“Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 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.” – Numbers 20:11-12 (NIV)
There’s quite a bit happening here in Numbers 20 – Moses’ siblings (Miriam and Aaron) die in this chapter, the Israelites are stonewalled by the Edomites, and there is the account of the water from the rock. It’s this account of the rock and the water that has been one of the toughest ones for me to understand in all the Bible.
At this point, Moses has been through quite a long journey. He’s been Israel’s leader for decades, settled many disputes, put up with countless complaints, and seen many of his fellow countrymen and women die as they wander through the wilderness. It could be that their complaint in verse 5 about not having anything to drink finally pushed him over the brink. God was sympathetic to the Israelites’ request for water and gave Moses instructions on how to get water for them. Instead of simply speaking to the “rock before their eyes”, Moses strikes the rock twice with his staff, and water gushes out. But since Moses and Aaron didn’t follow God’s instructions to the letter, they’re informed that they will not see the promised land.
This doesn’t seem fair. I can sympathize with what Moses must have been going through all these years, and God’s judgment on him seems a bit harsh. After all, Moses didn’t refuse to go to the rock as God requested, he just changed things a little bit when he got there 🙂 Couldn’t that be overlooked just this one time ? Especially considering Moses’ long and faithful service over all those years ?
I think I realized today after reading this again what my real problem is. This isn’t how I would have handled this. And don’t we think that way all too often ? Why would God allow this suffering ? Why wouldn’t he answer that prayer ? I would have done things differently ! It could be that God knew the challenges facing the Israelites as they prepared to enter the promised land and thought Moses was just too old to deal with them. Or it could be that Joshua, not Moses, was the strong military mind that was needed at this point. Or simply, it was just Moses’ disobedience. Any way you look at it, there’s no need to keep on questioning – I don’t know best, that’s for sure…
Pastor Greg Laurie once commented that he saw a bumper sticker that read, “God is my co-pilot“. “That’s nice,” said Pastor Greg. “But God doesn’t need you to be His co-pilot. In fact, he doesn’t even want you in the cockpit !” So, instead of wondering and thinking about how we would have done differently in these situations each day, isn’t it much better to rest in the fact that the Creator of the universe is the One orchestrating everything ?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
– Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)