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Moses 36 – Moses Disobeys

From the smitten rock in Horeb first flowed the living stream that refreshed Israel in the desert. During all their wanderings, wherever the need existed, they were supplied with water by a miracle of God’s mercy.
The water did not, however, continue to flow from Horeb. Wherever in their journeyings they wanted water, there from the clefts of the rock it gushed out beside their encampment.
It was Christ, by the power of His word, that caused the refreshing stream to flow for Israel. “They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4.
He was the source of all temporal as well as spiritual blessings. Christ, the true Rock, was with them in all their wanderings. “They thirsted not when He led them through the deserts: He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them; He clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.” “They ran in the dry places like a river.” Isaiah 48:21; Psalm 105:41.
The smitten rock was a figure of Christ, and through this symbol the most precious spiritual truths are taught. As the life-giving waters flowed from the smitten rock, so from Christ, “smitten of God,” “wounded for our transgressions,” “bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4, 5), the stream of salvation flows for a lost race.
As the rock had been once smitten, so Christ was to be “once offered to bear the sins of many.” Hebrews 9:28. Our Saviour was not to be sacrificed a second time; and it is only necessary for those who seek the blessings of His grace to ask in the name of Jesus, pouring forth the heart’s desire in penitential prayer.
Such prayer will bring before the Lord of hosts the wounds of Jesus, and then will flow forth afresh the life-giving blood, symbolized by the flowing of the living water for Israel.
The flowing of the water from the rock in the desert was celebrated by the Israelites, after their establishment in Canaan, with demonstrations of great rejoicing.

In the time of Christ this celebration had become a most impressive ceremony. It took place on the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people from all the land were assembled at Jerusalem.
On each of the seven days of the feast the priests went out with music and the choir of Levites to draw water in a golden vessel from the spring of Siloam.
They were followed by multitudes of the worshipers, as many as could get near the stream drinking of it, while the jubilant strains arose, “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:3.
Then the water drawn by the priests was borne to the temple amid the sounding of trumpets and the solemn chant, “Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” Psalm 122:2.
The water was poured out upon the altar of burnt offering, while songs of praise rang out, the multitudes joining in triumphant chorus with musical instruments and deep-toned trumpets.
The Saviour made use of this symbolic service to direct the minds of the people to the blessings that He had come to bring them.
“In the last day, that great day of the feast,” His voice was heard in tones that rang through the temple courts, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
“This,” said John, “spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.” John 7:37-39.
The refreshing water, welling up in a parched and barren land, causing the desert place to blossom, and flowing out to give life to the perishing, is an emblem of the divine grace which Christ alone can bestow, and which is as the living water, purifying, refreshing, and invigorating the soul.
He in whom Christ is abiding has within him a never-failing fountain of grace and strength. Jesus cheers the life and brightens the path of all who truly seek Him.

His love, received into the heart, will spring up in good works unto eternal life. And not only does it bless the soul in which it springs, but the living stream will flow out in words and deeds of righteousness, to refresh the thirsting around him.
The same figure Christ had employed in His conversation with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14.
Christ combines the two types. He is the rock, He is the living water. The same beautiful and expressive figures are carried throughout the Bible. Centuries before the advent of Christ, Moses pointed to Him as the rock of Israel’s salvation (Deuteronomy 32:15); the psalmist sang of Him as “my Redeemer,” “the rock of my strength,” “the rock that is higher than I,” “a rock of habitation,” “rock of my heart,” “rock of my refuge.”
In David’s song His grace is pictured also as the cool, “still waters,” amid green pastures, beside which the heavenly Shepherd leads His flock. Again, “Thou shalt make them,” he says, “drink of the river of Thy pleasures. For with Thee is the fountain of life.” Psalm 19:14; 62:7; Psalm 61:2; 71:3 (margin); 73:26 (margin); 94:22; 23:2; 36:8, 9.
And the wise man declares, “The wellspring of wisdom [is] as a flowing brook.” Proverbs 18:4. To Jeremiah, Christ is “the fountain of living waters;” to Zechariah, “a fountain opened . . . for sin and for uncleanness.” Jeremiah 2:13; Zechariah 13:1.
Isaiah describes Him as the “rock of ages,” and “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Isaiah 26:4 (margin); 32:2. And he records the precious promise, bringing vividly to mind the living stream that flowed for Israel:
“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”
“I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground;” “in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.”
The invitation is given, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” Isaiah 41:17; 44:3; Isaiah 35:6; 55:1. And in the closing pages of the Sacred Word this invitation is echoed. The river of the water of life, “clear as crystal,” proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb; and the gracious call is ringing down through the ages, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17.
Have you made a big mistake and regret it? How does God view our weaknesess? May you find new hope and abundance of assurance as we look at the way God dealt with Moses when he slipped and fell.
Numbers 20:1 Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.

