There are two incidents recorded in the Pentateuch where Moses was called upon to bring water from the rock. The first occurred in Exodus chapter 17 and the second in Numbers chapter 20. The first happened on the Israelites journey to the Holy Mount Horeb. The second took place some time after the Israelites believed the spies bad report and rebelled against the Lord. It is not clear whether they took place at the same location. However the second time Moses offended the Lord and was forbidden to enter the Promised Land. On the first occasion the Lord spoke in verses 5 and 6 to Moses- “”Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand before you by the rock of Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.” On the second occasion in Numbers chapter 20 the Lord told Moses to speak to the rock yet he forgot that when addressed the assembly. “So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as He commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock ans Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring out water from the rock?” Then he raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron. Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” Verses 9-12. This seems rather harsh with all that Moses had to put up with. But is it? When one considers that Moses was only told to speak to the rock, and not harangue the assembly as well as physically striking the rock. I believe God wanted to show the Israelites that it God himself that was to provide the miracle of the water. Moses’ action drew attention to himself and away from God. It was no excuse for Moses to say that on the previous occasion he was told to strike the rock (though scripture does not record this.) It is all too easy to call any change ‘unbiblical’ and assume that just because it met with God’s approval in the past it will always be the right way to do something. It is all too easy for us to reduce things to a magic formula.
The second point I would make concerns the miraculous today. Do our egos get in the way of God performing miracles today? I mean we would all like to go up to somebody in a wheelchair and say the words of Acts chapter 3 – “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” But to whose glory would we do it? If we do it so that what should go totally to God rubs off on us, then our motives are wrong. It is often said that more miracles occur in the third world, now that may be because the lack of physical resources, but maybe it could be because of a better spiritual attitude. In the western world today it is virtually impossible to attribute anything positive to God. So maybe God will not grant us miracles because it would hinder our own spiritual development, seeking a worldly power over our fellow believers? I include myself in this as well, because I would have admit mixed motives. If that is so then may not God withhold healing? Are we not to seek the Lord’s heart rather demand that he complies with our wishes?
David Rose 2014