I can remember as a young boy reading through our big old family Bible and being enthralled with the pictures. It seems that every Bible story in that monstrous book contained a picture that seemed to make every story literally come alive. There was this one particular story about Moses leading the children of Israel through the wilderness. After leading the Israelites across the Red Sea to freedom, and receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai, Moses found himself at the helm of a very irritable, unthankful and restless band of people. |
Numbers 20:1-3 Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. And
Numbers 20:4-5 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.
Exodus 17:1-3 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink.
Although the Lord God had demonstrated his loving care for the children of Israel by bringing them forth from bitter bondage in Egypt, and fed them with manna from Heaven during their sojourn in the wilderness, they remained a thankless, ungrateful, and unholy people. Moses had delivered the people from the slavery of Pharaoh, yet the people murmured against Moses because they had no water to drink! Water of course is an essential for life. Without water, there can be no life. Water also refreshes us, cleans us, satisfies our thirst, and soothes our weary soul. There seems to be a lot of irony in the prospect of Moses ( the Deliverer ) rescuing the Israelites from the slave-pits of Goshen and leading them into a dry and dusty wilderness, where they were susceptible to die of thirst. Thus the children of Israel clamored against their Deliverer because their thirst was not quenched. So outraged were the people that they threatened to take up rocks and stone Moses. Undoubtedly, Moses felt overwhelmed and annoyed. Thus it was that Moses and Aaron went burdened before the Lord seeking help.
Numbers 20:6-7 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Numbers 20:8-10 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
So the Lord instructed Moses to take the rod which he had used to divide the waters of the Red Sea, and lead the people to a special rock that was in Mt. Horeb. There God would supply Israel with fresh life-sustaining water. But the wording of Numbers 8:20 indicates that the water that would come forth from the rock would be “his”. ( The Lord's ) Moreover, Moses was instructed to merely speak to the rock. But upon reaching the destination in Horeb, Moses became so confounded and exhausted of patience with the chiding rebellious children of Israel that he angrily smote twice upon the rock, instead of merely speaking to the rock in front of the people, as God had commanded.
Numbers 20:11-13 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified in them.
Moses called the name of the location of the rock Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not? Massah and Meribah were two places in the desert. In each place the children of Israel strove with the Lord. One was at the beginning of the 40 year long wandering in the wilderness, and the other came near the end of the 40 year long sojourn. In each case the children of Israel were faithless to the Lord.
I remember when reading this story as a young boy, I'd wonder why in the world God would judge poor old Moses so harshly for striking the rock. It seemed to me that poor old Moses had been a faithful, loyal, steadfast and obedient servant for decades, and that the smiting of the rock was really just a very minor error in judgment by Moses. God barred Moses from entry into the Promised Land because he smote the Rock at Meribah. Why in the world would God inhibit Moses from entering into the land flowing with milk and honey simply because he smote the rock?
I always understood that God was punishing Moses because of his disobedience, but it always seemed to me that there had to be something more to this episode. In analyzing the research for the “Honey in the Rock” series, it has occurred to me that God was displaying an object-lesson to the children of Israel through the smiting of the Rock by Moses. I observed that God was present at the Mt. Horeb rock which Moses struck. He observed the anger that Moses exhibited in smiting the rock. Surely, God was peering down through the centuries of Israel's history to come, and observed that the real rock that would ultimately give the real “Water of Life” to Israel was his own Son! Without question, God observed that Moses lost his patience with the children of Israel, even after Moses had beseeched the Lord to spare the Israelites back at the foot of Mt. Sinai when Jehovah had swore to destroy the children of Israel for worshipping an idol calf.
Deuteronomy 9:13-19 Furthermore the Lord spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people: Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they. So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the Lord your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the Lord had commanded you. And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. For I ( Moses ) was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the Lord was wroth against you to destroy you. But the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also.
Hundreds of years later, Jesus would come to Israel offering to them the free water of life, if only they would look to the Rock of their Salvation, but they would not.
John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
So, when Moses stuck the rock, it immediately presented a picture to God of exactly what the children of Israel would do to his son, many years later. He sent them the rock, ( Jesus Christ ) the Rock that would gush forth with the water offering eternal life, and they ( Israel ) would also, like Moses smite the Rock!
Therefore the banishment of Moses from the land flowing with milk and honey, prefigured the smiting of the Rock by Israel, which in turn resulted in their banishment from the Promised Land. But someday, God will remember his oath with Moses, and he will remember the land, and he will restore the people of Israel when they finally esteem the precious Rock of Ages, and drink from the water of life!