I would have thanked God.
No, that’s a lie.
I would have probably rushed to the water to quench my thirst. Then, I like to believe that I would have thanked God.
But I wasn’t there.
I wasn’t in the desert of Zin with the Israelites. I don’t know what I would have done. Judging by the general attitude of the congregation, the probabilities of responding in faith were rather slim. It’s all in the numbers. Numbers 20:2-13 to be specific.
The Israelites looked around and did not see the promised land. They saw a desert. An “evil place” where there was no grain, figs, vines, pomegranates or water to drink. They had unmet expectations and chose to grumble instead of asking for what they needed. They took their frustrations out on Moses and Aaron, and accused them of bringing “the assembly of the Lord” into the wilderness to die.
Alright. Got it.
In response to their grumbling, Aaron and Moses humbled themselves before the Lord. God asked Moses to take his staff, to assemble the congregation, and to tell the rock before the people to yield its water.
Sure. That’s an odd instruction, but He is God. I seem to remember a burning bush that did not burn, ten spectacular plagues, and a sea that doubled as a curtain.
He. Is. God. I’ll keep reading.
Moses took the staff and assembled the people with Aaron’s assistance. Then, he addressed the congregation and struck the rock twice. Water abundantly flowed out of it and everybody drank.
We then get to verse 12, where God says 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.”
So much can be said about Numbers 20, but verse 12 really makes me reflect.
Moses did not obey. God told him to speak to the rock. He even told him what to say to it, but Moses spoke to the people and struck the rock…twice. Based on my understanding of this scripture, his disobedience stemmed from unbelief and led to God not being upheld as holy through Moses before the Israelites.
This is what astounds me: The congregation had no idea that Moses had disobeyed. As far as they were concerned, a miracle had just taken place. God had once again used Moses to provide water from a rock in the middle of the desert. Yet according to God, Moses did not believe in Him, to uphold Him as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel. And it mattered.
This passage leads me to believe that upholding God as holy has to do with faith and obedience. Not with mighty works. Not with how amazed others are at how anointed we seem to be. Not with how quickly we appear to be growing. At that time, gathering the people and speaking to a rock in the middle of the desert was enough, because that’s what God asked for.
I waited in silence as God reminded me that I didn’t need to juggle. I didn’t need to put on a show to prove that I served a miraculous God. I didn’t need to appear more productive to others to justify why I seemed to be standing in a desert.
When He gave me instructions in those times, I often carried them out in the spirit of pride, impatience or anger, because I was annoyed to have been going through that season in the first place. In those times, I was tempted to grumble when God’s answers did not feed my ego, and to rejoice when they did.
I needed to be reminded that God is my promised land. Even heaven is not heaven without Him.
But I wasn’t in the desert. I don’t know what I would have done, and I certainly don’t know what Moses was thinking. I am just sitting here with my Bible, and meditating.
Verse 13. Hmmm. God didn’t need Moses to uphold Himself as holy after all. Imagine that.