One of the great mysteries of my life was, “After all the miraculous stuff Moses did, why did God ban him from the promised land just for striking a rock?” It kind of scared me. I mean, sure, he didn’t follow directions- but maybe he forgot. He was really mad at the time, and the new instructional twist could have slipped his mind. Last we saw, water came from a rock when he struck it. Old habits are hard to break- right?
On the other hand, assume that Moses did remember what he was supposed to do, but he just disregarded God’s word and went a more dramatic route. Any press is good press, and an aggressive Moses does better in the polls. This offense could be considered worse, yet the punishment still seems a little harsh.
I know I’ve tweaked at God’s instructions before. I’d say all of his children have. It’s a risky thing to do; the result of not completely surrendering to the leading of the holy spirit. We can see this reflected in our children when we ask them to clean their room and they just shove everything under their bed. Definitely not following the spirit of the request. After an orange-juice pouring infraction this morning, I was told, “I thought you put the juice out for me to pour. I didn’t hear your instructions.” Never mind the fact I was talking next to the child’s ear… I don’t think it was an intentional act of disobedience. The instructions really didn’t register. My child was already concentrating on carefully pouring the orange juice. Whatever mom’s mumbling about over there is just a distraction.
Going back to Moses, it is not immediately evident why he would be punished so harshly for something we are all guilty of from time to time. This was the man that saw God face to face. He literally glowed with the presence of the Lord. If there’s no grace and mercy for Moses, the rest of us better watch out.
Now. Turn to Numbers chapter 20. The offense seems to be in verse 11- the striking of the rock. But back up a verse. What is that I hear from the lips of the great leader? “Must WE bring you water out of this rock?” We who? Moses and God? Nope. The “we” to which he refers is himself and Aaron. And really, even if he meant himself and God, who’s he kidding? There’s no “we” to that. God doesn’t need Moses to wave a magic wand at a piece of granite in order to produce some H2O. He did create the world. Usurping God’s authority is a leeeetle more serious than an angry rock rap. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
As parents, it can be easy to forget who’s in charge. Raise your hand if you’ve heard someone say, “I gave you life and I can take it away!” In truth, we are like Moses. We function as God’s leader and mouthpiece to our children, but we are not the holy one. We just point the way to the promised land. As a leader, you’d better be praying for some instructions. As a leader, you’d better be listening to directions from the holy spirit. You may have some “rocky” times where you slip up and make mistakes. Let them remind you of your humanity. Let them remind you to whom goes the praise and the glory forever and ever. Amen