“Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink. ”So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. (Numbers 20:8-11, NIV)
The Israelites were in a bad situation: they had no water. They angrily turned to their leaders, Moses and Aaron, demanding they provide. The leaders, unable to produce water from thin air, turned to God for help. He told them exactly what to do and they…did something different.
The Bible does not tell us why Moses disobeyed God. But, as fellow humans, we can think of several possibilities:
- God had previously instructed Moses to strike a rock to produce water (Exodus 17:6). Since that worked before, maybe Moses thought it would work again.
- Moses had already told God he wasn’t a good speaker (Exodus 4:10). Perhaps he did not think his voice and words would have any effect on the rock.
- Maybe Moses thought it hitting the rock was a better demonstration of God’s power. He may have thought the spectacle would stick with the people longer and help them remember God’s provision the next time things got tough.
Whether it was one of these reasons or a different one, Moses disobeyed God. When we strip away everything else, the real reason for disobedience is pride. We trust our own judgment more than God’s. Or we think our way of doing things is better than His way. Maybe we doubt God’s character, wisdom, and instruction, but have confidence in our own. Pride is seeing God as less than He truly is and seeing ourselves as more than we truly are.
You may read this story and think, “But what Moses did worked. The people got the water they needed. So, is it really a big deal?” God did provide water. Why? I think it was because His reputation was at stake. The people needed water and were looking to God (through Moses) to provide it. So, God answered the people’s request despite Moses’ disobedience. But the disobedience was a big deal. The guilty — Moses and Aaron — were disciplined:
But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12, NIV)
The instruction Moses and Aaron were given was private; the rest of the people did not know how God had told them to get the water. Accordingly, the consequences of their sin were communicated privately; they would not enter the Promised Land. Since their sin was not publicly exposed, it may seem they got away with disobeying God. But they did not. Neither do we.
For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. (Colossians 3:25, NIV)
Sometimes we think we got away with disobeying God because the consequences are not visible immediately. But nothing slips past God. He sees all and knows all, including our thoughts and motives. When people who have not accepted Christ disobey, they are adding to the tally of sins for which God will punish them. When those of us who have accepted Christ disobey, we forfeit some aspect of far more life. We will not be punished; Christ already took that punishment on our behalf. But we will experience consequences of our sin. Here are some examples:
- When we disobey Him by worrying, we forfeit peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
- When we pursue sin rather than righteousness, we forfeit satisfaction (Matthew 5:5).
- When we engage in impurity, we forfeit seeing God’s presence and provision in our lives (Matthew 5:8).
- When we are proud, we forfeit the grace of God and are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (James 4:6-7).
- When our focus is on gaining earthly treasure (wealth, power, recognition), we forfeit eternal treasure (Matthew 6:19-20).
If we want to have God’s best — far more life — we must obey God, even in areas no one else sees. When we cannot obey, it is good to ask why we trust ourself — our knowledge, our wisdom, our understanding of right and wrong, our perception of what is best — more than we trust God. We can also approach it from the other direction and ask what we are afraid will happen if we obey God when His ways disagree with what we want to do. Being honest with ourself and God, admitting we have been wrong, and changing our mindset and choices leads to a positive consequence — far more life.
When have you thought your way of doing something was better than what God has instructed?
What form does your pride most often take? Do you think too highly of yourself, too lowly of God, or both?
What have you forfeited as a result of your sin?
Choose far more life today by admitting your pride to God and finding the root so you can eagerly obey Him!
Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso