Listen carefully. It matters.
I have always felt it was hard on Moses that he never got to enter the land of promise. We read that God denied him this because of one incident (Num 20:1-12), and I’ve often wondered why this was such a big deal.
Desperate for water, Moses was under immense pressure from the people, and in a moment of understandable frustration heresponded in anger, and failed to carefully obey God’s instruction.
He was commanded to gather the people and speak to the rock.
Instead he shouted at the people and hit the rock – twice.
Close enough, surely? It’s what God had said previously in much the same situation, and it had worked well enough then. (Ex 17:1-7)
And in fact it still ‘worked’ in this case; water duly gushed outof the rock he struck.
But God’s response was emphatic: “You did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel.” And so Moses disqualified himself from the future he might have had. It’s sobering. As Jesus made clear, “Much will be expected from the one who has been given much.”
And I’ve been reflecting on the lessons I need to learn, for I too have been ‘given much’.
I need to listen carefully, not casually to the Lord’s prompting.
- Just because he has worked through me in a certain way in the past does not mean I should presume I know what he wants from me today.
- I dare not rely merely on my past experience, my understanding, or my abilities. “For apart from me you can do nothing.”
- I need to beware responding out of exasperation. My motivation matters to God, because he loves all his children, even the obstinate ones.
- Moses failed to reveal God’s true character to the peoplehe was leading. It’s a serious thing for me to misrepresent God.
Perhaps the most fundamental issue that God had with Moses & Aaron is exposed by their own words: “Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock for you?” Moses was typically recognised for his humility, but in this situation he revealed a dangerous tendency to arrogance and self-confidence. Such a characteristic would have made Moses deeply unsuited – even unsafe – to lead the people into their inheritance. Sometimes the Lord knows only too well what we can and what we cannot safely be trusted with.
As others have pointed out, in the fulness of time Moses didstand in the land of promise, alongside Jesus, who beautifully restores all things. (Mt 17:3) I’m glad.
But in the meantime, Master, help me – both during these 40 days and beyond – to respond to you with humble trust and faithful obedience.
And to listen carefully.