Did you know that God did not allow Moses to cross over into the Promised Land because Moses wouldn’t talk to a rock? Well…there’s a lot more to it than that. Stick around and we’ll talk about it, here on 5 minutes of truth.
There are a lot of people in the Bible that we have a tendency to feel some sympathy for. Whether it is because of their circumstances or the cultural consequences of their call by God, we often view many of the people involved in God’s redemptive history sympathetically as difficult parts of their lives are played out on the pages of the Bible.
It is only logical that we feel for Abraham as he is called, as an old man, from the only home he ever knew in order to head a new people chosen by God to be His. We hurt for David as he flees in the wilderness from Saul, a king he loved and served and who then became his enemy. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of Noah who knows that an impending disaster is about to rain down on all of humanity but who also knows they will be consumed by that flood. There is Jeremiah who is told his message of hope and repentance will fall on deaf ears; Job who loses literally everything; Jonah who fatalistically ends up in the belly of a fish and then complains when God spares Nineveh; Samson who loves the wrong girl; Hosea who is ordered by God to marry a prostitute; John the Baptist who is executed simply for telling the truth; and, of course, who could not be moved by Jesus crying out to His Father while suffering on the Cross.
But I’ve got to say, if there was an award for the person who put up with the most foolishness for the longest period of time, it would have to be Moses. Time prevents us from delving too deeply into all of the specifics regarding Moses and the more than 40 years he spent shepherding the people of God through the wilderness and towards the Promised Land. But I suspect, the only person who had more of the patience of Job other than Job himself, would have had to have been Moses.
Called by God to deliver the Hebrews out of 400 years of bondage to the Egyptians, Moses more than had his hands full with a group of people whose dissatisfaction was only exceeded by their impatience. For example, no sooner had they left Egypt and ended up at the Red Sea, did they then begin to complain about having left Egypt. With the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army closing in behind them, people cried out: “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians.” They were afraid, I get that. But they immediately turned on Moses who was simply doing what God had drafted him to do.
Not long after, upon reaching Mt. Sinai, these same people, despite seeing God deliver them via many miracles, showed their remarkable impatience. Moses told them he was going to the mountain to converse with the God of their salvation. After he was gone a while, the people grew restless and impatient and so decided to form a new religion with a new god…a golden calf. How long had Moses been on Sinai? 40 days. That’s it. 400 years of bondage they could do. Waiting 40 days to hear from God…completely out of the question.
They complained constantly and consistently about everything. Even after they had seen God do nothing but sustain them. And Moses faced all of the brunt of their criticism…every day…for 40 years. It would make sense that he might “snap”. About two months after they left Egypt, the people began complaining about a lack of water. God told Moses to take Aaron’s staff and strike a rock. When Moses obeyed God, the water flowed from the rock in such an amount that all million-plus people and their livestock were well watered. Think about that for a moment…the amount of water that had to have miraculously come from that rock as a result of a miracle of God. That would be hard to forget. But not for these folks.
Years later, as they were still wandering the wilderness, we see the Hebrews in a very similar situation. Remember, also during this time Moses had to constantly judge over disagreements between the people and listen to their complaints. Even his sister and brother were involved in a plot to remove him from his position. In Numbers 20, we see the people again in a desolate location…again complaining…and again complaining about water. Second verse, same as the first. God once again instructed Moses. And again God would do a miracle. Water would again come from a rock. This time however, God said: “Take the rod…speak to the rock and it will yield its water.” A little odd, but crystal clear.
Instead, Moses spoke the people saying: “Must we bring water for you out of this rock.” He then did not speak to the rock but instead: “lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod.” The water came forth. The people were happy again (at least for a while). And God immediately spoke to Moses and said: “Because you did not believe Me…you shall not bring this people into the land I have given them.”
It seems harsh, doesn’t it? Moses had persevered for decades as the leader of a group of people who did little other than complain and conspire against him. Over and over again they did this. At this point God had proven time and again that He would take care of them but still they complained. Moses reached his Popeye moment…he had stood all that he could stand. But here’s the problem. He let that frustration lead him to disbelieve God and to take credit for the miracle God had delivered in the past and would deliver here again. And that can never happen. Ironic, isn’t it? He called the people out for their lack of faith and then allowed them to influence his own faith.
God told Moses to address the rock differently than the first time because He didn’t want the people (or Moses) to get the idea that it was Moses, or a magic stick, or anything else that was responsible for His miracle. They needed to see God as the sole provider because God knew that faith in anything or anybody other than He would result in lostness and hopelessness. That’s why the severity and quickness of the punishment. God loved them…as He loves us. He so desperately wants people to trust in Him rather than the two entities we tend to trust: Other people and ourselves. Why? Because not one else can save us. And we can’t save ourselves. Regardless of the circumstances, God knows we are better when we have hope in Him…even in the direst of circumstances. When we are lost there is hope in Him. When we are frustrated with others there is hope in Him. When we are thirsty in the wilderness there is hope in Him. Even in the misdt of death…there is hope in Almighty God. How cool is that?
On behalf of myself, Robert Houghton and all of us here at Growth Project, keep reading God’s Word.
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