hold on. Let’s look a little more closely at what happened.
Moses and Aaron knew how to get water from rocks. They had done it before (see Exodus 17). They struck the rock with the rod and water flowed from it. But on this occasion God had said for them to speak to the rock. However Moses, who was clearly frustrated at his compatriots, didn’t speak to the rock. He spoke to the people and struck the rock twice with the rod. God was gracious and still let the water flow as it did last time. He’s like that. But Moses had decided to do it the way knew worked rather than trusting what God had said.
I think there is a lesson here for all Christians – that we should listen exactly to what God says and be obedient to His word, regardless of what we know to have worked in the past. Stop looking back to find ‘formulas’ that worked. Read Isaiah 43 and expect for God to do something new. Who knows what we might be missing out on if we are simply obedient and believe what God says.
Of course the story of the water from the rock isn’t just about Moses’ unbelief. It is also a metaphor for Jesus, the Christ. In fact just about everything in the Old Testament is pointing towards Jesus. And Jesus is the Rock of our Salvation. He is the chief Cornerstone. Speak to the rock and water will flow. Believe that it will happen.
When Jesus met with the Samaritan woman as described in John’s gospel we see the analogy expanded. They are discussing the water from the well at which they sit.
“Jesus answered and said to her,
” Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into eternal life.”” [John 4:13-14 NKJV]
The woman then speaks to Jesus and asks for that water. She spoke to the rock and asked for water. And that is just how God would have us come to Him. Simply; believing that we will receive.
The example of Moses is just one of a whole multitude contained in the pages of the Bible that all show consequences for unbelief. The reason why God seemed harsh with His punishment is that He knew exactly what that unbelief was rooted in. He didn’t want the Israelites to take it into the promised land. He knew that unbelief gives birth to all other sins. Carefully read the account of the fall of man in Genesis and note how quickly the initial sin of unbelief fosters other sins.
I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that I was constantly not believing what God says. We have made it all so complicated. I even tell people what God has said to us and still don’t believe some of it in my heart! We dress up unbelief in so many different disguises but when you strip off the masks and clothes you simply have that original sin. It is hard to face. We like to justify our behaviour in any way we can. But with this, there is no justification that we can achieve by our own efforts. Thankfully, our Rock, the Saviour of the entire world has made justification before God possible.
I always like to try and find a practical way of explaining what I write on here. A working out. Because when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin (and that is part of His job – to convict the world of sin – see John 16:8), He doesn’t leave us hanging. He shows us The Way. Of course The Way is narrow.
My original question in this post was about why doesn’t God answer my prayers, even when they are in line with His perfect will. Well, there is no easy answer. We have covered some of the reason above. The root cause, you might say. But, as I said, I like to describe the practical methods that the Holy Spirit shows me. What follows is a little out of fashion for much of today’s modern, relevant church. It’s out of fashion because it is not an easy message. Our evangelists and preachers find it to be a hard-sell. Grace is easy to sell to people, if you leave out what precipitates grace.
From the root of unbelief grow the bad fruits of arrogance, pride, falsehood, envy, bitterness, adultery, idolatry, murder, drunkenness and everything else. Trace it all back. The moment we stop believing what God says we fall into sin. If I pray to God for help in a situation and don’t believe He can or will help me, my prayer will bounce off the ceiling. If I pray for revival in Hunstanton and my own house is not in order, how could I possibly expect my prayer to be heard? If I bear a grudge against anyone (even if you feel justified doing so because the other person was wrong), how can you expect God to listen to anything you pray? If you and other people from your church pray together and one of you is sinning, how can you expect God to listen?
The Way is this:
If you want God to answer your prayers you must make your way to the foot of the cross. Everyday. You must ask the Holy Spirit to show you all that is in your heart that would prevent your prayers being answered. He might not show you all at once because sometimes the sanctification that follows takes time. But whatever He shows you, you must repent of completely. There and then. Only then is that offence covered by the Blood of the Lamb. Only at that point will the Blood plead on your behalf to God. Only then will you be made clean, washed by that precious Blood. And then, cleaned and sanctified, you can speak to the Rock and water will flow from Him to you. It will overflow from you to others. It is love. We must practice this every day. We are commanded to show love to everyone, without exception.
You have to remind yourself that you have been bought at a price. You are not your own. You belong to God. You are His bondservant. You are not due wages or comfort or anything. You will get them all and more, but you are a bondservant, a slave who belongs to the King of Kings. And when you recognise your humility then, and only then, can you get back onto His path – the way of holiness. For that is what He calls us to be – holy, because He is holy.
You then have to invite the Holy Spirit to fill and refresh you and to guide you always. And when you slip off the path the next time, because you will, you have to repeat the whole process from the start.
You must lay aside all ambition, all desires. You must be master over your flesh. You must resist the devil. You must welcome trials and tribulation and know that God is allowing you to be tested in order to make you more like Jesus.
You must learn to offer your life up to God each new day and purpose to love every one you encounter, regardless of how they treat you. When you can ask the Holy Spirit to show you what would be preventing you from having your prayers heard and answered, and you feel peace in your heart, then you can come before the very throne of God and know that Jesus will be at His right hand pleading your case.