“To you I raise my eyes, you who are enthroned in the heavens.”—PSALM 123:1.
1, 2. What does it mean to look to Jehovah?
WE ARE living in “critical times” that are “hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) And life is going to become even more difficult before Jehovah destroys this wicked world and brings true peace to the earth. For this reason, we should ask ourselves, ‘Whom do I look to for help and direction?’ We may immediately say, “To Jehovah,” and that is the best answer.
2 What does it mean to look to Jehovah? And how can we make sure that we keep looking to him when we have problems? A long time ago, one Bible writer explained how much we need to look to Jehovah when we need help. (Read Psalm 123:1-4.) He said that when we look to Jehovah, we are like a servant who looks to his master. How so? A servant looks to, or relies on, his master to give him food and to protect him. But he must also watch his master constantly to understand what his master wants him to do, and then he must do it. In a similar way, we must study God’s Word carefully every day to understand what Jehovah wants us to do, and then we must do it. Then we can be sure that Jehovah will help us when we need help.—Ephesians 5:17.
3. What can distract us from looking to Jehovah?
3 Even though we know that we must always look to Jehovah, sometimes we may 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 a faithful person such as Martha became distracted even though Jesus was right there with her, we should not be surprised that we could become distracted too. So, what can distract us from looking to Jehovah? In this article, we will discuss how we could be distracted by what others do. And we will learn how to keep looking to Jehovah.
A FAITHFUL MAN LOST 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. The Bible tells us that “he continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Read Hebrews 11:24-27.) It also says that “there has never again arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom Jehovah knew face-to-face.” (Deuteronomy 34:10) But even though Moses was a close friend of Jehovah, he lost the privilege of entering the Promised Land. (Numbers 20:12) What went wrong?
5-7. What happened soon after the Israelites left Egypt, and what did Moses do?
5 Less than two months after the Israelites left Egypt, and before they even arrived at Mount Sinai, something serious happened. The people started to complain because there was no water. They began to murmur against Moses and became so angry that “Moses cried out to Jehovah: ‘What should I do with this people? A little longer and they will stone me!’” (Exodus 17:4) Jehovah gave Moses clear instructions. Jehovah told him to take his rod and hit the rock in Horeb. The Bible says: “Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel.” Then water came out, the Israelites had plenty to drink, and the problem was solved.—Exodus 17:5, 6.
6 The Bible tells us that Moses named the place Massah, which means “Testing,” and Meribah, which means “Quarreling.” Why? “Because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because they put Jehovah to the test by saying: ‘Is Jehovah in our midst or not?’”—Exodus 17:7.
7 How did Jehovah feel about what happened at Meribah? He felt that the Israelites had rebelled against him and his authority, not just against Moses. (Read Psalm 95:8, 9.) What the Israelites did was very wrong. But Moses did the right thing. He looked to Jehovah and then carefully followed his instructions.
8. What happened near the end of the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness?
8 However, what happened in a similar situation about 40 years later? The Israelites were almost at the end of their journey through the wilderness. They arrived at a place near Kadesh, close to the border of the Promised Land. This place also became known as Meribah.* (See footnote.) Why? Because the Israelites complained again that there was no water. (Numbers 20:1-5) But this time, Moses made a serious mistake.
9. What instructions did Jehovah give to Moses, but what did Moses do? (See opening picture.)
9 What did Moses do when the people rebelled? Again, he looked to Jehovah for direction. But this time Jehovah did not tell Moses to hit the rock. He told Moses to take his rod, bring the people near the rock, and then speak to the rock. (Numbers 20:6-8) Did Moses do that? No. He was so frustrated and angry that he shouted at the people: “Hear, now, you rebels! Must we bring out water for you from this crag?” Then he hit the crag, or rock, not just once, but twice.—Numbers 20:10, 11.
Moses did not obey the new directions Jehovah had given him
10. How did Jehovah react to what Moses did?
11. By hitting the rock, why might Moses have made the Israelites think that Jehovah did not perform a miracle?
11 There may be another reason why Jehovah was angry. The massive rocks at the first Meribah are solid granite. No matter how hard someone hits granite, no one expects that water will come out. But the rocks at the second Meribah are very different. Most of them are a kind of rock called limestone. Because limestone is a softer kind of rock, water often seeps into it and collects underground. Then, people can get this water by making a hole in the rock. So when Moses hit the rock instead of speaking to it, could it be that the Israelites thought the water came out naturally and not because Jehovah performed a miracle?* (See footnote.) We cannot say for sure.
