Do you think Moses sometimes felt like a parent trying to herd a pack of squabbling children (the Israelites)? One of parenting’s greatest challenges is to lead and discipline without giving in to frustration or anger. Children do not always respond to parental authority in reasonable or obedient ways. Being a good mother or father, teacher or leader, requires God’s help!
Moses failed in this area in today’s reading. Israel’s habitual complaining became a matter of pride. If he took their grumbling personally, he was stepping into the place of God and essentially taking the credit or glory for himself. Normally, he recognized that the people were in fact complaining against God and resisted this temptation.
But not this time. The people were irritable about a lack of water (vv. 2–5). Their constant complaint was, essentially: “Why did you bring us here to die?” Moses and Aaron inquired of the Lord, and He told them to speak to a rock and it would pour forth water. Moses, however, spoke and acted in anger, striking the rock instead of speaking to it.
Perhaps Moses was depressed about the nation’s failure at the border. Perhaps he was upset over the recent death of his sister (v. 1). Whatever the reason, there was no excuse for this sin of pride. “Must we bring you water?” was both a complaint and a boast (v. 10; see Ps. 106:32–33). That’s what made his sin of striking the rock so heinous.
Though the punishment of not being permitted to enter the promised land seems severe, it fit the sin (Num. 20:12). Moses had publicly disobeyed the Lord. It was a failure of faith—"you did not trust in me enough"—as well as a failure of obedience and worship. He had failed to honor God as holy.
>> To us, complaining or grumbling might seem like a mild sin. But Scripture doesn’t agree! Let us ask God to help us fight this temptation and “become blameless and pure” (Phil. 2:14–16).
In many churches today, reverence is not always emphasized, but we ask You to check our every complaint with a reminder of Your holiness. Silence our complaining with joyful reverence for Your majesty.