The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), March 5
Israel is at Kadesh, where there they’ve camped a number of times over the past 40 years. This formerly well-watered oasis is waterless. Israel cannot see the water hidden within the rock waiting to become a river. Instead of asking the Lord to manifest His provision, the people blame Moses for their lack and demand that he do something:
If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink. (Numbers 20:3-5)
Israel is on the verge of entering the land of plenty, and they are complaining!
After 40 years of leading the people, Moses finally blows up. Instead of speaking to the rock as the Lord had commanded, he strikes the rock. Twice. A river gushes out—enough to refresh 2.5 million people and their animals. Amazing!
While God displays His mighty power, this scene reveals an affront to His holiness. God rebukes Moses, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (Numbers 20:12).
Moses doesn’t trust the Lord and misrepresents Him as angry when he angrily strikes the rock, not once but twice; this action attributes to Moses the place belonging solely to God as provider for His people. Moses misappropriates his authority and position, and because of this he is prohibited from entering the land of promise.
What does this story reveal about God and His leaders?
- God will not share His glory and honor with those whom He calls to lead His people.
- God holds leaders responsible for honoring Him among His people and responds appropriately when they dishonor Him. Jesus says, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).
- Leaders who’ve served for a long period of time must guard their hearts from acting presumptuously just because they can.
- Leaders who distrust God act hastily and foolishly.
- Leaders who trust God act calmly and wisely.
God is good. He is better to His people than they deserve.
Questions from today’s reading (Numbers 19:1-21:35):
What purpose does the slaughter of the red heifer without blemish serve?
Who are the Edomites and why do they refuse to allow Israel to pass through their territory? (Genesis 36)
What does the public transfer of priestly leadership from Aaron and Eleazar do to prevent further dissension among the tribe of Levi?
What impact does discouragement have in Israel when they are forced to make a detour around Edom? What does this reveal about discouragement and emotions?
What does the victory over Sihon and Og do for Israel? What does this reveal about success?