Striking the Rock Twice — Moses’ anger with Israel & Christ the rock (struck once at the cross).
Reading 1: Numbers 20
Reading 2: 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Reading 3: James 1:19-20
I love how frank the Bible is when representing the truth about the heroes of faith. David was an adulterer and murderer, Abraham was a liar, Moses was a murderer, and so on! Today we read how Moses allowed his anger with Israel to overflow into disobedience to God.
Previously when water was scarce, God told Moses to strike a rock and water gushed out. This time, God instructed Moses to take his staff and speak to a rock. We don’t know why the instruction was different, but we can surmise it was to show that God was not to be presumed upon; much as a parent, when asked for a dollar, might tell their child to earn it one day, and give it another day, to suit the lesson the parent wanted the child to learn. Whatever the reason, the instruction was different. But Moses was angry with the people for their constant rebellious grumbling. He could have said: “you are rebelling against God but in His mercy God will give you water anyway” and then spoken to the rock as God instructed. Instead Moses shouted “Listen, you rebels!” “Must we bring you water from this rock?” Then he struck the rock as he had done before, and water gushed out.
It is hard to blame Moses for his actions because the people of Israel were so stubborn and rebellious. If you have ever tried to lead a group of people (whether an office team, or a home-owners’ association, or even a community group Bible study) you will likely have encountered this phenomenon at some point. We are all wired by sin to complain and grumble against authority (including God) when things don’t go the way we want. Everyone is selfish to some degree, but the Israelites appear to have refined it into an art! Yet Moses has the burden of leading them! But he and Aaron pay the penalty for this disobedience: they lose the right to lead Israel into the Promised Land. James had some good wisdom on this when he wrote: “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires” and advised his readers: “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
When Paul tells the Corinthians that the rock is Christ, he gives us the key to understanding why the penalty for Moses and Aaron is not stronger. They are not burned by fire or swallowed by the ground, as other rebels had been. Instead, because Moses is striking Jesus (who would be struck again in His trial and crucifixion) there is mercy and grace in the picture already.
And for us today – even when we DO get angry, there is forgiveness if we repent. And repentance consists of confessing the sin and turning away from it (repeatedly if necessary) until a new habit, rooted in the righteousness of Jesus, replaces the old habit of sinful anger.
Be encouraged today that the Bible is full of people like you and me, yet God is showing us all the way to Jesus through their actions (failings and all).
Have a great day!