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Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”  And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

Numbers 20:10-12

It was difficult to choose the verses for this passage, but this is what I picked. This week, we studied this passage which is also found in Deuteronomy 3:23-28. If you are like me…and others who commented in our study, there was some feeling that GOD might have been unfair to Moses for preventing Him from going into the land after all those years of leading this difficult group of people through the desert just for this one failure. I used to feel that way too…until I read all of what was written in this story.

Moses wasn’t punished for hitting the rock exactly

It turns out that Moses wasn’t being punished because He hit the rock. It was much more serious. He was punished, at least in part, because He was more concerned about his convenience than He was for GOD’s glory. (It’s very easy for me to feel convicted here.) He was not representing GOD correctly! He was bawling the people of GOD out.  He was holding their sin against them. He wasn’t speaking for GOD. GOD had forgiven them and disciplined them. Now He was providing the water they needed to stay alive. He wasn’t there to continue guilting them or making their lives miserable.

Yes, they had not trusted Him to deliver these enemies into their hands 38 years before, but even under all that discipline, God continued to provide for them the daily manna, water, some meat. Their shoes and clothes didn’t wear out! It was amazing how He cared for them and provided for all their needs. He kept them warm at night with a pillar of fire and in the daytime, He guided them with a cloud.

Moses misrepresented GOD to the people

Over Moses’ lifetime, God’s description of him was that he was the meekest man on earth. But none of those descriptions make us flawless. There were still times when Moses was very human and failed God. This was one of them. Moses misrepresented GOD this time. In his anger, he lashed out at the people. He insinuated that GOD might not be able to provide for them and hit the rock twice even though he knew GOD had told him He would provide the water. That was a horrible misrepresentation of GOD that could not be allowed to be ignored. It was a serious sin. It was not unforgivable, but certainly one with consequences.

Often, we hear about this and think, “i’m surprised it didn’t happen earlier.” Or “Why did God punish him so harshly for such a minor thing?” But you see, it wasn’t so minor, was it? We aren’t seeing it the way God does.

Is this a problem for you where you have spiritual leadership?

  • In your home?
  • In an area of responsibility at church?
  • To the world around you?

How do you need to make it right?

Repent in conversation with GOD (prayer) and others? This includes understanding that you will never perfectly represent Jesus, but at times in our responsibilities, we can misrepresent Him in ways that present a caricature of His character.

The encouragement we have is that Jesus completely satisfied the requirements of GOD for our various roles. We don’t need to struggle to try to attain the coveted place of being more loved or accepted because of our performance. In Christ, we are already loved and accepted. He is real, not a caricature. Even when we fail, He will forgive us. But there are times when we fail to realize the seriousness of our sin when we misrepresent GOD to others.

This speaks to God’s character. It is very important. If we are misrepresenting God’s character wrongly, it is awful.

This passage speaks to the character of God. Yes, there are many facets to His character, and they all are in agreement with each other and completely in balance. The setting here is just before God gave the second set of tablets of the Ten Commandments…after the first ones were given and Moses went down from the mountain to find everyone breaking most of the commandments, in their  worship of the Golden Calf Aaron made. He threw them down and broke them, God gave the punishment to the people and their sin was dealt with. Then Moses went back up the mountain to receive the commands again on another set of stone tablets after showing Moses the back of Himself. This gives some insight into who God is.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him (Moses) there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression
and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:5-7 ESV

Changepoint: How do you live in a way that is a caricature of God’s character? How is your life showing forth God’s true character? When we live in a way that is forgiving, shows the kind of love that is steadfast toward people, we are showing the kind of life Christ lived out here on earth. Take some time to think about this verse passage and how God might want to apply it to your life. He may be encouraging you that He sees signs of these things happening in your life.