podcast

#602 – When the End Doesn’t Justify the Means (Numbers 20:10–11)

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“Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Here now, you rebels. Shall we bring water for you out of this rock?’ Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice. Water came out abundantly and the congregation drank, and their livestock.”
(Numbers 20:10–11)

There’s so much here to dive into. We won’t dive into it all in light of just the short time, but the whole picture here is Moses just disobeyed God in a way that would lead him to forfeit the opportunity to go into the Promised Land. This was a massive moment in Moses’ life, in the history of God’s people. God had said not to strike the rock, but to speak to the rock. God had said to do this in a way that would reflect his character. What happens, though, is Moses takes this into his own hands. He strikes the rock out of anger, much like he has done before, but you can hear it. “You rebels, shall we do this for you?” He didn’t honor the Lord as holy before the people. That’s what verse 12 says.

Like Moses, there is a temptation for us not to do God’s work God’s way. Lord please help us to value Your Word more than a pragmatism that sees efficiency and effectiveness as supreme.

So I want you to notice this, and particularly for those who are in any leadership position in the church. The need in Numbers 20 was for water, and the people got water. So end justifies the means, right? Whatever it takes, they got water. That’s the point. No, it’s not the point. It’s not just about getting to a certain outcome or having a certain need met. How we get there matters. How we represent God getting there matters. And I just mention that because there is much temptation, and there’s so much to dive into here, but just think. There is much temptation in church leadership to achieve ends in ways that do not honor God through the means.

A simple example. We can draw a lot of people into a room for an event, but how we do that and what we communicate about God in that is extremely important. Are we representing God as holy? Are we doing exactly what God has said in order to draw people to himself? These are questions that leaders among God’s people must ask. We can’t just say, “Look, everybody who was thirsty got water. It was awesome.” No, we’ve gotta ask, did we follow God’s word and do we represent God’s holiness? Did we bring glory to him with the way we went about this? Did we do God’s work God’s way?

So, oh God, as a pastor, I pray for this. I pray for this in my life and in my leadership. I pray for this in other pastors around me in the church. I pray for other pastors and other churches, other leaders at other churches. Oh God, the leaders in the church I pastor, God, please, please, please, help us to do your work your way. God, help us to do your work according to your word, to trust your word. Not to go outside the bounds of your word. Not to take things into our own hands, do things that we think might work better. Oh God, may it not be so. Deliver us from that kind of thinking. Deliver us from a pragmatism that says, just do whatever works. Whatever’s most efficient, most effective in this way or that way. Not that efficiency and effectiveness are bad in and of themselves, but God, if they bypass your word, your ways, you truth, reflecting your holiness, your character, we don’t wanna be efficient or effective. We don’t want to get to ends through means that don’t bring honor and glory to you, that don’t represent you the way you called us to represent you. So God, please, please keep us tethered to your word and leadership in the church and cause us to reflect your holiness, we pray, in all that we do. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

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David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and president of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, and Counter Culture.
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