10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” --Numbers 20:10-12
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. -- John 14:15
Forgive me for the dual Scripture this morning, but I have been deeply convicted of late about my obedience to God. This is a topic that the Lord pursues throughout the Bible, and it should be high on my priority list. Yet, I am well aware of my failure.
Throughout the book of John, Jesus is quoted as saying our obedience to Him and His commandments is the demonstration of just who loves Him. Furthermore, He says those that love Him will be apparent to His Father, who will also love them. So, if I really love Him, (as I profess to do) then why am I not tireless in obeying Him? That is what it means to be righteous!
But it is not only in the New Testament that we read Jesus's direct exhortations to his followers; we also see this same principle at work in the Old Testament. And I love to make the connections between the stories of ancient Israel and the same lessons reflected in the life and teachings of Jesus, nearly 14 centuries later.
In the case of the Old Testament lesson on obedience, we have this story of Moses striking the rock at Kadesh to bring forth live-giving water to the Israelites. Throughout their time in the wilderness, Moses and the Hebrew people were learning of the importance of believing and obeying their God.
Time after time, they had to re-discover the relationship between belief, trust, obedience and love. They are all connected! Shortly after their exodus from Egypt they found themselves thirsting and in great need of water. They threaten to stone Moses, blaming him for their predicament. Rightfully, Moses goes to the Lord for deliverance, and the Lord tells him what to do .... "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17:6) Moses obeys the Lord and the people are revived and given life-sustaining water to drink.
Did you catch the symbolism in this simple verse? God will "stand before" His people, on "the Rock" .... nearly 1400 years later, God will personify Himself in the existence of Jesus, our Rock of salvation. God goes on to tell us that the people will "strike the rock" and "water will come out of it and people will drink." This certainly happened when the rock was "struck" (crucified). Jesus always encouraged His followers to drink of the life-giving water that He offered, and He made it available to all through His saving grace on the cross.
That brings us to our first Scripture, Numbers 20:10-12. You would think that Moses would never forget that first experience of obedience at Horeb. But, here, at the end of their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the generation that learned that lesson has died, and the lesson needs to be retaught. The people have arrived at Kadesh, and are once again thirsting in the desert, and again, Moses appeals to God for life-sustaining water. This time, though, God tells Moses to speak to the rock and it will give forth the water they need. Instead, Moses strikes the rock twice and water gushes out.
BUT, there is an important lesson to learn here for Moses ... and us! First of all, I don't know what Moses was thinking. He totally goes off course here! He appears to think it is himself and his brother, Aaron, who are capable of providing the water, and then instead of "speaking" to the rock, as God commanded, he strikes it .... not once, but TWICE!
Was he thinking, "I got this, Lord! You showed me how to do it before, and so I got this handled." Was he depending on his own might, instead of the Lord's? Did he think, "I struck it before, so this time, I will show these people just how much God can use me, and I'll strike it twice"? Was he so caught up in his own power that he forgot to listen to God's instruction to "speak" to the rock?
If we keep with our comparison of Jesus as the rock, then we can recognize that Jesus had already been "struck" (crucified) back at Horeb, and the water was readily available to all, if Moses had just asked, or "spoken", to the rock. Instead he struck it twice, in effect crucifying Jesus again! By being disobedient, Moses lost his opportunity to enter the Promised Land. And he certainly proved that the Mosaic Law is not the way to salvation; only the life-giving water of Jesus Christ can save. Indeed, God still provided the water, because He is consistent in showing Himself as the Almighty, and in maintaining His glory.
So I'm back to my own issues with disobedience. How many times do I say to God, "I got this, God! I remember what you told me!" Yet, I'm not careful to listen to Him; to display my love for Him by following His commandments. I know that I am still saved, because I am a Believer in Jesus Christ, but I want to be righteous like Him, and that involves more effort on my part .... to listen, to take captive every wrong thought, and to show my love by obeying His every command. In the end, I know that my righteousness is imputed to me by Jesus's act on the cross, but as my second Scripture notes, I am called to show my love through my obedience. As the title of this blog proclaims, this is my daily struggle.