I have been pondering the story of Moses when he struck the rock to bring water to the Israelites in the desert. (Numbers 20: 7-12) I knew that God had prohibited him from entering the promise land because of this action and have always been taught that it was because he did it in anger. While actions taken in anger are never good I now realize there is much more in this passage than I first thought. I no longer think Moses was punished because he got angry. I believe that he was kept from the promised land because he disobeyed God and because he turned away from doing things God’s way. Keep in mind that this was still an Old Testament world governed by rules and laws and not by the grace and mercy we have through Jesus.
What stood out to me is that Moses did three things that he shouldn’t have. First, he elevated himself rather than God. He says “shall we” as if it is within his power to do this thing. God wouldn’t want to set up a leadership in the promised land that has ceased to rely on Him as their source. The prophets in the Old Testament were a mediator between the people and God. They were the one who sought the Lord’s direction and answers for the people. They were a servant of the people not the source.
The second thing Moses did was he struck the rock when God had said to speak to it. This is what stood out to me most. God created all the heavens and earth by speaking it forth and He instructed Moses to do likewise. God told Moses to speak to the rock. I believe this was a foreshadowing of the authority that was going to come after Jesus. Instead Moses chose to focus on what he could do instead of what God instructed him to do. We often do this when we try to earn His pleasure or earn our salvation. We somehow think that if we can just be good enough we will be acceptable. The truth is He loves us already. We just need to receive what He has done for us. Like Moses we try to add something to the path of forgiveness.
The third thing is that he acted out of his emotions. Though there were many times when God was angry with the Israelites in this particular passage there is no indication that He is angry. So why did Moses react in anger? Moses allowed his emotions to stir frustration and expectations that set his heart against the people. He was tired of them complaining and rallying against God and subsequently against him. How often do we allow our expectations of people to sow and water a seed of frustration. Moses had operated from a place of love for the people for so long but in this moment he turned away from that love and allowed something else to take root.