Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal produced a firestorm of criticism. Many Americans wanted to see the former President held responsible. Whether it’s a culpable president or CEO, people want to see justice served.
The Bible sets up a strict standard for its leaders. Even as our key verse warns, we shouldn’t be hasty in aspiring to leadership positions within the church, for in such roles, we will be held to more stringent standards of accountability.
Moses is one such example. His work was beset with a constant barrage of criticism and opposition. He had to lead an unruly people who chronically fell into despair and doubt. It didn’t seem to matter what miracles God performed on their behalf. It never inspired sufficient faith for the next challenge. And when God threatened to utterly destroy them, Moses pleaded for their acquittal. He demonstrated a relentless commitment to these people.
In today’s reading, however, all the anger and frustration built up over almost forty years of wandering in the desert caught up with Moses. The Israelites find themselves again without water, not a new scenario for them (cf. Exodus 17). God had already proven that He could provide for the needs of His people.
Moses and Aaron certainly didn’t doubt God’s provision. Once the grumbling started, they headed for the Tent of Meeting. They had the faith to believe that, as He had before, God had the answer yet again.
But Moses and Aaron committed an egregious error before God, one that likely seems minor to us. Rather than speaking to the rock to bring forth the water, Moses struck the rock with his staff. God charged Moses and Aaron with a failure to trust and honor Him. The punishment was radically severe: neither Moses nor Aaron would be permitted to enter the Promised Land.