Jump Start # 2823
Numbers 20:10 “and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?’”
A person’s anger can get the best of them. Words can fly that will be remembered for decades. Things can be done that pushes friendships away and even severs fellowship. Israel was complaining, once again. Unhappy. Not content. Wishing they could be back in Egypt, Moses just about had it with these people. It’s like a parent counting to three, to get a rebellious child to tone down and straighten up.
The Lord told Moses to take the staff and speak to the rock. Two things happened. They shouldn’t have happened, but Moses was mad. Instead of speaking, he struck the rock. He smacked the rock twice. I’m surprised that the rod did not shatter in pieces. That was mistake number one. He was to speak, not strike.
Mistake number two, is found in our verse today. Moses seemed to think that he could bring water out of the rock. Really? On your own? Have you ever done that before? And, could you separate the Red Sea? And, could you make the rod into a snake? One would wonder with such power, why did Moses need the Lord? He was taking credit for what God would do. It was the Lord who would bring water out of the rock. Without the Lord, nothing would happen. The Lord rebuked Moses for not treating Him holy and before the assembly of Israel for not honoring the Lord. The bringing of water out of the rock should have been a moment for all Israel to fall to their knees in praise to the Lord. But that didn’t happen.
As a result, Moses and Aaron would die in the wilderness. They would not be allowed to enter the land they had spent a long time heading towards. And, in this there are valuable lessons for us:
First, let us never keep the Lord out of the picture nor forget our humble place before Him. Great things happen, and some are too easily taking the credit when the increase and the blessings come from God. Our safety, our health, our growth directly point to the Lord. Without the Lord, we could not succeed.
Second, these verses remind us that even the leaders among us can do wrong. No one, but the Lord, is perfect. We can make wrong judgments. We can let our emotions get the best of us. We can say things that ought never to have been said. Our position and work in the kingdom doesn’t move us to being beyond the rules. All of us are accountable to the Lord and to each other.
Third, the nation would survive without Moses and Aaron. And, the church will survive without you and me. It would be a hard transition moving from Moses, who has been the leader for forty years, to Joshua, but that transition would not slow things down. In fact, as Joshua takes over, there is a rapid command to get ready to enter the land immediately. Preachers, shepherds need to understand that the work is greater than we are. What we can do is to put into place a legacy for who will follow. What we can do is to make it easy for those who come after us. My passionate study of Restoration History shows that preachers have come and gone. They did amazing work and a generation later they are forgotten. The kingdom will not collapse if any one of us are no longer here.
Fourth, there are consequences, often severe that follows our disobedience to God. The flow of this context makes us conclude that it was Moses who struck the rock. Aaron was just there. Why did Aaron have to die? We might assume that he was silent and didn’t stop Moses. We might assume that we was party to what Moses was doing. The Lord’s ways are always just and right. When leaders disobey, one of the great consequences that often follows is that they are no longer worthy to lead. Respect has been lost. Credibility is at stake. Trust has been shattered. Rather than limping along, trying to recover, if it ever can be recovered, it is often best for the leader to step down. God removed both Aaron and Moses.
It must have been a long, long journey down that mountain for Moses and Aaron’s son. They left Aaron up there. The Lord was going to take his life. I expect Moses had tears in his eyes. I also expect his heart was filled with remorse, regret and pain that he was the cause for his brother’s death. In just a moment, years and years of good can be destroyed. It takes a long time to build, but just moments to tear down. An angry word. An act of foolishness. Something not thought out. That’s all it takes to send people running the other direction. That’s all it takes to put a church into a tailspin. That’s all it takes to destroy unity and break the hearts and fellowship of others.
Hitting a rock and stealing the credit—doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, but they were to God. The magnitude of a sin is not in how many people were hurt, but in what the Lord has said.
It is interesting that Moses’ name is found in Hebrews 11, among those who gained approval. God took his life, but God granted him a heavenly home. The faith of Moses covered a lifetime. We are thankful that God does not judge our entire walk by one moment in time. It’s not a stretch to believe that Moses was tearful, penitent and sorry for what he had done. God was right and he knew that. And, when our emotions get the best of us and we say and do things that we later regret, this story is a reminder of the mercy and love for the Lord. Being in Heaven is far more important then being in the Promise land. By faith, Moses, gained approval.