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Water From a Rock?

Numbers 20:1-13; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 411-421


The Message

We worship God when we trust Him.

Memory Verse

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord . . . is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4).

Have you ever run out of water? Imagine how thirsty you would be! You’d probably be upset and cranky. Years ago God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses did. But they had a water problem. This is how it happened.


The Israelites were out of water—again. So they started complaining to Moses—again. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this desert?” they grumbled. “There’s nothing good to eat here. And there’s no water to drink!” They didn’t mumble about this just once or twice. Again and again they complained, their voices growing louder and louder.

How many times had Moses heard that? In fact, the people had complained about having no water 40 years earlier. At that time God had told Moses to strike the rock, and water had gushed out. Gallons and gallons of water had poured out, and it kept pouring out from the rock as long as the people were there.

So here they were again without water. Instead of trusting God to care for their needs, they grumbled and complained. And Moses, as he always did, turned to God for help. God told Moses to take his staff—his walking stick—and call his brother, Aaron. Then they were to gather all the people together.

“Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water,” God said. (See Numbers 20:6-8.)

Moses had been patient for a long, long time. But after 40 years of listening to the Israelites grumble, he’d had enough. He was angry. He was tired of their grumbling and complaining. Once more they were showing that they did not trust God. Moses was so irritated that he forgot that it was God who had caused all the miracles to happen. God had caused the water to flow out of the rock 40 years before. Only God could cause it to flow again. But Moses forgot. He felt he was the one who would make the water come from the rock.

“Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Moses yelled at the people. But he didn’t speak to the rock as God had commanded. He raised his arm and hit the rock twice with his staff. And God made the water gush out.

Moses may have felt quite pleased with himself for a moment. He’d probably wanted to yell at the people for a long time. And it may have felt good to hit that rock. But Moses had given the impression that the power to make the water flow had come from him and Aaron. So, God was dishonored. If Moses had obeyed, it would have reminded the people that although Moses was their leader, he got all his instructions from God.

So God spoke again in His calm, gentle voice. “Moses, you did not trust Me. Not even enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites,” God said. “Because of that, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

Immediately Moses realized what he had done. He, too, had forgotten to trust God. He had forgotten for a moment who was really leading Israel.

For 40 years Moses and Aaron had struggled in the wilderness. For 40 years they had led God’s people. But Moses and Aaron could not go into the Promised Land. The Israelites had to learn that whoever their leader was, that person had to trust God completely and obey all of God’s instructions.

God wants us to honor and worship Him. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to know that He will be with us every day. We worship Him when we do as He asks. And we worship Him when we trust His leading.