is one of the most mysterious stories in the Old Testament: the story of
Moses’ great sin. It is mysterious because, as we see it, the sin seems so
minor. We shall see if we can decipher it.
Num 20:1-13 NIV
Water From the Rock
the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and
they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. (2) Now there was no water for the community, and
the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. (3)
They quarreled with Moses and said, "If only we had died when our brothers
fell dead before the LORD! (4) Why did you
bring the LORD's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should
die here? (5) Why did you bring us up out of
Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or
pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!" (6)
Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting
and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. (7) The LORD said to Moses, (8) "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather
the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour
out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they
and their livestock can drink." (9) So
Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. (10) He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in
front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we
bring you water out of this rock?" (11)
Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water
gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (12) But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
"Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight
of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give
them." (13) These were the waters of
Meribah,  where the Israelites
quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.
often happens that Bible believing Christians reject the concept of allegory as
being a legitimate way of interpreting the Bible. This comes from the belief
that any way of interpreting Scripture other than literal meaning is false,
particularly as it concerns Genesis 3 and evolution. But in fact allegory is
common in the Bible – Christ makes frequent use of it in His parables – and
even Genesis 3 is allegory (which does not preclude its literal interpretation
as well.) In this section we shall examine the allegorical significance of the
staff and the rock.
that the Bible says (vs. 8) that Moses is to take “the” staff. By that God means
the staff of Aaron, the High Priest. What do we know about this staff?
was always before the Ark of the Covenant, including the mercy seat.
above all other staffs by God Himself.
is specifically referred to as a “sign to the rebellious.”
we know that the staff itself is a symbol of the priesthood. But consider how
this fits with Christ, our High Priest:
the staff is before the Ark, our High Priest is ever before the throne of
God (remember “enthroned between the cherubim?”) interceding on our behalf
for the grace of God.
Aaron’s staff was chosen above all others, so Christ is above all others.
We are a royal priesthood; but He is our High Priest.
He a sign to the rebellious? Where else may grace be found?
we may see Christ as a sign to the rebellious, offering the grace of God.
symbolism of Christ, the Rock is well known to Christians. If Christ is
represented by this rock, what does that mean?
fact is this: Moses hit the rock twice. Is that sin? Yes
indeed. Christ had to be smitten once, at His first advent, for our
sins. But to be smitten twice is like crucifying Him twice.
This, then, is sin indeed.
then do we obtain the mercy of His sacrifice? Is it not by confession and
repentance? We must “speak to the Rock.”
this is true even though the water was brought forth by a leader’s error.
God’s grace does not depend upon the perfection of the leader.
water from the rock is relatively easy to interpret, for we know the role of
water in the faith.
could miss the cleansing stream of baptism in this picture?
other picture that springs to mind is the flow of living water, the River
of Life pictured in Ezekiel and Revelation.
have a certain divine style. Water does spring from rock (why do you think
they are called “springs?”). But God insists that His servants do things His
way, in His time. Failure to do so is sin.
we can understand why this is sin to Moses.
did God command?
the staff (so the people can see it).
to the rock.
staff, representing the priesthood and grace, the rock representing Christ,
these commands would then be interpreted as:
a member of God’s royal priesthood, show forth grace to all.
prayer and confession, bring forward the living water, both to clean
(baptism) and to nourish (River of Life).
short, show grace and speak the Word.
why didn’t Moses do what God told him to do? God tells us why:
didn’t trust God enough. Oh, he was trusting, but not quite to the
point of doing what he was told, how he was told, when he was told.
did not honor God. “Must we bring you water…” That’s how
Moses put it to the people.
did not honor God as holy. His actions made it look like Moses was
the one with the power, not the holy God.
this, Moses was not to enter the Promised Land – only to look at it from afar.
There are some thoughts we can gather from this:
penalty for leaders is more than the penalty for followers – which is as
it should be.
allegory, we learn that the disobedient might see heaven – but not enter
do we get in such a mess anyway?
smart people, if we don’t see why we should do it God’s way, we are
tempted to look for another way that we do understand.
it’s simple presumption: we think we have a better idea.
we are angry (always an entry point for Satan) and we have our own agenda
answer to this is simply obedience. But may I submit that simple obedience
requires humility to follow blind – if God says do it one particular way,
it is a humbling experience to say, “I don’t know why.”
requires humility to let God have vengeance.
is at the core of the servant’s heart; we must be such a servant. If
Christ Himself came as a servant to all, should we not imitate our Lord?
for our conduct towards others?
them to the Promised Land.