Focal Passage: Numbers 20
Paul writes, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth
take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12, KJV).
At a former congregation I served in Virginia I had followed
a retiring minister (who had been in a very fruitful ministry for over 60
years). This church was a small, yet vibrant rural work that was active in
local and global missions.
Within this congregation was a man who was known as “the
deacon who could make a preacher cuss.”
This deacon became a good friend and encouragement, but he
really did make life for the former pastor very difficult.
On a mission project in Pennsylvania he pushed that pastor’s
patience beyond its breaking point and in a fit of sheer exasperation and anger
he told this deacon off.
After this encounter, the deacon walked away “innocently”
wondering why his pastor was so profane and rude.
Sadly, though he had caused this incident, he never
understood why any minister could lose control like that.
Moses and Aaron led Israel from Egypt through the wilderness
towards the Promised Land.
This journey had not been easy. Though Yahweh went before
them and provided for the needs of the people, they still found reason to
complain and whine.
At Kadesh, Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, died and
While encamped there the people began to complain — No
This was not the first time they had complained about water
(or food). Earlier at Marah they complained that the waters were too bitter.
The Lord gave Moses a piece of wood and the waters were
purified- bitter water was sweetened (Ex. 15:22-25a).
Then at Rephidim, they complained again — No Water! — and
the Lord instructed Moses to strike the rock of Horeb where the Lord stood and
water came forth (Ex. 17:1-7).
And now at Kadesh, there is no water and the people long for
the enslavement of Egypt with its vines, pomegranates, grain and figs, rather
then this “evil place” (Numb. 20:5).
Enough is enough! This time God gives a different response.
Moses must take his rod and speak to the rock before the
people to release the water.
But, since enough is enough, Moses hits the rock twice;
“Listen, bitter ones, should WE make water come forth from this rock for you?”
The water does appear, but Moses has cast his lot. He spoke
and acted in defiance and contradiction and the Lord will not allow His glory
to be transgressed.
This event proved to be crucial for the future faithfulness
of the Jewish people (Ps. 81:7; 95:8; 106:32). We read, “They angered him at
the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they
made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.”
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