Speak And Never Strike
By: Danny Wallace
This is a true story.
Moses was chosen of God to go before the Pharaoh of Egypt and speak on God’s behalf. God told him to tell the Pharaoh to let God’s people go!” Moses did just that. You are probably very familiar with this part of the story. The Pharaoh refused and God sent many plagues upon Egypt, finally killing the Pharaoh’s only son. The Pharaoh gave in and allowed Moses to lead the Israelites out of captivity.
True to the nature of a group of self-righteous people who have been set free by no accord of their own, it took no time at all for God’s people to begin to complain and grumble about their every inconvenience. This chaos led to Moses and the Israelites wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years. Imagine that! What should have been an 11-day trip took 40 years! That may seem ludicrous to some, but if you’ve ever attended a church business meeting in your lifetime it probably makes a lot of sense. It can take a group of grumbling Christians that long to decide the brand and color of toilet paper to purchase.
If you’ve heard this story before then you already know that the Israelites finally arrived at the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army hot on their trail. Once again, the blame game started. After all Moses had done for these people at the blessing and instruction of God they were grumbling again. However, as everyone knows, Moses stretched his staff toward the Sea and the waters of the Red Sea parted. The Israelites crossed to the other side and Pharaoh and his army were drowned as the waters fell, and crushed them all.
Now, here is the part of the story that you may, or may not be aware of. When it came time for the Israelites to cross over Jordan and enter the Promised Land, God would not permit Moses to enter. What? Are you kidding me? After all of the T’s that Moses had crossed and the I’s that he had dotted he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land? Why?
In the first month of their exodus into the wilderness, the entire company of the People of Israel arrived in the Wilderness of Zin. The people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and she was buried. There was no water there for the community, so they ganged up on Moses and Aaron again.
They attacked Moses saying, “We wish we’d died when the rest of our brothers died before God. Why did you haul this congregation of God out here into this wilderness to die, people and cattle alike? And why did you take us out of Egypt in the first place, dragging us into this miserable country? No grain, no figs, no grapevines, no pomegranate – and now not even any water!”
Moses and Aaron walked from the assembled congregation to the Tent of Meeting and threw themselves facedown on the ground. And they saw the Glory of God. God spoke to Moses: “Take the staff. Assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron. Speak to that rock that’s right in front of them and it will give water. You will bring water out of the rock for them; congregation and cattle will both drink.”
Moses took the staff away from God’s presence, as commanded. He and Aaron rounded up the whole congregation in front of the rock. Moses spoke: “Listen, rebels! Do we have to bring water out of this rock for you?” With that Moses raised his arm and slammed his staff against the rock—once, twice. Water poured out. Congregation and cattle drank.God said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you didn’t trust me, didn’t treat me with holy reverence in front of the People of Israel, you two aren’t going to lead this company into the land that I am giving them.”
Scripture records that after that Moses pleaded with God to allow him to enter the Promised Land, but not only did God refuse, He told Moses that he was not to ever bring it up again. God didn’t decide this because Moses disobeyed Him. If that were the case then why would He have allowed that grumbling, disbelieving, arrogant bunch of Israelites entrance?
I submit to you that the reason is simple. When God asked Moses to “speak” to the rock it was a glorious symbol of provision, deliverance, and freedom by way of God’s Word, and only His Word of Grace. To strike the rock was a symbol of the Law to come at Mt. Sinai. God would have brought forth the water either way because it was His promised provision to the people. Let that fact forever put to rest the lie that God’s provision to His people is hinged upon His people’s performance. God couldn’t have provided as promised for a more poorly performing group of people. God’s provision is the faithful result of His promise – nothing more, and nothing less.
Then why could Moses not enter the Promised Land? Because he was the prophet who represented God’s heart and God’s voice, and it is very important that we, His Ambassadors, take note of this valuable lesson. We can stand tall and speak the Good News of God’s wondrous Grace, or we can strike the backs of hurting people with the whip of the Law. Either way, God’s provision and His promise stands. The question is, “What does it do for you?”
Speak God’s love and Grace so that the living water of life can flow freely to all who are thirsty to drink. Enter the Promised Land now, or wander for a lifetime in the darkness of Law. Speak Grace, or strike with the Law – either way, eternity for all people hinges on God’s immoveable promise, not our performance. Nevertheless, it changes everything about today.