There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The people blamed Moses and said, “If only we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers! Why have you brought the congregation of the Lord’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!”
Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord said to Moses, “You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.”
So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. “Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.
Thirty-seven years had passed since Israel’s first spy mission into the Promised Land (Numbers 13–14) and 40 years since the exodus from Egypt. The Bible is virtually silent about the 37 years of aimless wandering. The generation of Israelites who had lived in Egypt had almost died off, and the new generation would soon be ready to enter the land. Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb were among the few who remained from those who had left Egypt. Once again they camped at Kadesh, the site of the first spy mission that had ended in disaster. Moses hoped the people were ready for a fresh start.
Unfortunately, the Israelites had forgotten that their wanderings resulted from their parents’ and their own sin. Instead of acknowledging that their faithlessness had brought on their problems, they blamed Moses for their condition. Often our troubles result from our own disobedience or lack of faith. Until we face this reality, we will have little peace and no spiritual growth.
The Lord had told Moses to speak to the rock; however, Moses struck it, not once, but twice. For this he was forbidden to enter the Promised Land. Was God’s punishment of Moses too harsh? After all, the people had nagged him, slandered him, and rebelled against both him and God. Now they were at it again (Numbers 20:5). But Moses was the leader and model for the entire nation. Because he was an example in his obedience, he was now an example in his disobedience. By striking the rock, Moses disobeyed God’s direct command and dishonored God in the presence of his people.
Both Moses and the people had their own reasons for disobeying God, but those reasons led them away from trusting God. Maybe you’re tempted by “good reasons” to disobey God, but you may be giving up the opportunity to see God deliver on his promises. Take time to decide: Do you want God and his promises, or do you want your own way?