Sabbaths, Feasts, and More
Marking Jewish Themes with Devotion
“Take the rod, and gather the assembly together, in Kadesh, you, and Aaron your brother, and speak to the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and you shall bring forth to them water out of the rock: so you shall give the congregation and their beasts drink” (Number 20:8).
I have always struggled to understand the passage in Leviticus about Moses hitting the rock instead of speaking to it and the consequences that followed.
Because their supply had dried up, God instructed Moses to draw water from an otherwise dry rock for the Israelites at Mt. Horeb. In miraculous form reflecting the power of “I am that I am,” Moses hit the rock as he had done almost 40 years earlier (Exodus 17:6) the first time the desert wanderers had needed water. Clearly, the instruction was not to strike the rock as before but to speak to it. Hitting or speaking, the rock gushed water that quenched the thirst of all. Even if the method lacked complete obedience, God still blessed his people with the physical provision necessary for the moment.
But God disciplined Moses severely for this misstep by deeming that he would die in the desert and not enter the Promised Land. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them’ ” (Numbers 20:12).
What? After all this? I don’t know if Moses threw a fit or not, but I wouldn’t be a happy camper.
Many theologians and rabbis have written about this passage, and there is much to learn from their notes and insights. I especially enjoyed Rabbi Naftali Silberberg’s commentary on the subject in his article, “Why Did Moses Hit the Rock?” online at Chabad Learning. Essentially he sees two generations. Moses, the humble leader of miracles, striking through the desert with the first generation of released Hebrew slaves, and Joshua, with a younger generation, taking the Promised Land by speaking God’s Word. Although Joshua had not been identified and anointed yet to lead, Aaron was about to die. God began preparing His people for a major paradigm shift — He was about to announce the new sheriff, and things would be different.
At the confluence of two generations and the handover of leadership from the older to younger, God’s methods change. It takes faith and implicit trust on both sides to embrace and employ the new.
Striking the rock through command was the old pattern that would not conquer the giants and land of Canaan. The everlasting Ancient of Days knew that a fresh blueprint must be presented. Moses failed to accept the new and reverted to the leadership approach of old. He did not revere God’s wisdom with trust in the change. It cost him dearly, and I am sure Joshua and Caleb and all upcoming young leaders learned the importance of honoring God’s instructions.
This is not to say that in the days that followed Joshua and Caleb did not have learning curves as well. But this example is to underscore how importantly God sees the change of hands and methods when an older generation lets go and a new one takes the lead with fresh vision.
My husband and I have just passed the threshold of handing a 20-year-old ministry into the hands of capable and willing younger hearts and hands that will employ new and fresh methods born of God to get the job done. I respect the changes and fear God in them. I don’t want to be part of the old leadership that despises the new and forfeits upcoming rewards. May I grow with the changes as the Lord of the Harvest anoints young men and women to continue spreading the Good News and building His kingdom on earth with innovative ideas and vision brimming with a heavenly heartbeat.
For more study…
1 Corinthians 10:4, John 7:37, John 7:38
Work it out in daily life…
Ponder one situation that is changing in your life. How are you handling the change? Are you having difficulty accepting the new that is evolving? Ask God to give you a healthy respect for what is fresh and changing. List three ways you can begin to comply and adapt. Keep young leadership in prayer that they will not miss hearing God and be sober about employing new methods with humility.
©Bonnie Saul Wilks