“To you I raise my eyes, you who are enthroned in the heavens.”—PS. 123:1.
1, 2. What is involved in fixing our eyes on Jehovah?
WE ARE living in “critical times” that are “hard to deal with,” and life is going to become even more difficult before a new day dawns and true peace is restored to this earth. (2 Tim. 3:1) So we do well to ask ourselves, ‘Where am I looking for help and direction?’ Our immediate answer may be, “To Jehovah,” and that is the best response.
2 What is involved in looking to Jehovah? And how can we make sure that our eyes remain fixed on him as we face life’s complex challenges? Centuries ago, a psalmist acknowledged the need for us to raise our eyes to Jehovah for help in times of need. (Read Psalm 123:1-4.) He compared our looking to Jehovah with the way a servant looks to his master. What did the psalmist mean by that? Well, not only does a servant look to his master for food and protection but the servant needs constantly to watch his master to discern his wishes and then to carry them out. In a similar way, we daily need to search God’s Word to ascertain what Jehovah’s will is for us personally and then to follow that direction. Only then can we be sure that Jehovah will show us favor in our time of need.—Eph. 5:17.
3. What can distract us from keeping our eyes fixed on Jehovah?
3 Although we know the importance of continually looking to Jehovah, we may at times become distracted. That is exactly what happened to Jesus’ close friend Martha. She became “distracted with attending to many duties.” (Luke 10:40-42) If that could happen to such a faithful person when Jesus was physically with her, we should not be surprised if the same thing could happen to us. What, then, can distract us from keeping our eyes fixed on Jehovah? In this article, we will examine how the actions of others could distract us. We will also learn how to remain focused on Jehovah.
A FAITHFUL MAN LOSES A PRIVILEGE
4. Why might we be surprised that Moses lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land?
4 Moses certainly looked to Jehovah for direction and guidance. Indeed, “he continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Read Hebrews 11:24-27.) The Bible record tells us that “there has never again arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom Jehovah knew face-to-face.” (Deut. 34:10) But even though Moses had such a close relationship with Jehovah, he still lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land. (Num. 20:12) What caused Moses to stumble?
5-7. What problem arose shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, and how did Moses handle the situation?
5 Less than two months after the Israelites left Egypt, a serious problem arose—even before they arrived at Mount Sinai. The people started to complain about a lack of water. They began to murmur against Moses, and the situation became so serious that Moses cried out to Jehovah: “What should I do with this people? A little longer and they will stone me!” (Ex. 17:4) Jehovah responded by giving Moses clear instructions. He was to take his rod and strike the rock in Horeb, and then water would come gushing out. We read: “Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel.” The Israelites drank their fill, and the problem was solved.—Ex. 17:5, 6.
6 The inspired record goes on to tell us that Moses “named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because they put Jehovah to the test by saying: ‘Is Jehovah in our midst or not?’” (Ex. 17:7) Those names were appropriate because they mean “Testing” and “Quarreling.”
7 How did Jehovah feel about what happened there at Meribah? He viewed the actions of the Israelites as a challenge to his Godship, not just a rebellion against Moses. (Read Psalm 95:8, 9.) The Israelites were clearly in the wrong. On that occasion, Moses reacted correctly by looking to Jehovah and then carefully following his direction.
8. What problem arose toward the end of the 40-year journey through the wilderness?
8 What happened, though, when a similar event occurred some 40 years later, toward the end of the journey through the wilderness? The Israelites again found themselves in a location that came to be called Meribah. But this was a different site, one near Kadesh, close to the border of the Promised Land.* The Israelites once again complained about the lack of water. (Num. 20:1-5) But on this occasion, things turned out differently for Moses.
9. What instructions did Moses receive, but what did he do? (See opening picture.)
9 How did Moses react to this rebellion? Once again he turned his eyes to Jehovah for direction. But this time Jehovah did not tell him to strike the rock. Moses was told to take his rod, gather the people before the crag, and then speak to the crag. (Num. 20:6-8) Moses did not, however, speak to that rock, or crag. Rather, he vented his frustration by shouting out to those gathered there: “Hear, now, you rebels! Must we bring out water for you from this crag?” He then struck the crag not just once but twice.—Num. 20:10, 11.
10. How did Jehovah react to Moses’ actions?
10 Jehovah became angry, even furious, with Moses. (Deut. 1:37; 3:26) Why did Jehovah react in that way? A number of factors may have been involved. As mentioned above, Jehovah may have been indignant because Moses failed to follow the new directions he had received.
11. How might Moses’ action of striking the rock have detracted from the miracle Jehovah performed?
11 There is another possibility. Rock formations around the location of the first Meribah are solid granite. Regardless of how hard someone strikes granite, no one expects water to flow from it. However, cliff formations around the second Meribah are very different, usually consisting of softer limestone. Because of the porous nature of limestone, such areas often have underground reservoirs of water that can be tapped as a water supply. Could it be that when Moses struck such porous rock twice, he opened himself up to the accusation that the resulting flow of water was due to natural causes rather than to Jehovah? By striking the rock instead of speaking to it, was Moses, as it were, taking some of the miracle out of the miracle?* We cannot be certain.
