This is part of a series: I’m taking a moment in the lives of people in the Bible to see how it might be relevant to our lives, today. That moment may be just part of their story, or it may be all we’re told about them. Either way, you should read it directly from the source. This week’s story comes from Numbers 20:8-12:
“Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.
I don’t know a lot of people who claim to understand why God kept Moses back from the promise land, even if they can explain the reasons He gives. Moses is one of my favorite bible characters and I’ve always grappled with this seemingly insignificant scene that seems to matter so much to God.
What went wrong here? I’ve read so many answers and none of them seem to satisfy.
So, let’s play this thing out. Do me a favor here: Go outside and find a rock and a stick, preferably big ones. And then hit the rock with the stick a couple of times. Really. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Ah, there. That’s it.
How often to we live on the word we received from God weeks, months, even years back, instead of being in current relationship with Him? We rely on old light to illuminate a new path.
I wish, I very much wish, that when Moses had hit the rock the water had not flowed. He makes quite an impressive show of it with his little speech and his staff-robatics. And maybe it’s the glory-seeking that gets God’s ire . . .
What gets me is that no one knew the difference. The blessing wasn’t withheld because of Moses’s disobedience. The earth didn’t open up and swallow anyone. The people never needed to know that God had said “speak.” For all external purposes, everything looked good. It had “worked.” Hadn’t it?
And that’s too commonly the way we live our lives. But if you evaluate your relationship with God based on whether or not there is water coming from the rock, you’re missing the whole point.
Moses had betrayed the very thing he had going for him. He was the one who spoke with God face-to-face. He was His friend. God trusted him and he trusted God. Didn’t he?
“You did not believe in me,” God says. Under pressure, Moses believed in what he’d done before, what he knew worked, the established model.
And it did work. They usually do. But it betrayed the very life of their relationship.
To believe in God is to believe that He lives. To believe that He’s real, and He speaks into the present moment.