For the past few months, I’ve been feeling like the Lord has been telling me to do something I just don’t want to do: join a small group at church. I’ve never been a big fan of small groups, they’ve always left me feeling awkward and uncomfortable. I have, historically, liked to find community organically. I highly value serving and, usually, that’s how I find my people within a church. In fact, that’s how I’ve always done it.
So the idea of finding community by joining a small group is one of the least natural things I can think of. Every time I would feel the Lord speak, I would tell him my plan instead: I would begin serving on Sundays first and find my community that way. I wasn’t going to dive deeper into the church through a small group, but by doing what I’ve always done.
Last week, however, I finally joined an online group because all of my excuses no longer held water. I couldn’t hide behind the excuse of not being able to get off of work on time or that I was going to serve first—my disobedience to God no longer had anywhere to hide.
When I was thinking about this the other day, I realized that I had done exactly what Moses did in the Old Testament: I was expecting that God would operate in the ways he had before, instead of trusting him to provide in new and creative ways.
In Exodus 17, the Israelites found themselves in a tough spot. They had been wandering around the desert and found themselves in a place with no water. The Lord had led them to that dry desert so he could provide for his people, but they began grumbling against God and against Moses, demanding water.
“The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.” Exodus 17:5-6 (NIV)
This was an incredible miracle of the Lord and a beautiful picture of him providing for his people in a clear and tangible way. God used Moses and his obedience to show Israel how much he loved them.
Later, as the group continued their journey around the desert, they found themselves in an eerily similar situation. The Lord had once again brought them into a dry, desert place in order to show his love and power to them. Yet, no one seemed to have learned from the first time—including Moses.
“The Lord said to Moses, “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.”
So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 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?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” Numbers 20:7-11 (NIV)
Though God told Moses to speak to the rock, Moses chose to strike it. Instead of trusting God enough to push through his insecurities about his speech, Moses relied upon his own might and a previous word from the Lord.
While God still provided in the face of Moses’s disobedience, I wonder what would’ve happened if he had obeyed fully.
We all go through different seasons throughout our lives, some of which might look eerily similar to previous ones. It’s easy to think, in a situation like that, that we can rely upon what we’ve done before. We can pull past words of God and acts of obedience in close during these times instead of clinging onto fresh revelation for today.
While I believe that we should celebrate past obedience in our lives, we shouldn’t rely on those moments to sustain us through today. Every time we go through a situation that’s similar to our past, it’s an opportunity for us to grow in our faith and obedience. Just because “that’s how we’ve always done it” doesn’t mean that’s how God’s calling us to handle this new situation.
I’m grateful that God still speaks, instructs, and guides us with grace and truth. I’m so thankful that he has fresh revelation and strength for us today—we don’t have to rely on past provision. I pray that we all have the courage to lean into what God is saying today and respond accordingly, even if it’s awkward, uncomfortable, or difficult.
What is God saying to you today, in this season, for this moment in time?
Have you ever found yourself applying past instructions to current situations?