Israel often moaned about her wilderness campsites. The people were especially upset at Kadesh. Thinking they would die there of thirst, they expressed the deepest unbelief—an expectation, even a desire for death. Faced with a parched and unproductive desert-scape, they chose to believe only what their eyes told them. Unbelief sees the visible; faith sees the unseen.1
Moses and Aaron did better. They left the maddening crowd and met with God. In the midst of all the contention, they experienced God’s glory and He spoke to them. Even in difficult circumstances, hearing God speak, and glimpsing what He is doing are possible for those who desire it and expect it.
God’s instructions were plain—speak to the rock and it will produce water. Sadly, Moses did his own thing and struck the rock.
Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Num. 20:10-12)
Why did Moses disobey?
- Perhaps he did not listen carefully to God.
- Maybe he was on autopilot, programmed to respond as he had last time there was a water shortage—hit the rock.2
- We easily imagine him acting in frustration, “You rebels!” Bang! Crack!
No doubt we have all responded in those ways. But God blamed Moses’ unbelief. Moses did not have faith that God could open a rock unaided. Moses missed an opportunity to grow everyone’s faith. He disobeyed the details and deflected God’s purposes. Human intervention might accomplish the same practical goal but faith-building miracles go undone.
Imagine the result if Moses had spoken a God-given word and the rock had burst open. Mumbled complaints would have ended to be replaced by joyous cheers. Israel would have been better prepared to enter the promised land. Moses would have been faith-filled enough to lead them.
Obedience propels us toward God’s purposes for our lives. The more He speaks and we obey, the more He is able to use us.
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