“Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock? Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly” Numbers 20:10, 11
The language of Moses and the context of this event suggest that Moses had lost his cool with the people over their continuing disobedience, lack of faith in the Lord and their rebellious nature toward the Lord. Only one who has never had to lead or manage another person or people would have difficulty identifying with his frustration.
However, for Moses and Aaron, prophet and priest, this single act of Moses would bar them from entering the Promised Land. What was it that Moses had done that invoked such a reaction from God? It may seem such a trivial and excusable action to us that we cannot fathom why the Lord would so humiliate Moses before all Israel.
The command of God was to “speak to the rock” (v 8) but Moses “struck the rock twice with his rod.” The rod is symbolic of the authority of God which is evident throughout the exodus. This can be more readily seen in Numbers 21 when a bronze serpent is mounted on Moses’ rod. The question arises, “Was Moses prevented from entering the Promised Land because he was disobedient?” That might seem the case but we need to look deeper. Why didn’t Moses obey the exact literal word of the Lord?
The reason given by the Lord in verse twelve has two linked parts in it. Firstly Moses did not “believe” the Lord. As we read the history of Moses to this point it is very evident that Moses did believe the word of the Lord or he would not be where he was doing what he was. What has happened? Secondly, the Lord says that Moses did not “hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel.” To “hallow” is to esteem as holy or separate from that which is unholy.
When we combine the words of the Lord with the words and actions of Moses in verses ten and eleven we can see that Moses had made a huge shift in his own identification. He was identifying himself (intrinsically unholy) with the Lord (intrinsically holy) instead of the people Israel (intrinsically unholy). For a moment in his life spiritual pride arose in Moses’ heart and he spoke to Israel as if he was God. He had momentarily forgotten that he was also a rebel. In so doing he forgot his place and stole away the people’s concept of the holiness of God. In effect, he made himself equal with God (intrinsically holy). This may have been part of the reason for the murderous attitude of the Pharisees and scribes toward Jesus when He claimed equality with the Father.
Since Moses was the leader of God’s people there would have to be a significant consequence if the people of Israel were to have a true concept of the holiness of God restored in their minds.
When we have a critical spirit we are the same as Moses as he was at that time. Instead of pleading with our holy God on behalf of other believers we criticise them from a proud and arrogant heart. We could emulate King David as revealed in Psalm 35:11-14. A critical person will not experience the “rest” of God and they will darken, if not destroy, other people’s perception of the holiness of God.