Where is Zin and where is Kadesh?

Deuteronomy 1:2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea.

This verse places Kadesh in close proximity of Mount Seir. Where is Mount Seir?

Genesis 32:3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom

Numbers 20:1 Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.

In the first month. Early spring. This was probably the 40th year of the wilderness

In Kadesh. The people apparently remained in Kadesh several months upon this occasion, partly because of good pasture and partly because of the death of Miriam.

Miriam died there. No details regarding her death are given, either as to cause or date. She was probably 132 years of age (Ex. 2:4, 7). Aaron, who died 4 months later, was 123 (Num. 33:38, 39), and Moses died 11 months later, 120 (Deut. 34:7).

In the north of Petra there is a building called the monestry. According to some scholars this was where Miriam was buried.

Verse 2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron.

How do you they reacted? And they said to Moses and Aaron. “God has supplied us with food and water these 40 years. Let us pray and ask our good and caring God to quench our thirst for water.”

And suddenly water gushed from a nearby rock and supplied their water needs. If only… And if only you and I…

Evidently the water provided for them since the miracle at Horeb (Ex. 17:1–7) some 40 years ago had now been cut off. This was brought about by God in order to test the faith of the new generation that had grown up in the wilderness. Has your water of daily needs dried up?

Verse 3 And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!

Contend often means “to oppose noisily,” sometimes even with bodily violence.

Our brethren died.

The allusion is to the various retributive acts of God particularly to the rebellion of Korah(16:32, 35, 46). They were apparently thinking of sudden death as preferable to the slow and intensifying torture of thirst.

Verse 4 Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?

Words that reflect the spirit of their fathers (Ex. 17:3) There is a saying that goes like this: Like father, like son.

Verse 5 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.”

What kind of life did their fathers enjoy in Egypt?

What was the only thing that Moses and Aaron could do?

Verse 6 So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them.

The attitude of the people seems to have become threatening. Moses and Aaron repaired to the sanctuary for counsel and protection.

The glory of the Lord appeared.

This was no doubt visible to the entire congregation, and should have been both a warning to them and a rebuke to their lack of trust in God (see 14:10; 16:19, 42).

Verses 7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

That is, from within the glory that appeared as an indication of God’s presence.

Verse 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”

In what kind of mood you think were the two brothers at this stage? They experienced this kind of behaviour for 40 years.

Nothing is said in the Scripture as to what was to be done with the rod. Perhaps God intended Moses to raise it in the direction of the rock as he spoke.

Verses 9,10 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”

The first step was in harmony with God’s instruction (v. 8).

You rebels. The very language God had used concerning their fathers (17:10).

But with Moses it reflected personal anger rather than zeal for God, and herein lay his sin.

Must we bring. What does the use of the personal pronoun implies?

The use of the personal pronoun applied by Moses to himself and Aaron indicated a disregard of God, as though these two men would have the people think they could perform a miracle by their own power.

Verse 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.

I appreciate the biographies of the Bible. It helps me, who at times also strike twice in anger. Part of the sin of Moses lay in the double striking of the rock, for God had not told him to strike it.

In addition, Moses forgot the patience of God in His dealings with the people, which should have been reflected in his own attitude and demeanor. He spoke and acted as if the murmurings were against him. God met the situation with an abundant supply of water, in spite of the attitude of Moses and Aaron.

What a kind and considerate God. He did not embarrass Moses and Aaron before the congregation by not giving them water.

Verse 12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

What was his sin? He did not believe God. Lack of faith prevented the exhibition of God’s holiness through Moses and Aaron. What did their sin imply?

The implication is that Moses and Aaron would be removed from their high position by death ere the people entered the Holy land. What a shock! Coming all the way from Egypt and the bad news. I wonder if Moses slept that night…and the next, and the next.

Verse 13 This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them.

Where else did we read about the word Meribah?

Exodus 17:7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

The Hebrew root from which the word is formed means “to strive,” “to contend,” “to agitate,” “to quarrel noisily,” often with bodily violence.

Verse 13 This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them.

What does it mean: He was hallowed among them.

That is to say, God demonstrated His holiness and power in the merciful act of causing the waters to gush forth in the presence of the people. Further, He meted out judgment even to His favored leaders when they departed from His command.

After the break we will continue. There is much more to say about the symbolism of the rock and the fact that it was hit twice.

I invite you to come and listen to the real sin of Moses and the lessons we can learn from this tragic story.

Updated on 21st Mar 2022

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