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Numbers 20:2-13 (ESV)
The Waters of Meribah
2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.
Moses Strikes the Rock
10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.
One of the confusing things about the Bible is that the same stories sometimes appear in several places, in slightly different versions. (The feeding of the 5000 is described in four different places.) The reason for this is that different books of the Bible have different purposes, so they add or drop various details from the stories, to emphasize different points. Today we look at the same story as yesterday, but this time from the book of Numbers. Yesterday’s account emphasized the faithlessness of the Israelites. In today’s account, we see that Moses also sinned. What Moses did was to presumptuously strike the rock with his staff, while berating the people of Israel. In effect, Moses was acting like the judge of the people, and taking matters into his own hands, without giving God honor, credit, or glory. In doing this, he was a huge success in the eyes of the people, but a failure in the eyes of God. (See Hebrews 11:6 on how even good deeds done without faith are displeasing to God.) For his sin, God will not permit Moses to enter the promised land. He will get to the borders and see it, but then will die.