Water from a Rock
1The people of Israel arrived at the Zin Desert during the first month and set up camp near the town of Kadesh. It was there that Miriam died and was buried.
2 The Israelites had no water, so they went to Moses and Aaron 3and complained, “Moses, we'd be better off if we had died along with the others in front of the Lord's sacred tent. 4You brought us into this desert, and now we and our livestock are going to die! 5Egypt was better than this horrible place. At least there we had grain and figs and grapevines and pomegranates. But now we don't even have any water.”
6Moses and Aaron went to the entrance to the sacred tent, where they bowed down. The Lord appeared to them in all of his glory 7-8and said, “Moses, get your walking stick. Then you and Aaron call the people together and command that rock to give you water. That's how you will provide water for the people of Israel and their livestock.”
9Moses obeyed and took his stick from the sacred tent. 10After he and Aaron had gathered the people around the rock, he said, “Look, you rebellious people, and you will see water flow from this rock!” 11 He raised his stick in the air and struck the rock two times. At once, water gushed from the rock, and the people and their livestock had water to drink.
12But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you refused to believe in my power, these people did not respect me. And so, you will not be the ones to lead them into the land I have promised.”
13The Israelites had complained against the Lord, and he had shown them his holy power by giving them water to drink. So they named the place Meribah, which means “Complaining.”
I don’t know about you, but in high stress times, it’s easy to slip into old patterns, isn’t it? In this story Miriam, Moses’ sister, dies in the desert. Moses and the Israelites are approaching the end of their wandering in the wilderness. In the midst of their mourning, the next generation of Israelites come to Moses and Aaron and complain (like their parents) about the lack of water, how Egypt had been so much better than this place and how they are going to all die – oh how our kids learn from us parents!
Moses and Aaron do the right thing – they go to the Lord with this problem. God commands Moses to speak to the rock and promises that he will supply water for the people and their livestock. Moses then does something he has done before – he strikes the rock with his staff (see Exodus 17:1-7). And despite Moses’ disobedience, God causes water to gush from the rock. But God is not pleased. Moses has acted in unbelief – he has used what worked before to achieve success, instead of trusting God and obeying. This has lowered the respect of the people for God. Skye Jethani speaks of this story in his book “With”, of how we can use the Bible as a manual to bring about “guaranteed outcomes” instead of walking with Christ by faith (1). All of a sudden we walk by “principles” – three steps to getting water from rocks, 4 steps to a successful marriage and so on. When we use the Bible in this way, we end up replacing Spirit led obedience with formulas that guarantee “success.”
Moses’ reliance on his past successful method actually disqualifies him from leading the people into the Promised Land. This is a frightening thought. Can I actually succeed using “tried and true” methods and be disqualified from God’s blessing? It appears that mission success is less important to the Father than humble obedience that honors him before people.
1. Skye Jethani, With.Thomas Nelson, 2011
O loving Father, you reserve the right work differently in similar situations! Forgive me when I assume I know more about how to carry out your call than you do. May I honour you before your people by humbly obeying your Spirit instead of demanding that you bless old methods I am comfortable using because they have worked in the past. This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.