Moses. He led the people in the wilderness for forty years. Forty long dusty dry years. The time was full of murmuring and complaining among the people. Multiple times the narrative states Moses (and Aaron) went to their faces before God. Could it possibly be that they were ducking? Ducking the wrath of God? Just a silly (putting myself in the story – thought). I can’t imagine the frustration Moses may have experienced. On one occasion, they need, want–DEMAND water. Moses goes to God. God told Moses to strike the rock and water gushed forth (Exodus 17). God miraculously provided in the wilderness.
Further in the story; another place and time in the wilderness; they needed, wanted–DEMANDED water (Numbers 20). The same exact scenario. But was it? Moses was given a different set of instructions. Take the staff, gather the people – speak to the rock. Moses summoned and spoke to the people (not the rock) “Must we bring you water out of this rock?” He raised his staff and struck the rock not once–but twice. Water did gush out. All the people, including the animals got their fill.
God tells Moses because of this; he wasn’t going into the Promised Land. Not only did Moses take credit for the miracle water, but it is painfully interesting that God says his disobedience was “breaking faith” (ESV) and he did not esteem God holy (Numbers 20:12 & Deuteronomy 32:51-52). Moses’ behavior conveyed he was not satisfied with what God instructed and his altered actions were more forceful and terrifying, thus not giving a proper representation of God.
“You shall not go.”
How harsh was that! We all make mistakes. Poor choices. Stupid behavior. But. God gives specific instructions for–a purpose. Often, it is detailed. Sometimes, a general point. But it is His purpose. We may not or cannot see it and may never know–why.
When we read throughout the bible, we see God’s redemptive story from the moment God asks the man in the Garden, “Where are you?” all the way through to last “Amen” of scripture. So much foreshadowing of Jesus. Jesus, Himself declares the scriptures speak of Him (Luke 24:26-27).
Moses’ disobedience messed with God foretelling of Jesus.* Do not mess with the message! You see, Jesus is our living water (John 7:38) and Paul spoke about when the ancients were in the wilderness and God provided food and water (speaking both in the natural and the spirit) they “drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4, BSB). Jesus, our Rock was only struck once–at Calvary. If we want the living water, we need only to “speak” to Him in prayer.
How often do we truly consider our (dis)obedience? Do we too alter our response by behaving differently, our choices, thinking we know better? Does it only affect us? Our family? Our church? Our community? Or perhaps delay a work of God? Do we, like Moses, offer an improper representation of the Lord? Do WE mess with the message! Regardless of our frustration we are to obey.
Point to ponder.
We can’t leave Moses there. This failure did not break his relationship with God. He continued to lead the people forward. He did make it. He made it to the Promised land. Fast forward, Mark 9:2-8: Mt of Transfiguration: Jesus, Peter, James and John with an appearance of Elijah and Moses. Moses initially asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33) God said, “You can’t handle it” not here, not yet (paraphrased) but here on the Mt he saw His glory – Jesus. (John 1:14).
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” – Hebrews 10:24).
*Many things in the OT were what is known as typology. A symbol, a representation of something yet future.