Day 19

Water from the Rock

from the reading plan

Numbers 19:1-22, Numbers 20:1-13, Psalm 106:32-33, John 7:37-39

Numbers chapter 20—the story of Moses angrily striking the rock at Kadesh as the cantankerous Israelites traveled toward the promised land—is one of those tricky passages that can leave us scratching our heads and wondering, “Huh. What just happened?”

During Israel’s forty years of wilderness wanderings, they perfected a nasty habit of complaining. If you have kids who complain about long car rides, too much homework, or eating green veggies, just be thankful that they aren’t the Moses-era Israelites! That bad-tempered bunch wrote the book on boorishness!

Shortly after leaving Egypt, the Israelites had complained for water near Horeb, so God told Moses to strike a rock. Water miraculously gushed forth and satiated the people’s thirst (Exodus 17:6). Many years later, as the community entered Kadesh, they again complained for water. This time, God told Moses to “speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water” (Numbers 20:8).

Instead, Moses barked, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring you water out of this rock?” and hit the rock twice with his staff (vv.10–11). Water still gushed forth—a gracious gift from God!—but God told Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (v.12).


“My goodness, God,” many of us wonder, “don’t you think that’s a little harsh? It doesn’t seem like the punishment fits the crime. It’s not like Moses killed anybody!”

In other words, we attempt to play defense attorney for Moses, who clearly violated God’s command. This response shows more concern for excusing a guilty lawbreaker—someone like us—rather than defending God’s glory. And therein lies the heart of the matter. Sin—whether a miniscule peccadillo or a pernicious whopper—is an affront to God’s holiness. To be clear, God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He calls for us to honor Him. Moses pridefully and impatiently took matters into his own hands and called attention to himself. In a moment of anger and hubris, he dismissed God’s words and dishonored God’s holiness.
The apostle Paul marveled at this centuries later. “Now,” Paul writes, “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors….drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ” (1Corinthians 10:1,4).

In great anger toward the people, Moses struck the rock at Kadesh and thirst-quenching water gushed forth. In great love for His people, God struck His own Son on Calvary and the redeeming blood of Christ gushed forth.

Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him” (John 7:37–38).

Today, drink deeply from the life-giving waters of Christ, our great Rock and Redeemer.

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