HOW MOSES REBELLED
12. What may be another reason why Jehovah was angry with Moses and Aaron?
12 There may be still another reason why Jehovah was so angry with Moses and Aaron. Moses told the people: “Must we bring out water for you from this crag?” When Moses said “we,” he was likely referring to himself and Aaron. What Moses said was very disrespectful because he did not give Jehovah all the credit for that miracle. Psalm 106:32, 33 says: “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.”* (See footnote.) (Numbers 27:14) Moses did not give Jehovah the honor He deserved. Jehovah told Moses and Aaron: “You both rebelled against my order.” (Numbers 20:24) That was a very serious sin!
13. Why was the way Jehovah punished Moses right and fair?
13 Jehovah expected more of Moses and Aaron because they were leading His people. (Luke 12:48) In the past, Jehovah had not allowed an entire generation of Israelites to go into the Promised Land because they had rebelled against him. (Numbers 14:26-30, 34) So it was right and fair that when Moses rebelled, Jehovah punished him in the same way. Just like the other rebels, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM
14, 15. What caused Moses to rebel against Jehovah?
14 What caused Moses to rebel against Jehovah? Notice again what Psalm 106:32, 33 says: “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.” So even though the Israelites rebelled against Jehovah, it was Moses who became embittered, or angry. He did not show self-control but spoke without thinking about the consequences.
15 Moses stopped looking to Jehovah because he allowed the actions of others to distract him. The first time the people complained about water, Moses did what was right. (Exodus 7:6) But maybe he became tired and frustrated because the Israelites had rebelled for many years. It could be that Moses was now thinking only about his own feelings instead of how he could glorify Jehovah.
We must continue to look to Jehovah and always obey him
16. Why should we think about what Moses did?
16 If a faithful prophet such as Moses could become distracted and sin, the same thing could easily happen to us. Moses was about to enter the Promised Land, and we are about to enter the new world. (2 Peter 3:13) We certainly do not want to lose that special privilege. But to enter the new world, we must continue to look to Jehovah and always obey him. (1 John 2:17) What lessons can we learn from Moses’ mistake?
DO NOT LET WHAT OTHERS DO DISTRACT YOU
17. How can we avoid losing our self-control when we are frustrated?
17 Do not lose your self-control when you are frustrated. Sometimes we experience the same problems over and over again. But the Bible says: “Let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due time we will reap if we do not tire out.” (Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13) When something or someone frustrates us again and again, do we think before we speak? Do we control our temper? (Proverbs 10:19; 17:27; Matthew 5:22) When others provoke us, we need to learn to “yield place to the wrath,” or allow room for Jehovah to express his anger. (Read Romans 12:17-21.) What does that mean? Instead of becoming angry, we patiently wait for Jehovah to do something about our problem when he thinks it is necessary. If we tried to get revenge instead of looking to Jehovah, we would be disrespecting him.
18. What should we remember about following directions?
18 Carefully follow the latest directions. Do we faithfully follow the latest directions that Jehovah has given us? We should not keep doing things the way we have always done them in the past just because that is what we are used to doing. Instead, we should be quick to follow any new direction that Jehovah gives us through his organization. (Hebrews 13:17) Also, we must be careful not to “go beyond the things that are written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6) When we follow Jehovah’s directions carefully, we keep looking to him.
19. How can we avoid letting the mistakes of others damage our friendship with Jehovah?
19 Do not allow the mistakes of others to damage your friendship with Jehovah. If we continue to look to Jehovah, we will not damage our friendship with him or become angry because of what others do. This is especially important if, like Moses, we have some responsibility in God’s organization. Of course, each of us needs to work hard and obey Jehovah to be saved. (Philippians 2:12) However, the more responsibility we have, the more Jehovah expects of us. (Luke 12:48) But if we really love Jehovah, nothing will stumble us or separate us from his love.—Psalm 119:165; Romans 8:37-39.
20. What should we be determined to do?
20 We live in difficult and challenging times. So it is very important that we keep looking to Jehovah, who is “enthroned in the heavens,” in order to understand what he wants us to do. We should never allow the actions of others to damage our friendship with Jehovah. What happened to Moses teaches us this very important lesson. Instead of overreacting when others make mistakes, let us be determined to “look to Jehovah our God until he shows us favor.”—Psalm 123:1, 2.
This Meribah was different from the Meribah near Rephidim that was also called Massah. However, both places were called Meribah because the Israelites quarreled, or complained, there.—See the map in Appendix B3 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
One Bible scholar says that according to a Jewish tradition, the rebels claimed that this was no miracle because Moses knew that this rock had water in it. So they wanted him to repeat the miracle on another rock. Of course, this is only a tradition.
See The Watchtower, October 15, 1987, “Questions From Readers.”