Numbers 20:2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here?… 6 Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 7 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 8 Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water…9 So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. 10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
Seems like a harsh punishment. Moses and Aaron had led the people for many years through all kinds of adversity. Yet it would appear their sin was so great they were excluded from making the final leg of the trip into the Promised Land. What was their sin? I’ve highlighted the key verses in red.
Moses was instructed to “command the rock” – to speak to the rock to pour forth water. That’s not what Moses did. Instead, he chose to strike the rock, which probably felt good since he could’t strike the complaining people. Secondly, Moses said “shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” – essentially claiming the power for himself and Aaron to perform this miracle rather than crediting the power to God.
Okay, so the guys messed up. Yet the punishment seems to far exceed the crime in my eyes. However, the story today highlights for me the higher standards God places on leaders of the people to be obedient and humble – even in difficult circumstances.
Lord God, have mercy on those of us who lead, whether at home/work/school/church/wherever. Give us grace to stay cool under pressure and to always give you the glory for your marvelous works. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.