Have you ever ignored the Lord’s Word and done it your own way? How’d that turn out? Terrible, I’m sure, if our pride will allow us to admit it. It’s always best to obey the Lord and do it His way. When Moses approached the Lord because of Israelites’ grumbling over not having any water, God graciously gave him specific instructions to solve the problem. This was the second time God commanded Moses to get water from a rock. The first time (Exodus 17:1-7), early in their forty-year wilderness journey, Moses went to the Lord with a right heart and was told to strike the rock. He obeyed and water poured out and satisfied the people’s thirst. The second time (Numbers 20:1-12), close to the end of their wilderness experience, Moses’ heart may have been right to start, but it didn’t stay that way. He let the complaints of the people overshadow the commands of the Lord. The Lord told him to do something different this time: speak to the rock. How soon the people had forgotten how God not only supplied water from a rock in the wilderness, they forgot how powerful He really was when He held back the raging waters of the Red Sea as they walked through it on dry land (Exodus 14). What is it about our present circumstances that give us spiritual amnesia concerning all God has done for us in the past? Perhaps Moses was upset they were complaining to him and Aaron about it once again instead of praying to God about it? Moses couldn’t blame his actions on the people as he made his own choices. Moses started out asking God for help, but he ignored God’s instructions and did it his own way, which had severe consequences.
Instead of obeying God, Moses gave the people God entrusted him to lead a tongue lashing. He called them rebels (v. 10). Moses didn’t speak to the rock, he hit it. I wonder if he thought “it worked last time, I’ll just do it again”. I think Moses’ heart was still upset with God’s people instead of focused on God’s word. This caused Moses to do it his way, in his own power and wisdom. When water didn’t come out after the first hit, Moses hit it again (v. 11). Isn’t that like us? Even when we know God’s way is better and work, we continue in our foolishness. In God’s great grace, He allowed water to still gush out from the rock and satisfy the people’s thirst. How merciful is our God even when we ignore and disregard Him? I wonder what Moses was thinking in between the two strikes with the rod? Maybe he thought, “What’s wrong with you, you stupid rock?” Maybe he thought some other choice thoughts about the people? I wonder if he pictured any of the Israelite’s faces in the rock when he hit it in anger? It seems Moses’ thoughts were on the quarreling people instead of the providing Lord. He had the opportunity to obey at first, but his flesh got the best of him. He even had another chance to speak to the rock after the first hit, but he allowed his emotions to rule. What a merciful God we serve. God, who could have struck Moses, displayed His great patience and grace. Because Moses disobeyed and “broke faith” (Deuteronomy 32:51), God did not allow him to enter the Promised Land (v. 52).
How many times, because of our flesh and distrust in the Lord, have we disobeyed or ignored the instructions of the Lord? What has it cost us? In His grace, the Lord may have not allowed Moses to enter the Promised Land, but He did allow Him into heaven, even allowing him to be at Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:3). What a redeeming God who grants us blessing even through our weaknesses and failures. Moses had done the exact thing the grumbling faithless Israelites had done. While God was ready to extend mercy to a complaining people, Moses balked and gave them a tongue lashing. In that moment, Moses was more like Satan the accuser than God the redeemer.
Do we trust God at His word? Are we guilty of faithlessness? Do we find ourselves more judgmental or hopeful towards others? Do we allow our frustration with others to block God from showing His mercy and compassion through us? Good news is He can show it regardless of us, but what blessings and promises do we miss out on by doing it our own way instead of His? Lord, help me to obey Your Word. May I not meet with you in private and look and talk totally different in public. May I trust you fully and experience all the blessings You’ve promised in this life and the eternal one to come.