November 5, 2007

My Brother's Keeper

It was all his idea. Honestly. My brother & I found a bottle of Mercurochrome. Wouldn't it be great fun to paint my hand with it & trick our parents?

(Let me stop right here & say that I worshiped my older brother. I would've done anything to make him think I was cool and fun to hang around with. To the point of being an idiot, obviously.)

He poured the garish orange liquid over my hand, and we walked into the house to find Mama. His arms around me. Me holding my hand up. I even managed to summon up real tears.

Daddy, who was in the backyard, had seen us outside with our heads bowed together. He realized that we were probably up to no good. We didn't know he was behind us when we found Mama. She nearly fainted. Fortunately, Daddy was there to recognize that my hand was not cut off. But by the time the punishment was over, I nearly wished it had been.

* * * * *

Faced with the Israelites' complaints (yet again), Moses & Aaron sought the Lord's instructions.

Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 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."
--Numbers 20:6-8

I'm sure Moses was just about at his wits' end with leading the stubborn, ungrateful children of Israel. How much more did the Lord expect him to take? Perhaps with all his heart, Moses wanted to be obedient. Maybe his frustration got the better of him. Maybe he was distracted and didn't pay close enough attention to everything the Lord said. Whatever the reason, he decided to take matters into his own hands, literally.

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 20:9-11

Although the Lord allowed the water to spew forth, He was angry that Moses and Aaron didn't follow His command to the letter. Punishment was swift.

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."
At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron's garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there." Moses did as the LORD commanded: They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. Moses removed Aaron's garments and put them on his son Eleazar. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain.
--Numbers 20:12, 23-28

My heart broke for Moses when I read this. Not only was he a witness to his brother's death, but he was responsible for it. His emotions, pride, and just plain human-ness caused him to disobey God. Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one to suffer as a result of the sin. Aaron's life was taken from him, while Moses stood by and watched. I did Moses feel when the Lord told him to take Aaron on the mountain and strip him of his clothing? To see his brother, with whom he'd ministered and witnessed countless miracles of God, naked before him and the entire nation. Was he filled with guilt and regret?

Just as Moses watched Aaron pay the price for his sin, Moses also paid the price for Aaron's. Aaron was with Moses when the Lord gave the directions to speak to the rock. Perhaps Aaron, more than anyone, knew Moses' penchant for impulse and emotion. When he first saw Moses raise the staff, he should have stepped in. He could have grabbed the staff and reminded Moses of God's command. Yet he looked on in silence as Moses disobeyed the Lord.

Friends, we are our brother's (sister's) keeper! Though it's not considered to be politically correct or tolerant, we cannot simply stand by and watch fellow believers disobey the Lord without warning them of the danger. Aaron failed Moses as much as Moses failed him.

My brother formulated the plot, but I knew that scaring my parents was wrong. Scared of what he might think, I went along with the game. In doing so, I let my brother down.

Lord Jesus, help me to love our brothers and sisters enough to stand up to them when they disobey you. Give me the wisdom and strength to reproach them in love, and to direct them back to you. Remind me to check my own heart and motives so that I am not sitting in judgment. May I love them as you do. Lord, I also pray that when I am disobedient, You will send someone to me to remind me of Your truth, and bring me back to you.


Heather C said...

Amen. Echoing your beautiful prayer.


Alana said...

Great post, Melissa. I love how you tied the story of you and your brother into the devotion.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

You know, I read this story so often and hear of the swift punishment, but never really let it sink in. strip his brother of his clothing and have him die....

I love how you related to your own life and being your "brother's keeper".

I love that prayer and shall adapt it to my own self. Thanks.

Janelle said...

Great lesson. Thank you for the personal reflection as well.