Last night at church, we discussed human feelings and how we are to respond to our experiences. Here are two foundational passages:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,
and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts,
murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
These are what defile a person.
The story we looked at in particular had to do with Moses and the waters of Meribah. In this passage, Moses is confronted by the people of God (Israel) because they were thirsty and felt as though they would all perish, along with their livestock. They were so upset that Moses told the Lord that they were ready to stone him (Exodus 17:1-4).
What's interesting is that the Lord has already shown Israel that He would not let them thirst or starve to death. In Exodus 15, He made the bitter water sweet so that they could drink. In Exodus 16, He rained down bread from heaven (manna) so that they could eat.
And this is after they survived all of the plagues and crossed a parted Red Sea.
You think they would have gotten the point.
You would think that we would get the point.
God provides and we forget. It's quite common.
So what God did in Exodus 17 was command Moses to strike the rock with his staff (the same staff he used to turn the Nile into blood, yet another miracle) and when he did that, God made water come out of the rock. That shut the people up pretty quick. It was an amazing display of God's power.
Two books later in the Old Testament, in Numbers 20, a nearly identical incident takes place. The people began to grumble because they were thirsty. They thought their livestock would perish as well. Slow to learn, are they not?
There's no indication that they wanted to kill Moses this time, but they did mention that they would rather be back in Egypt as slaves than to be wandering in the wilderness thirsty and hungry.
Something tells me that the lack of water strongly affected their brain processes.
So Moses and his brother Aaron turned to the Lord for guidance. This time, God tells Moses to take his rod and speak to the rock that water may flow from it.
Keep in mind that this is in the same place as the first story -- likely the same rock.
The same whiny people.
The same rod in his hand.
So Moses goes before the people, calls them a bunch of rebels and strikes the rock twice. After that, water flowed...and so did God's wrath.
The Lord did not tell Moses to strike the rock, as He had told him before. God said to speak to the rock.
So what was Moses thinking?
Well we're told that Moses did not believe in God or uphold Him as holy (v. 12) in that instance. Moses likely let God's verbal command skim through his brain really quickly before scurrying off to do what he had done before. He fell back on his former experience of striking the rock because the people fell back on their former feelings of not trusting in God.
Neither one of these is what God desired. Instead, God wanted His people to heed His word.
After this display of sin, God said that Moses would not be able to enter the Promised Land. And that's not all. Aaron was also punished (later in chapter 20) by not being allowed into the land of promise. Moses' death (Deuteronomy 32) occurred mere moments before the people crossed the proverbial finish line.
Aaron and Moses left behind stained earthly legacies because of this sin. The people were not able to walk into the long-awaited Promised Land with their former leaders, but they carried mere memories of those two men because of the sin at the waters of Meribah. God took it so seriously that He mentions that exact event when Aaron and Moses were on their respected death beds.
So if God took something as "small" as striking a rock as seriously as He did, what about our own personal rebellions?
Here's another layer to the story:
"[Our Fathers] all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ."
1 Corinthians 10:34
When Moses did not follow God's command, more was happening than just a hand reaching into the cookie jar. Moses was pushing back against God Himself. Jesus was the Rock, and instead of speaking to the Rock (metaphorically, turning to the Lord for provision), Moses trusted in his own instincts.
And instincts are often wrong.
Feelings are misleading.
But, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:8).
Romans 12:1-2 says that our minds need to be renewed -- not our gut feelings. Our heart is deceitful above all things, but God's word cuts us to the quick and transforms our way of thinking. He gives us a new perspective.
And the more we're in God's word, allowing Him to change us with His Spirit, the more often we will avoid looking like Moses, smacking the Rock out of our own self-righteousness.