God’s people have been wandering in the desert for 40 years and they are pretty thirsty. So this is what God tells Moses to do, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water…” (Numbers 20:8). The instruction to “speak” to the rock is in contrast to 40 years earlier, when Moses followed God’s instruction to hit the rock – and water gushed out (Exodus 17:6).

This time, Moses is supposed to speak and yet he again hits the rock. Nothing happens, so Moses hits the rock a second time, and water comes out. God’s response, “Since you HIT the rock rather than speaking to it, you will not lead the people into the Land of Israel” (Numbers 20:11-12).

I don’t know about you, but I read this story and thought, here’s the mighty Moses, who confronted Pharaoh, arranged the Ten Plagues, split the Red Sea, brought the commandments down from Mount Sinai, and defended the people through the difficulties in the desert. Now he makes what seems like a tiny-tiny mistake and God takes away his dream of entering the promised land. The consequence doesn’t seem to match the crime.

Let’s think through this a little. The people were at the critical juncture of transitioning from desert life to a land that God had promised. At the rock, God’s instructions to Moses are carefully chosen to reflect this transition. Forty years earlier, when Moses was told to HIT the rock, the people had just come out of brutal slavery in Egypt – and “hitting” was a language they understood. But this time, Moses was called upon to lead a generation who’d grown up in freedom; a generation which required the softer approach of “speaking.” God can communicate with his people in different ways. It is amazing to the see the subtle difference over the 40 years of wandering.

God wanted it done a particular way because as we just saw it was a teaching moment. Moses didn’t think it was the way it should be done. He was angry with the people and struck it twice before we see the water flow. After the first hit God was still giving him some room for error. But then he swings again because he is trusts in his own ability. God needed someone at that time and place to listen and follow directions. Moses had lived a long life of disappointments and frustrations and was at a point that he trusted in own decision, before trusting in God.

How many times has God led you to a place and given you a direction, only to have you go and do it your own way? This is a trust issue. We have a hard time trusting that God’s plan will be the right one or in the right way. God will not lead us to a place only to let us down or abandon us. He gives us every reason to trust and yet we fall short.

It all goes back to the rock. The rock was the source of nourishment for the people. Even when Moses failed to do it right, God still provided them with the water they needed. In Moses farewell speech (Deut. 32) to the people he references the rock six times (someone never let it go). There are two kinds of rocks, one is God, and the other is false gods. Moses recalls the nourishment from the rock but people have abandoned that rock and leaned on another rock.

Fast forward to the New Testament when Paul is talking about Moses and the history of Israel.

“They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:3-4

Paul has a warning for the Corinth church. He says don’t end up like those people who ended up leaning on another rock. The Rock, Jesus Christ, is the salvation you need to lean upon. It is awesome how the Old Testament story gets tied into the New Testament church as we are united by the one Rock. Praise God!

What kind of rock do you like to run to for security? Which rock motivates you in life?