A Provoked Spirit

“They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.” (Psalm 106:32-33)

This terse passage summarizes the tragic events described in Numbers 20:1-13. If ever a religious leader had a right to be provoked with an ungrateful and complaining flock, Moses did. Finally, after years of privation in the wilderness, the people complained once too often, and Moses could take it no longer (or so he thought). In anger, he rebuked the rebels and smote the rock, taking credit himself for God’s miraculous provision of water. As a result, God rebuked him, and he was not allowed to enter the promised land.

It is all too easy, in times of pressure and inconsiderate selfishness all around us, to rise up in “righteous indignation” and, like Moses, “spake unadvisedly with [our] lips.” This is surely one of Satan’s most common devices. Such verbal assaults may be well deserved and may seem to give personal satisfaction for a time, but they are usually counterproductive in the long run and very hurtful to one’s testimony for Christ to those so assaulted (imagine Peter trying to witness to Malchus after he had sliced off Malchus’ ear in anger!). Unfortunately, “the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

The Lord Jesus Himself is the ideal example in this difficult realm for “he was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He could have called ten legions of angels to destroy His tormentors, but instead He prayed: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Let us not be easily provoked to so-called righteous indignation. “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). HMM

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