God gives the people water from a rock again. This time is different because it changed something in Moses that time. Ouch in more ways than one.
I don’t want you to think I forgot about the first thing that happens in our reading today. I didn’t miss the personal loss Moses and Aaron suffered. There have been so many deaths since turning back from the brink of victory. Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister is the latest one for us. I don’t know if the second part of our story takes place in the same timeframe as Miriam’s death or not. I don’t know for sure if the events are even in the same place. What I do know is that Moses and Aaron felt the absence of their sister. I know this because they were human. We also saw Miriam interacting with them not long ago. Moses even pleaded with God for her return to health when she opposed him.
I’m wondering if Moses is still grieving when our next story takes place. Is he short tempered with the people because of his grief? God said his actions were done out of unbelief. I HAVE to believe that God knew his heart. I want to know what brought on his doubt. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up and look at the story.
The people were grumbling and complaining AGAIN!!! There wasn’t enough water for them where they were at. Instead of simply asking Moses to ask God for another miracle they began singing their favorite song: “Why are you trying to kill us out here? Why didn’t you leave us alone in Egypt? We hate this place! There’s nothing good here.” They threw in a little addition of their cattle dying too to spice it up a bit.
Something that grabbed my attention about this “verse in their song” though is when they call themselves “The assembly of the Lord” (verse 4b). If they really believed themselves to be the “assembly of the Lord” why were they so reluctant to go where He told them to? Why were they fighting Him tooth and nail all the way? Why were they not resting in the confidence that since they were the Lord’s He would take care of them? Did they truly believe that they were the Lord’s or were they paying lip service to Moses?
Moses and Aaron took their concerns quite seriously and KNEW that they could do nothing to remedy their situation. They took the concerns of “the assembly of the Lord” to the Lord. They were His people and only He could meet their needs.
One nice thing about taking their concerns to God at the entrance of the tent of meeting is that the people couldn’t trample them there. The people were kept away while Moses and Aaron met with the Lord. God didn’t leave them waiting for an answer. He knew their needs before they even began asking. And He had a plan already worked out.
I’m wondering if God set Moses up to see his reaction. He told him to bring the staff. Did He want to see if Moses would follow instructions? This was a very special staff. It was Aaron’s staff that had budded when God confirmed to the people whom He had chosen. It was in the Holy of Holies. He had to go in to retrieve it. The people would certainly recognize it when Moses stood before them.
God also told Moses what to say and exactly what would happen. He left no ambiguities as to what Moses was to do. “Tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water” (verse 8b). I didn’t know rocks had water but apparently God did and He promised Moses that the rock would give enough for the congregation and their cattle to drink.
Good news! Let’s go!
Moses and Aaron followed the Lord’s directions to the letter up to a point. That point was when Moses displayed his weariness with the people. “Hear now, you rebels” (verse 10b) is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the people. These are the same people God considered wiping out MANY times. These are also the people Moses pleaded with God to spare. Now even Moses is sick of hearing their grumbling. I honestly can’t say as I blame him.
Moses was within his rights to speak to the people as he did. God didn’t call him on that. When he struck the rock twice is when he failed the test set before him. I’m wondering about Moses’ actions. Was there a pause before striking the rock? Was there a pause before the second strike? Did he strike it a second time because water didn’t rush forth after the first strike like it had done previously? Or did he strike out in anger quickly moving from verbalization to hit one and then hit two? Was he striking out in fear or frustration?
Despite Moses not following God’s instructions He still took care of the people. God didn’t tell Moses to try it again the way he had been instructed. He also didn’t call Moses on the carpet in front of the people. God spoke to Moses and Aaron only. The people were unaware of Moses’ failure in this instance. God also didn’t stop using Moses to be over the people. He continued in his office but his future changed dramatically.
God’s judgement on Moses was also imposed on Aaron. Neither of them would be going into the Promised Land. I’m not sure if Aaron’s punishment was because he didn’t try and stop Moses, a consequence of all his past sins, or because they were a team. Or was it because Aaron had a “faith crisis” too?
At this point there are only two men left who haven’t wavered in their faith; Caleb and Joshua. They will be the only ones who enter into God’s promise who were of age when Israel left Egypt. The rest who go in will be the next generation. God wasn’t bringing in ANY of the doubters and apparently, on this occasion, Moses and Aaron fit that category.
I started thinking about all that Moses lost that day from ONE failure. Then I thought about Aaron and the MANY times he failed. It doesn’t seem fair. But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of something Jesus said; “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Moses had been given PERSONAL one on one time with God. He had even been granted something that no other man ever was; to actually SEE God. With this close of a relationship with God came much accountability. There was no room for doubt at the top. If Moses doubted God then that doubt would infect the whole congregation. It couldn’t go unchallenged. Hurt as it must, God had to deal with it. And never again would Moses experience doubt.
Did you notice too that Moses didn’t try and argue with God or justify his actions? He accepted God’s decision as final. He also didn’t harden his heart towards God and blame Him for what he lost. He picked himself up the next morning and determined to continue on with the Lord, whatever lay He had planned.
Father God I can’t imagine the pain Moses felt that night. Not getting to see the fulfillment of Your promise was probably a blow to him but disappointing You must have torn his heart. This was also a failure that had to be made public. He couldn’t pretend he and Aaron were still going to receive Your full promise. What did that do to his position in the eyes of the people? Were they glad that he lost out too? Did they trust him less? Did they pull harder on the strings of leadership he held? Or did they recognize him as more like themselves; fallible?
I could NEVER measure up to Moses standards. I have failed You more times than I can count! I wonder what each one of those has ultimately cost me in Your plan. Your plans included Moses in the Promised Land but his actions changed that. Was it better for him failing like this so that he wouldn’t be dealing with battles at the age of 120 plus? I know You could have given him the strength he needed for such an event but this way he could finally rest.
I pray my failures actually work for my good in the end. I know I certainly learn something from them. That alone is worth the experience. I wonder if Moses said that after that night. Whatever lies ahead for me Lord, keep me reaching for the fullness of Your plan for me instead of settling for what is left because I didn’t trust You enough. Thank You that You don’t give up on me when I miss the mark too, just like You didn’t give up on Moses and Aaron. They still had work to do and so do I.