HOW MOSES REBELLED
12. For what other reason might Jehovah have been angry with Moses and Aaron?
12 There is another plausible explanation for Jehovah’s anger with Moses as well as Aaron. Notice what Moses said to the people: “Must we bring out water for you from this crag?” By using the word “we,” Moses was likely referring to himself and Aaron. Those words indicated a gross lack of respect for Jehovah as the true Source of that miracle. This possibility seems to be confirmed by what we read at Psalm 106:32, 33: “They provoked Him at the waters of Meribah, and it went badly for Moses because of them. They embittered his spirit, and he spoke rashly with his lips.”* (Num. 27:14) Whatever the case, Moses’ actions detracted from the honor due Jehovah. Speaking to Moses and Aaron, Jehovah said: “You both rebelled against my order.” (Num. 20:24) A serious sin indeed!
13. Why was the judgment Jehovah made concerning Moses both appropriate and consistent?
13 As leaders among Jehovah’s people, Moses and Aaron had a greater measure of accountability. (Luke 12:48) Previously, Jehovah had denied a whole generation of Israelites entrance into the land of Canaan because of their rebelliousness. (Num. 14:26-30, 34) So it was both appropriate and consistent for Jehovah to make the same judgment with regard to Moses because of his rebellious act. Just like the other rebels, he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM
14, 15. What caused Moses to rebel?
14 What led Moses to adopt such a rebellious attitude? Notice Psalm 106:32, 33 once again: “They provoked Him at the waters of Meribah, and it went badly for Moses because of them. They embittered his spirit, and he spoke rashly with his lips.” Although the Israelites provoked Jehovah, it was Moses who became embittered. His lack of self-control led him to speak without considering the consequences.
15 Moses allowed the actions of others to distract him from keeping his eyes fixed on Jehovah. Moses handled the first incident correctly. (Ex. 7:6) Yet, it is possible that after dealing for decades with the rebellious Israelites, he had become tired and frustrated. Was Moses thinking mainly of his own feelings instead of how he could glorify Jehovah?
16. Why should we be concerned about Moses’ actions?
16 If such a faithful prophet as Moses could be distracted and stumbled, the same thing could easily happen to us. Like Moses, we are about to enter a symbolic land, the new world that Jehovah has promised us. (2 Pet. 3:13) None of us want to miss out on that special privilege. To fulfill our goal, though, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jehovah, always seeking to do his will. (1 John 2:17) What lessons should we learn from Moses’ mistake?
AVOID BEING DISTRACTED BY THE ACTIONS OF OTHERS
17. What will help us not to give in to frustration?
17 Do not give in to frustration. Even when we find ourselves dealing with the same problems over and over again, “let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due time we will reap if we do not tire out.” (Gal. 6:9; 2 Thess. 3:13) When faced with frustrating situations or recurring personality conflicts, do we control our lips and our temper? (Prov. 10:19; 17:27; Matt. 5:22) When provoked by others, we need to learn to “yield place to the wrath.” Whose wrath? Jehovah’s wrath. (Read Romans 12:17-21.) If we keep looking to Jehovah, we will show him due respect by yielding to his wrath, patiently waiting for him to take action when he deems it necessary. To do otherwise and avenge ourselves in some way would be tantamount to disrespecting Jehovah.
18. What do we need to remember when it comes to following directions?
18 Carefully follow the latest directions. Do we faithfully follow the latest directions that Jehovah has given us? If so, we will not rely on always doing things the way we have done them in the past. Rather, we will be quick to follow any new direction that Jehovah provides through his organization. (Heb. 13:17) At the same time, we will be careful that we “do not go beyond the things that are written.” (1 Cor. 4:6) In so doing, we keep our eyes fixed on Jehovah.
19. How can we avoid damaging our relationship with Jehovah even though we may be dealing with the mistakes of others?
19 Do not allow the mistakes of others to damage your relationship with Jehovah. If we keep our figurative eyes focused on Jehovah, we will not allow the actions of others to embitter us or damage our relationship with him. This is especially important if, like Moses, we have a measure of responsibility in God’s organization. While it is true that each of us needs to ‘keep working out his own salvation with fear and trembling,’ we must remember that Jehovah does not have one rigid, inflexible standard by which he judges us. (Phil. 2:12) Rather, the more responsibility we have, the greater our accountability. (Luke 12:48) But if we truly love Jehovah, nothing will stumble us or separate us from his love.—Ps. 119:165; Rom. 8:37-39.
20. What should be our determination?
20 In these challenging times, may our eyes be raised continually to the One who is “enthroned in the heavens,” so that we can perceive his will. May we never allow our relationship with Jehovah to be negatively affected by the actions of others. The example of what happened to Moses reinforces the importance of this in our mind and heart. Rather than overreacting to the imperfections of those around us, let it be our determination that “our eyes look to Jehovah our God until he shows us favor.”—Ps. 123:1, 2.
This was a different location from the Meribah that was near Rephidim. Unlike the first location, this second site was associated with Kadesh, not Massah. However, both locations were named Meribah because of the quarreling that occurred there.—See the map in Appendix B3 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
Professor John A. Beck says of this account: “According to one Jewish tradition, the rebels criticize Moses with these words: ‘Moses knows the properties of this particular rock! If he wishes to prove his miraculous powers, let him bring out water for us from this other one.’” This is, of course, only a tradition.
See The Watchtower, October 15, 1987, “Questions From Readers.”