Wow, this is a harsh passage! How could God come down so hard on Moses for a simple thing like hitting a rock? After all, Moses had just spent 40 years listening to these people do nothing but whine and complain. A lesser man would have snapped long before Moses did. How could God have denied Moses the pleasure of entering in the Promised Land that he had worked so hard to reach?
There are a few lessons in this passage:
1. Moses sin was not that of hitting the rock. His sin was in the fact that he did not honor God as holy in the sight of the people. God’s instructions to Moses were to speak to the rock and it would gush forth water. (note: This was probably a natural spring that was dried up at the time). Notice what Moses did.
First he said, “listen you rebels”. He had finally slipped into the vengeful place where he began to hate the people. Up until this point it was Moses that was interceding on behalf of the people to stave off God’s wrath. Now Moses was burning with wrath against the people. He began to buy into the idea that this was really all about him.
Secondly, he said, “must we bring water out of this rock.” Whoa! Who’s going to bring the water out of the rock? Moses started believing his own press. Moses was going to take the credit for the miracle that God was about to perform. In so doing, Moses had dishonored God by stealing His glory and making this a personal issue between Moses and the people.
As a leader, it was Moses’ job to stay transparent and allow the people to see the true picture of God through him. To “honor God as holy” is translated “sanctify,” and “set apart” God in other translations. It is the verb form of the word kadosh which means to “be set apart”. As soon as a leader does not point the glory to God and begins taking credit for God’s work, his ministry is over.
2. Sin is sin and consequences are consequences, no matter who you are. In this final act of judgment, God drove home the point to the people that, if Moses could suffer consequences because of sin, then sin must be serious business. It is a strong temptation for leaders of any level to begin believing that they are above the law; that the rules don’t apply to them. We must remember this: in the kingdom of God the gift of leadership is just another one of the many gifts. We are all members of the body of Christ and there is only one head, Jesus Christ. The human leader in the church is an important role, but it is not one that is elevated above any others. That is why Jesus told His disciples that if they wanted to be great in the kingdom of Heaven then they must become least. A leader is the chief servant. As soon as a leader in the church begins to buy into the aristocratic models of leadership upheld in the world’s systems, then they are done for. The Promised Land of walking in the Kingdom of Heaven in the fullness of truth and unity with God and His people will be out of reach.
3. God will accomplish His purposes with or without us. For every Moses there is a Joshua who is in the wings to fill in the gaps. It is a danger to believe that one individual is indispensable to the accomplishment of God’s mission in any given circumstance. Many times we can take on too much responsibility for the health and stability of whatever ministry we are leading, whether it be our family, our relational evangelism in our workplace, our church, etc. Yes, God expects faithfulness and diligence in whatever assignment He has given us, but when we take on the load of believing that we are absolutely necessary to the success of the ministry, then we have slipped into dangerous territory. God wants us to experience the joy of serving Him well, but He will not allow us to take the glory and the credit for the work that He is doing. You can be replaced, don’t forget that.
The last two days of devotionals have been pretty heavy handed, that is true. Don’t be discouraged, though. The truth about these heavy devotionals is that, when they are fully realized in your heart, they will bring the most ultimate sense of peace and fulfillment possible. Here’s why…God is in control, not you. God loves you and wants you to experience the fullness of knowing Him. When we get out of His way and admit that we aren’t smart enough or strong enough to “do” what He wants us to do, but that if we yield ourselves to His strength and “be” available to Him, then we will experience unthinkable joy in serving our King.