Shepherds Conference 2024 General Session 3

March 6, 3:30 p.m. 
Speaker: Josiah Grauman
Topic: We triumph only through obedience.
Passage: Numbers 20:10–13


Message Summary: 

Moses was a man with no equal. He was chosen from birth and brought up in Egypt's palace. He defied Pharaoh, the greatest man on the planet at that time. He worked amazing miracles. He spoke to Yahweh face to face, as a man does with his friend. Moses was a great leader, and the Bible says that he was a humble man. 

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they complained as they spent 4o years wandering through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. In Numbers chapter 20, the 40 years of Israel's wandering is now up. The last of this first generation of Israelites has died off. But the younger generation of Israelites begins to complain just like their parents. "We're thirsty, there's no water, I wish I died with my parents," they say. 

But God provides a promise. He will bring forth water from a rock. And though God had commanded Moses on a different occasion to strike the rock, this time He commands Moses to speak to the rock. But Moses disobeys, hitting it twice instead. Yet it still brings forth water. As a result of Moses's disobedience, God judges Moses severely and tells him that he must die and not enter into the promised land. When Moses later pleads with God to change His mind, God is angry and silences him (Deut 3:23–36). 

This story reflects 2 reasons we triumph only through obedience to Yahweh’s precepts:

1. God’s Mercy Is Blind

In the moment that he disobeyed, Moses did not believe God. He lacked faith in the sufficiency of God’s Word, thinking he knew a better way. How often are we tempted to do the same, trusting in our wisdom instead of God's?

The Israelites acted pragmatically, doing what they thought would work to attain their desired outcomes. This kind of pragmatism says, “If it works, God must be blessing you.” Pragmatic obedience, obedience our own way, is always sinful because God’s mercy is blind. 

God does not bless on account of our performance. God’s grace is not bound to our obedience. God gave the Israelites mercy not because they deserved it, not because of their obedience, but solely and exclusively based on His overflowing and gracious faithfulness.  

To be clear, God will discipline you because of your disobedience. Those things can be related. And certainly, we enjoy God’s blessing most when we obey Him. But just like we cannot draw a one-to-one link between suffering and a particular sin (John 9:1–3), we cannot draw a link between a particular act of obedience and God’s blessing. The only way to judge an action is based on its conformity to the Word of God. 

Here is the principle: God is God. He makes the rules. He doesn’t explain to us what His criteria are or how He decides who and when to bless. His mercy is blind. He does not dispense His grace based upon our performance. He blesses us only out of the abundance of His grace. So again, we must only judge an action based on how closely it came to obeying God’s Word. 

God wanted Moses to live out obedience motivated by love for God. That’s what God wants from all of us. That we would love Him and obey Him. God expects us to be abounding in love for Him, obeying Him joyfully. There’s no excuse for disobedience. 

2. God’s Justice Is Blind

When He disobeyed God, Moses, who was a believer, was acting like an unbeliever—someone who did not believe God enough to obey Him. And through Moses, God illustrates that unbelief is the sin that keeps us from entering the promised land, from entering God's rest. 

Remember that the cross has cleared us from the eternal consequences of our sin but it does not remove us from the temporal consequences we face on this earth. If you think you can sin and not receive consequences, you think you can mock God. And you are wrong. God always wins. Sin is sin. And God is just, holy, and jealous for His glory. We worship an absolutely impartial judge.

When Moses did not obey God’s Word exactly as it was described, he did not display all of God’s majesty, all of His separateness. God’s words perfectly display God’s holiness, all of His glory. When we tinker with God’s Word, even in the slightest detail, we necessarily tarnish the glory that He reveals in His Word. We tarnish His glory in the eyes of those around us. 


When understood correctly, the fact that God’s mercy and justice are blind should bring us great fear when we disobey, and great peace and joy when we believe and obey.

We need to see these two truths, that God’s justice is blind and God’s mercy is blind. The gospel is guaranteed by these two facts. We must see in Numbers 20 that God has the ability to judge blindly because that’s the only way the gospel works. God without partiality poured out wrath on His Son for my sin. A judge any less impartial could not have done that to his own son. Praise God for His blind justice because it results in our justification.

God’s mercy is blind. And that is the best possible news. It's astonishing that God could look at me, a filthy wicked sinner, and yet amazingly show me mercy solely on the basis of Christ’s righteousness on my account. He lavishes His mercy upon us exclusively based on the loveliness of His Son, blind to the filthiness of our faces.

By His blind justice and mercy, God takes sinners like us, declares us righteous in the image of His Son and then brings us home to rejoice over us.