Moses and Aaron gathered the people, but Moses was angry with them and struck the rock instead of just speaking to it. Water comes forth anyway and everyone drank, but Moses has made a big mistake. This act of striking the rock ruined a picture of Yeshua that the Lord was trying to illustrate. In Exo 17 Moses struck the rock and water came forth. The word “rock” there is “tzur” and it is a rock with no cleft in it. This is a picture of the crucifixion.
Yeshua (the “rock” in 1 Cor 10.4; Matt 16.18; Deut 32.4; Zech 3.9, 12.3; Dan 2.31-45; 1 Sam 17.40) was struck and gave living water so that the people might live. This time, Moses only needed to speak to the rock. The word “rock” here is “cela” with a cleft (to hide in). Yeshua does not need to be struck (crucified) again to give life. But Moses disobeyed the Lord on this. It wasn’t as if he misunderstood what the Lord said. He talked with Yehovah face to face (Num 12.8).
If anyone had his ticket punched to the Promised Land it was Moses. But if the leader is lost he cannot lead. To whom much is given, much is required. Yehovah will protect the validity of what he is trying to teach. even Moses makes mistakes. Moses knew what was coming and he decides to play a little game with the people. They have been giving him a hard time so he decides to get back at them. He is thinking, “You have been giving me trouble, but to show you I am above all that I will give you water anyway.” He wants to strike them, but instead he strikes the rock. They were like rocks, hard-headed and stiff-necked. But, he was to speak to the them and engage, he was their teacher.
In the first instance in Exo 17 is like the letter of the law. It can be strict and harsh. But Num 20 was to be like the “spirit” of the law, the essence and intent that gives life. Together, the letter and the spirit is what the Torah is all about. But some will say, “Didn’t Paul say that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” in 2 Cor 3.6? Yes, he did, so let’s look at that verse.
Paul is illustrating the difference between the two schools of the Pharisees that were the biggest teachers of the people in the First Century. The Pharisees were broken into two main groups, the House of Hillel (Beit Hillel) and the House of Shammai (Beit Shammai). The House of Hillel is where Paul came from. His teacher was Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel. The House of Hillel taught the “spirit” or essence/intent of the Torah. The House of Shammai adhered to a strict and harsh “letter ” of the law interpretation. What Paul is saying here is strict observance of the Torah can “kill” compassion, mercy and kindness. But, the “spirit” or essence and intent of the law gives live to it. When Yeshua contended with the “Pharisees” it was almost always with those from the House of Shammai, not Hille, and this can be seen in Matt 23.1-39.
Soft speech saves us from anger and verbal persuasion is better than force. The solution is education based on values. Moses asks, “Shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” In other words, “After all you have done to us, we should help you?” But Moses knew the Lord was going to give them water. He already said he would do it in verse 8. Moses decides he is going to play this to his advantage. That’s the problem with knowing the future. We don’t know how to use it correctly. We would probably exploit it to our advantage, too.
Forget the fact that Messiah is coming soon and the judgments, we would think in our mercenary hearts, “Can we make a buck somewhere in all of this?” Prophecy “experts” today think they know the future and they exploit it all the time for money. Before Y2K, people were prophesying that the end was coming and they were selling their tapes and having seminars about what the “Lord told me.” The when you checked them out, you would find that they were making plans for their ministries after Y2K was supposed to happen. One author believed that the Shemittah year was coming and there would be an economic collapse. But he didn’t give the book away to people to save them, he sold the book. If his message was from God (and we know it wasn’t), why was he selling the in formation that could save them? This reveals where their heart was all along.
In this case, Moses really makes a big mistake here. He doesn’t believe the Lord because he didn’t do what the Lord said to do. He tried to exploit the situation to his advantage. This was also prophetic of Messiah (the rock). He was struck the first time, and now all you need to do is speak to the rock to be saved (living water). But, he was struck again for personal exploitation, just like Yeshua is today for personal exploitation and personal gain. Moses abused his authority (rod) and if he did it in simple things, he would do it in important things. If we are faithful in little things, we will be faithful in big things.
What happens when “contention” (Meribah-verse 13) comes in? We make mistakes, even if we are a “Moses.” It brings out the worst in all of us. How ironic it is for us to help others, but sink into unbelief and sin. In the face of unloving and ungrateful brothers and friends, do we continue to serve? The answer should be “yes.”
Num 20 describes a collapse in leadership. What would have gone through our minds to see Moses and Aaron in so much distress? They were yelling at the mob, groveling before the enemy. All the consultants, flow charts and empowerment workshops in the world would not atone for a lack of leadership. There was leadership up to this point. If it wasn’t Moses, it was Aaron, or Miriam, or a developing leader like Joshua. If all this failed, there was Yehovah.
Sometimes leadership is not very systematic. There is a saying, “Crazy times call for crazy solutions.” Was Moses a failure? No, he left the world a better place. He succeeded when he obeyed the Lord. Moses did a good job. Many times he went before the Lord, but this time he did not believe him (verse 12). He went from compassionate to impatient, and he made mistakes, too. The people got their water and were happy, but Moses got the consequences. Leadership is now going to pass to the next generation. That’s it, no explanation and no protest from anyone that is recorded here (verse 12). The incident just ends and the Scriptures move on to Num 20.14-23.
We will pick up there in Part 22.