Are we ‘CAREFULLY’ LISTENING to God’s WORD? And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." (Numbers 20:10-12)
After wandering around in the wilderness for over 37 years, the Israelites had now returned to Kadesh from where they had launched their disastrous spy mission earlier. Nearly all the people from the previous generation that had left Egypt had died in the wilderness due to their unbelief. Only a few older folks remained in the leadership level including Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua and Caleb. However, tragedy soon struck and Miriam died in Kadesh (v. 2b).
In Kadesh there was a fountain, En-Mishpat (Gen 14:7), which had provided water in plenty to the Israelites during their initial stay there. Now, this fountain had now either partially dried up by the heat of the season, or had been exhausted by the demands of the vast multitude of Israelites. Instead of making aware of their need for water to Moses, the Israelites argued with Moses and started complaining about their situation. They blamed Moses for bringing them to that ‘evil place’ in order to ‘kill them’ (Num 20:2-5). Moses and Aaron took this matter before God and fell on their faces at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
It was then that the glory of God appeared and God told Moses to take the rod but speak to the rock before the entire congregation of Israel. Moses should have carefully listened to what God had instructed him! We can recall that many years ago, Moses had brought out water from that rock for the previous generation when they had complained (Exodus 17:6). At that time, God had told Moses to strike the rock and water had gushed out in plenty for the people to drink. Now, Moses was seething with anger at the ungrateful Israelites who blamed him for everything that went wrong in their lives. Out of his anger and without thinking through, Moses did the greatest mistake in his life – instead of speaking to the rock, he used the ‘tried-and-tested’ method that had worked for him previously, and stuck the rod twice (Num 20:11).
God honored the action of Moses by bringing the water from the rock for all the Israelites and their animals to drink. However, due to disbelieving in God’s word; for failing to honor and glorify God (v. 12); due to disobedience and for rebelling against God’s Word (v. 24) Moses lost his greatest opportunity to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Aaron the High Priest, died shortly after this incident having being denied the chance to enter Canaan as well.
This incident teaches us that we should carefully listen to God’s word and obey His commandment as He directs our lives every day. Unlike Moses, we should not be hasty and passionate (Psalms 106:33). It is only later that we learn that "they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." (1 Cor 10:4) Bible scholars interpret this incident in these terms: “The rock smitten in Exodus 17 was a type of Christ, stricken at Calvary. But Christ was only to be struck once. After His death, the Holy Spirit would be given, of which the water in verse 11 is a type.” Water for drinking is a picture of the Holy Spirit (see John 7:37–39).
Such extreme punishment for what might seem to be a relatively minor offense underscores the principle that God expects more of those to whom He entrusts responsibility than He does from others. Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much shall much be required” (Luke 12:48). Let us pray that we may be careful to listen before taking any action. Otherwise, we may have to live with lifelong consequences for choices made in a moment of passion or foolishness!