Authority and Submission, by Watchman Nee


The result of this incident was the manifestation of God’s judgment. God said that Moses and Aaron could no longer enter the land of Canaan on account of their mistake (v. 12b). When man speaks and acts loosely and does not sanctify God, He will vindicate Himself. When this happens, man can no longer ask God for forgiveness. Here is another thing that we should note: Every time we execute God’s authority and take care of His business, we have to do it with fear and trembling. We cannot let down our guard or become presumptuous just because we have become old. When Moses was angry and threw down God’s handwritten tablets of stone, God did not judge him because he was filled with God’s jealousy, and it was right for him to do that. He was zealous for God, and God did not rebuke him. But after following God for so many years, he misrepresented God by disobeying Him, striking the rock twice, and speaking rash words. He had incriminated God in his mistakes, and he had dragged God into his error. He made others think that his words were God’s words and his judgments God’s judgments. This was a grave error. In order to serve God, we must sanctify Him, and we must not associate Him with ourselves loosely. Otherwise, when God vindicates Himself, we will suffer severe judgment. Moses lost his right to enter Canaan through this one mistake.


The Israelites could not enter Canaan because they had rebelled many times. Moses and Aaron were wrong only once. Yet they could not enter Canaan either. It is a sobering thing to be a deputy authority. God’s judgment on a deputy authority is serious. In Numbers 18 God told Aaron that he and his sons would bear the iniquity of the sanctuary (v. 1). The more a person represents God’s authority, the more God scrutinizes him and will not let him go. In Luke 12 the Lord also said, “To every one to whom much has been given, much will be required from him; and to whom much has been committed, they will ask of him all the more” (v. 48).

Numbers 20 tells us that Aaron would die on Mount Hor through this judgment. We see Moses, Aaron, and his son Eleazar going up Mount Hor together (vv. 25-27). What a beautiful picture this is! All three were submissive and willingly accepted God’s judgment. They really knew God. This is why they did not even pray. Aaron knew that his day had come, and Moses also knew what was to become of himself. They were like Abraham when he took Isaac up the mountain. Abraham knew Isaac’s future. God told Moses to take Aaron and Eleazar with him up to the mountain, because in the incident by the waters of Meribah, Moses was the one who took the lead. On the mountain Moses found the way that Aaron was to take, and he also found the way he would take.

As soon as Aaron’s garments were stripped off, he died (v. 28). Ordinarily, when a man takes off his garments, he does not die. But when Aaron’s garments were removed, he died. This means that his life was derived from his service. It means that when a servant of the Lord ceases his service, his life stops. There are many people who are not genuine servants. When they cease their so-called service, their life continues to go on. Here we see that Aaron was a genuine servant of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 32 shows us that God’s judgment does not go away with time. God dealt with Moses in the same way that He dealt with Aaron. He told Moses to go up to Mount Nebo and die there (vv. 48-52). During those years Moses was faithful. Deuteronomy 32 and 33 tell us that before he died, he sang to and blessed the children of Israel. He did not pray for God to spare him from such a judgment. He humbly and meekly submitted to the hand of God. Even though he was a deputy authority of God who was obedient to God all his life, he was barred from entering Canaan because of his one failure in representing God. What a great loss this was! Moses was brought up to Mount Nebo to the peak of Pisgah. Nebo was the plateau, while Pisgah was the peak. There God told Moses, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, To your seed I will give it. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you will not go over there” (34:4). God’s promise lasted for five hundred years from the time of Abraham, but Moses could only see it; he could not inherit it, because he misrepresented God’s authority by the waters of Meribah. What a loss he suffered!

I have a very heavy burden which I want to share with you. Nothing is more serious and sobering than to misrepresent authority. I am fearful that our young brothers would wrongly represent God’s authority. We may be wrong only once, but that one mistake can bring in God’s judgment. Every time we execute God’s authority, we have to pray that we are joined to God. The minute we make a mistake, we have to learn to separate ourselves from God. Otherwise we will bring God’s judgment upon ourselves. In making a decision we have to ask if the decision is according to God’s will. We can say that we are acting in His name only if we know for sure that it is God’s will. Moses rebuked the Israelites and struck the rock by the waters of Meribah. He could not say that he was acting in the name of the Lord. He should have said, “I am doing this by myself.” Otherwise, he would bring judgment on himself. I hope that you will not be foolish but will learn to live before the Lord in fear and trembling. Do not act or walk rashly when you say that you are doing things in the name of the Lord. Do not pass on careless judgments or make proposals easily. Control your spirit and your tongue. In particular, shut your mouth when you are angry. When you act as God’s deputy authority, you will either do a good job or you will drag God into your error. This is a serious matter. The more a man knows God, the more careful he will be. If you fall into God’s governmental hand, you may be forgiven at times, but you may not be forgiven at other times. No one can touch or offend God’s government. We have to be clear about this way. Only after we have seen the proper way of representing authority can we be a deputy authority.

(Authority and Submission, Chapter 16, by Watchman Nee)