Have you ever been thirsty?
I mean really thirsty. The kind of thirsty that makes you drain an entire bottle of water — and then wish you had more. When Hubby and I visited the Grand Canyon over a 4th of July one year, we saw multiple signs warning to take water with us. It seemed odd because we weren’t experiencing the same humid heat we have here in SW Oklahoma. But the park rangers and the signs were right, we needed water, and we were glad to have it in the mid-day sun.
Thirsty, part 2
Last time, we saw the whining crowd complain at the bitter water (here). Now Israel has moved on to a new location where there was NO water for the people to drink. (Exodus 17.1) They confronted Moses in anger, and he reported to God that they were ready to stone him to death. (Ex. 17.4) God’s response: He told Moses (v. 5-6) to go and stand before the people with his staff. God promised He would stand with Moses by the rock at Horeb. Then Moses was commanded to strike the rock and water would come from it.
And it did.
Thirsty, part 3
Years later, nearing the end of their 40 years of wandering, Israel came to Kadesh. Again, Israel was thirsty because there was NO water. (Numbers 20.2) So they resorted to their go-to response: they grumbled to Moses and wished they had never come out of Egypt. Only these were NOT the adults freed from slavery. These were their kids! Remember, the 40-year scenic route was to let the faith-challenged adults die off. Yet, we see that before they died, they taught the same behaviors and attitudes to their children. And this new group rehashed the “Why did you bring us here? There’s no food. No water.” complaints that their parents used 40 years earlier.
Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before God, “and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.” (Num 20.8) This time God told Moses to speak to the rock.
Get the details straight
No doubt Moses was frustrated after nearly 40 years of listening to the same complaints and murmurings. He had done such amazing things WITH GOD, but here a single word and one act of disobedience cost him everything.
Numbers 20.10-11 lines it out: In strict obedience to God’s instructions, Moses and Aaron gathered the people before the rock. Then Moses’ true colors blazed forth with his question and resulting act. “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then he struck the rock. Twice. God’s response: Water flowed. Along with His anger. And Moses lost his pass to the Promised Land.
For years I’ve thought God’s punishment was because Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it. God tested him, and he got the details wrong, I guessed. I thought:
- previous experience – Last time God had him whack the rock when the people had no water. Thirsty people. Rock. Moses went on auto-pilot. It’s easy to rely on what you have done before.
- frustration – One third of Moses’ life had been as tour guide for these hardhearted folks, and now their kids are reflecting the same attitudes that caused their parents to miss out on the blessing. Only his frustration made him miss out now, too.
But I’d missed an important detail. And the English teacher in me finally caught the pronoun. In his mini-speech/temper tantrum to the people before hitting the rock, Moses lumped himself in with God when he said, “WE…, as in – Must WE bring you water out of this rock?”
This was going to be a miracle. God alone was to take the credit. Now the enormous consequence of missing the Promised Land makes more sense. It wasn’t just Moses having a hissy-fit. It was saying that God needed Moses’ help to make it happen, and it just wasn’t true.
What it means for me:
- Raising kids – It is crucial that I teach my children all the blessings and miracles I have seen God doing. And they also need to know about my big spiritual blunders – not so they can integrate them into their own lives, but so they can avoid them. And, although my kids are grown with households of their own, I must be aware that kids absorb our attitudes and words like little walking sponges. And they seem particularly good at blurting out the wrong thing at the absolute worst time.
- Complaints – Note the difference between whining and asking. God has promised to provide for my needs. He will listen to my anger and frustration, but that attitude should never become my go-to response in trying times.
- Glorify God – Ecclesiastes ends with this, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc 12.13b-14) We cannot be obedient and then run out and take credit for the results. God alone is responsible for them. Our reward for obedience is that we have pleased Him. If He chooses to bless us in this life, cool. But that can’t be our motive for obedience. He knows our heart.
Hopefully, we are always thirsty for Him like David in Psalm 143. 6, “…I thirst for you like a parched land.”