Saturday, May 25, 2019

Water from Rocks and the Sin of Moses

The biblical accounts in which Moses struck rocks in order to provide water for the people had always seemed a rather curious phenomenon to me.

For one thing, how did water come out of rocks? For another, why would God deny Moses entrance into the “promised land” just because on one occasion he struck a rock rather than speaking to it as God had instructed?

Water is not easily found in the Wilderness of Zin. Rainfall in this rocky, barren region south of Beersheba is limited to only a few inches each year. Thus, Moses had to deal with the people who grumbled about the lack of water. For example, soon after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea they traveled three days in the Wilderness of Shur without finding water. When they finally came upon water it was too acidic to drink. However, through God’s intervention, fresh water was provided (Exodus 15:22–27). Later, in the Wilderness of Zin, Moses was instructed to strike the rock at a specific place in order to supply water (Exodus 17:1–7).

Nearly forty years passed after the Exodus. However, their complaining, distrusting spirit had impeded their ability to enter the land of Israel. Taking the land would be for the next generation, and this new generation complained like their parents. It was now springtime; the small amounts of winter rain were over. Gathered at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin, the lack of water once again became a source of complaining. This time Moses was instructed to speak rather than strike the rock in order to provide water (Numbers 20:1–13).

Moses, however, did something which usurped the credit and the glory from God as provider and gave it to himself. In the springtime, one can find places in the Wilderness of Zin where winter rains have entered the subterranean water tables and seep out of the canyon walls. As the rock heats up in the sun, the seepage evaporates leaving mineral deposits which prevent the water from escaping. 

Once the water table has been blocked up, pockets of water are preserved underground. Those who live in the region are able to get water by finding points of seepage which have been crusted over. Breaking the mineral surface allows water to escape. If Moses had spoken to the rock as he was commanded, all the people would have known that God was their provider. However, by striking the rock Moses took the credit for meeting the needs of the people.

The sin of Moses was acting to gain credit for himself when God wanted something done which would bring credit to Him. But isn’t that the nature of human rebellion against God—wanting to be God ourselves? How often we reject God’s method so that we might get the credit. It didn’t work for Moses. It will not work for us.