When I Feel Attacked


Yes, we can rise up in anger and self-defense, letting others have what they deserve. Or, we can choose to humble ourselves and let God come to our defense.

“Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel.” Numbers 14:5 (ESV)

“Why would you …?”

When someone else begins a conversation with those accusatory words, there is so much potential.

Once they’re uttered, I’ll hold all the power. I have the choice to lean into my natural instincts or control my tendency to let pride take over.

While reading my Bible recently, I was challenged by parts of Moses and Aaron’s stories in the book of Numbers.

After scoping out the new land God had promised them, all except two of Moses’ spies brought back a terrible report. They returned defeated before the takeover plan could even begin.

Allowing fear and ungratefulness to overflow onto everyone they encountered, the spies spilled out fear on all the Israelites:

"So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height … and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them’” (Numbers 13:32, 33b, ESV).

Soon, the entire camp was in a rebellious uproar. They demanded to know why they couldn’t return to Egypt, where they’d been enslaved for centuries. They directed their wrath straight at their leaders: Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14:1-4).

As I read this passage, I didn't feel contempt for the Israelites. Instead, I saw myself as one of them. I've been the complaining consumer of God's goodness before.

What I felt instead was awe, seeing Moses and Aaron’s response: "Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel" (Numbers 14:5, ESV).

When I feel attacked, my normal response is not to fall on my knees and begin praying. Oh no! I might not be explosive with my words and actions, but my mind often builds a defense strong enough for a courtroom. All my energy goes into self-preservation.

Yet that’s not what I see in Moses and Aaron.

Instead, I see humility.

And I see God respond to these men who didn’t immediately choose to defend themselves and their actions, but instead turned to God: "Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. And the LORD said to Moses …" (Numbers 14:10b-11a, ESV).

Moses and Aaron could have chosen the natural human response: build a case, then put people in their place.

Instead, they chose humility. And God not only defended them, He came into their presence.

Moses and Aaron remind me that a posture of humility brings God’s presence to my problem.

Sometime soon, you and I will experience someone’s spill of emotions. As those words begin to burn, like Moses and Aaron, we'll have a choice. Yes, we can rise up in anger and self-defense, letting them have what they deserve.

Or this: We can choose to humble ourselves and let God come to our defense.

One reaction has an immediate emotional release. We feel better short-term, getting feelings off our chest and onto the “enemy.” But long-term, there will be consequences.

When we choose humility, we pay the price of self-control up front, but it opens the way for God to defend us and brings His peace to our situation. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us can we bypass the natural to choose His supernatural response. This is when we reap the beautiful results of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.)

I’d like to say this choice is simple, even easy. But that’s simply not true. Looking at heroes of the faith like Moses and Aaron challenges me: I can exude the fruit of the Spirit if I’ll make the hard choice and choose humility.

Holy Spirit, empower me to respond from a place of humility, allowing You to control me and not my emotions. Open my eyes to see when I, like Moses and Aaron, need to fall face-down and understand Your heart before I spill out my own on others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 22:4, “The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.” (ESV)

Ephesians 4:1b-2, “… walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” (ESV)

How do Moses and Aaron’s actions impact the way you think of defending yourself?

Is there a relationship in your life that challenges you in responding with humility? Ask the Lord to empower you to respond in a way that invites His presence into the relationship.

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