The LORD said to Moses, 8 “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.” 9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 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?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 12 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.” 13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he was proved holy among them. (Numbers 20:7-13 NIV)
I am grateful that God chose to skip over most of the forty years of wandering in the history that Moses writes. If Moses is the author of the first five books of the Bible, and I believe he is, then this is a very unusual story to have recorded. How many of us would record our greatest failure to be read by billions of people?
The situation is a common one in the travels of the Israelites. God has led them to camp at a place where there is no water. This is recorded after a series of instructions for cleanliness that all involve bathing in water. Water was not a want, but a need, and as far as the people could tell they had none. It is amazing that after all this time the people’s response is that they want to return to Egypt.
Moses’ response starts well but ends very badly. The first thing Moses does is to seek God’s guidance and help. God honors this and speaks directly to Moses and Aaron. God’s instructions are very specific, Moses is to speak to the rock. Obeying God and speaking to the rock would be an example of trust for all the people. The attention of the people would be focused on the God who is merciful and once again provides for their need.
Unfortunately, this is not what Moses does. Calmly speaking to the rock would give no indication to the people how angry and frustrated Moses was. So, instead of speaking to the rock Moses speaks to the people and takes his rod and whacks the rock a couple of times. What happens next amazes me. Moses striking the rock was a clear case of disobedience of God’s specific instructions. If I was God, I would have let Moses pound on the rock until he was worn out. I don’t know when I would have let water come out of the rock, but it certainly wouldn’t be while Moses was beating on it. Fortunately, I’m not God and what He does should be no surprise. He loves Moses and He loves this rebellious people. God makes the water pour out of the rock and the need is met.
Moses’ punishment was that he would not enter the promised land. His leadership of the people would end before they cross over the Jordan. Clearly Moses was punished because he disobeyed God. He chose to do things his way rather than God’s way. He acted just like any normal human being would act and, in the process, lost an opportunity to display God’s holiness. Moses reacted and God responded. God is holy. He is separate and distinct. When we react just like everyone else people around see what they expect, they see us. When we respond as God directs us to respond we should disappear so God can be seen. When this past week have you reacted in the common way rather than responding in a holy way?
For my grandchildren:
Trust God and do things His way.