Two blows with a stick and water gushed forth from solid rock. That which was a life-sustaining miracle for Israel, was a disaster for Moses. His 40 years of desert wandering was to be made ‘worth it’ by finally crossing over the Jordan into Canaan. Sadly, it didn’t happen for Moses. God’s great Lawgiver disobeyed God and paid a heavy price. God told him to speak to the rock, but he struck it instead (see Numbers 20).
Moses had allowed the complaining spirit of the Israelites to get to him. Who could blame him? He had spent 40 years going in circles in an inhospitable desert as the leader of an unsettled and perpetually unhappy people. His mood surely not helped by the death of his sister, Miriam.
The Psalmist explains succinctly God’s perspective of all parties concerned:
“For Israel rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips” (Psa.106:33).
The “Rash Words” that Moses spoke were these: “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” (Num.20:9). Anger was the issue. Moses took personally something that was not for him to take personally. God counted Moses’ words, and his and Aaron’s act of ‘not speaking to the rock’ as being a part of the same package of unholy disobedience; they had broken faith with God in the sight of the people of God (Deut.32:51). Moses wanted to feel the Promised Land beneath his feet. So, in vain he tried to negotiate a settlement with God. He did not receive the desired response. Later he told the Israelites: “But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the LORD said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter”” (Deut.3:26).
If Moses were here today, he would admit that, though it is easier said than done, knowing when to be quiet can be the key to greater blessings.