Then [Moses] 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?” . . . But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” - Numbers 20:10, 12
That a great miracle occurred at Meribah cannot be disputed. The vast crowd of Israelites traveling through the barren wilderness had come to the end of their tethers—and their water supply. So they did what came naturally. They blamed Moses and Aaron and delivered yet another litany of woes and complaints. They stated, rather obviously, “This land has no grain, figs, grapes, or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Num. 20:5). We cannot, of course, minimize the seriousness of their predicament—no water in a barren wilderness spells disaster. Moses and Aaron did not dismiss the complaints. They went immediately to the tabernacle and prostrated themselves in prayer before the Lord. What else could they do?
The Lord instructed them to assemble the people and “command the rock over there to pour out its water. You will get enough water from the rock to satisfy all the people and their livestock” (20:8). The rock poured forth its water as promised, the people and their livestock were satisfied as predicted, and every one went home happy! Right? Wrong!
While the great miracle took place, something else of great significance happened, too. Moses and Aaron, after forty long years leading the people through the wilderness, were banned from entering the Promised Land. This surprising turn of events happened because, as the Lord explained to Moses and Aaron, “You did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel” (20:12). The problem was a lack of trust which in some way detracted from the wonder of God’s action on behalf of his people. But what exactly was this lack of trust? It was betrayed by what Moses said, perhaps in a fit of frustration and temper: ‘“Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water out of this rock?’” (20:10). Now, preachers are not supposed to talk to their people like that, but Moses’ intemperate language was not the problem. The issue was that Moses was implying that bringing water out of rocks was his specialty—not God’s.
At this point God had had enough of Moses. God’s whole purpose in allowing the people to come to the point of desperation in the water shortage was to show his “holiness”—his uniqueness. Moses had spoiled that by implying that he was doing the job.
It is sad that the miracle of rushing water was ruined by what gushed out of Moses’ mouth. Men who speak rashly and react impulsively run the risk of, like Moses, missing out on God’s best!
For Further Study: Numbers 20:1-13
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.