Posted by: everynation | April 6, 2010

Don’t Strike the Rock

by Jim Laffoon

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as He commanded him.  He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock.   And Moses said to them, “Listen you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”  Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.  Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I will give them.”       Numbers 20:9-12
Moses was heartbroken; his beloved sister was dead.  Despite Miriam’s resistance to Moses’ marriage, Moses had always loved his sister.  He had never forgotten how she had courageously approached the daughter of Pharaoh, and how he had been rescued from the perils of the Nile River.

In addition to Miriam’s death though, the children of Israel were whining and complaining again about their lack of provision; this time it was a lack of water.  Even after God had provided them with food and water everyday for months, the children of Israel still refused to trust Him.  As Moses fell on his face before the presence of the Lord, he was burning with anger.  Even God’s faithful promise to provide water for the Hebrews did nothing to quench the growing rage within his heart.

“When will these rebels ever learn to trust the Lord?” he groaned to himself.

God told Moses to go into the Tabernacle and get Aaron’s rod, which had budded with life and fruit.  Unlike the last time, however, when he had been commanded to hit the rock in order to bring forth water, this time Moses was told to simply speak to the rock.

In his anger, Moses foolishly disregarded the commands of his loving God as he smashed Aaron’s rod against the rock twice.  Although water gushed out of the rock as it always had, Moses was immediately sickened in his spirit by the rebellious act he had committed.

The words he heard from the Lord next did nothing to allay the guilt growing in his heart: “…you will not bring this community into the land I will give them.”

How did this happen?  How could the greatest leader on the face of the earth be disqualified from leading God’s people into their inheritance? Although there are a number of possible answers to this critical question, I will concentrate on only three of them.

First, Moses directly disobeyed the command of the Lord.  Even after God clearly told Moses to speak to the rock, he chose to strike it.  You must never forget it is not enough to simply do what God says; it is just as important that you do it in the way He says to do it.

With the Lord, the means are just as important as the end.

Second, Moses misrepresented God’s emotions. God had no desire to judge the people at this point.  The only reason God had Moses take the budding rod was to remind the people He Himself had chosen Moses and Aaron.  Moses, however, was filled with judgment and frustration, so he struck the rock in anger.

This rash act violated the way God had chosen to deal with His people.  It is no different for you and me today.  It is not enough for us to simply hear and obey God’s word; we must also have His emotions.

Third, when Moses asked the question, “…must we bring you water out of this rock?” he was taking credit for something only God Himself could do.  Tragically, Moses’ vain attempt to establish his own authority was totally unnecessary; God had already given him all the credibility he needed by telling him to carry the budding rod in his hand.

Time and time again I have seen leaders today making this same mistake.  Whether it is using their anger to motivate people, or continually bragging about their ministry accomplishments, they are attempting to establish their own authority.

Sadly, if they would spend more time in the presence of God and less time trying to prove themselves, these leaders would have all the fruit they needed to win the hearts of the people whom they have been called to serve.

Fourth, it is clear from this story that God holds His leaders to a much stricter standard.  According to Numbers 14:22, the children of Israel were not disqualified from entering the land until after they had disobeyed ten times.

Moses, however, was disqualified after he had rebelled one time.  Could this be what the apostle James means when he says that leaders will be “judged more strictly” (James 3:1)?

May the revelations of this story fill your heart with a sobriety and faith you need to become the leader He has called you to be.

Jim Laffoon is part of the international leadership team of Every Nation and also serves on the pastoral staff of King’s Park International Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.  He is the author of Our Daily Blog. Jim and his wife, Cathy, have four children and live in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

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