A Piece of the Rock- Numbers 20:1-13

In this passage of Scripture, Israel is in its fortieth year in the desert and about to enter the promised land. They have arrived at Kadesh, and Miriam (Moses’ sister) dies and is buried there. Moses sister here is used to represent the generation which left Egypt 40 years prior, and are now all dead, and this incident involves their children, the generation which will enter the promised land. Just as their parents did, this generation also grumble against Moses (and God) regarding God’s treatment of them. In verse 3, we find that they “quarreled” with Moses (and God). The word translated quarreled here is the Hebrew riyb, which is from a root meaning “to litigate”, in other words they were bringing a legal charge against God, they were taking Him to court and charging Him with violating the covenant He had made with them. Their complaint is stated in verse 3-5, and they basically say they would rather have died in the desert or stayed in Egypt rather than spend the past 40 years under God’s care. Moses is now faced with another “situation”, and he handles it properly by taking the matter to God. In verse 6, Moses goes to the Tent of Meeting (the presence of God) and falls facedown in worship, awaiting an answer as to what he is to do. God responds in verse 7-8, telling Moses to “Take the staff and gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water”. Having received his instructions, Moses then sets out to do just what God told him. In verse 9, he takes the staff just as he was told. The identity of the staff is very important here toward understanding this story. This is the staff which Moses took to Egypt before Pharoah and with which he struck the Nile and turned it to blood, it was the staff which brought God’s judgment of death upon Egypt, it is the staff of God’s judgment. Moses continues to obey in verse 10 by gathering Israel together before the rock just as instructed. Moses then begins to speak and this is where he begins to go off the tracks, for he speaks to the people, and not the rock. He begins his speech by referring to Israel as “you rebels”, accusing and condemning them of the most heinous sin a Hebrew could commit, rebellion against God. Moses then raises his arms and strikes the rock, and water comes forth from it. So what happened here, why would Moses respond in this way? Let’s take a moment to examine Moses’ mental state and shed some light on what happened. We must remember, from verse 1, that his sister has just died, so he is grieving. He also is frustrated from having to deal with this grumbling, complaining people for 40 years. He is also angry over their continued rebellion, as seen in his calling them “you rebels”. He has finally reached his limit (it’s rather remarkable it took him 40 years to get there, most of us wouldn’t last 40 days) and in a moment of weakness he lashes out at the rock in his anger and frustration. Of course, as is common in the Bible, this story is about more than a guy hitting a rock with a stick. Remember now just what this “stick” was, it was a staff representing God’s judgment, and Moses striking the rock with it actually represents Moses judgment upon Israel, and his calling upon God to judge them also. Moses wants God to judge the children just as He did their parents, but God does not do so. God in fact does not bring death to them, but provides them water which will bring life (much more on that in our next post). Moses call for judgment, but God provides only mercy and grace (more to come on that also). So Moses, in a moment of weakness, sins against God here, and in verse 12 we learn of his “punishment”, he will not be able to enter the promised land. On the first reading of this, this seems like an awfully harsh punishment for a moment of weakness, especially in light of the forty years of service Moses had faithfully performed in the desert. On a surface level, it kind of seems like the punishment doesn’t fit the crime here, that God may be unjust toward Moses here, but the Scripture is never to be understood only at a surface level, there is more going on here than meets the eye, and our next post will examine another passage of Scripture which takes us below the surface and shines much light on what is actually going on, and on why the punishment here is perfectly just, and why it is as “harsh” as it is.

No Comments Jesus Christ  //  Old Testament  //  Salvation  //  Salvation and Redemption

Comments are closed.

Pure Spiritual Milk

SEO Copy... Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse nunc turpis, cursus et interdum sed, lobortis vitae nunc. Integer placerat tellus odio, non sodales arcu fermentum id. Mauris vitae eleifend leo, et rhoncus odio. Ut et arcu eu ex tempus ultricies eu vel lorem. Curabitur eu consectetur neque. Suspendisse volutpat nibh urna, sit amet aliquet augue imperdiet in. Etiam eget felis pellentesque, dapibus dolor ut, sodales justo. Mauris eu arcu lectus. Suspendisse odio ex, dignissim sit amet ornare eget, elementum at odio.