Moses’ Big Mistake

Throughout the story of Moses, we see him progress from a timid, doubting selection to a mighty man of God.  And yet, Moses made one tiny mistake that cost him getting to see the promised land, which was his goal for forty years.

In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron.  They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD!  Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here?  Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.  The LORD said to Moses,  “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

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 and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”  Then Moses 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 honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”Numbers 20:1-12

Did you catch it?  God told Moses to take his staff and then speak to the rock, to make it bring forth fresh water.  For whatever reason, Moses struck the rock twice, and apparently didn’t speak.  A minor difference to what God had asked him to do.

But minor or not, it was a difference.  Perhaps there is more to what was going on in Moses’ heart at this time – maybe it was pride – but the consequence was real.  God penalized both Moses and Aaron, and caused them to die before they could enter the promised land.

So, does it matter how carefully we choose to obey God’s commands?


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