Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord ’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them. – Numbers 20:6-13
This is a continuation of the passage from yesterday’s post when the Israelites complain that there is no water to drink. It is reminiscent of the account in Exodus when Moses brings forth water from the rock at Horeb (Exodus 17:5-7) when the Israelites were asking themselves whether the Lord was among them or not. Moses and Aaron seem to be at the end of their ropes. They place themselves and the well being of the Israelites in God’s hands as they fall on their knees before God. God shows up. But God is not happy with Moses and Aaron’s response to the rebellious Israelites. God needed them to follow him in leading the people regardless of how rebellious or oblivious the Israelites were.
Some of you may have noticed I am a C.S. Lewis fan. His fiction and non-fiction provides some amazing insights into our christian journey. Some of his non-fiction can be slow going and philosophical, but his fiction books are studded with hidden gems of understanding and insight. One of my favorite parts of the Narnia series is from Prince Caspian. The children, who are the main characters in the stories, have been whisked from a railway station back to Narnia. They were summoned by Prince Caspian calling upon Aslan (the Christ figure) for help.
As they are making their way toward Prince Caspian to help they become lost and very discouraged (kind of like the Israelites here). Lucy yearns to experience the old Narnia she remembers from her previous visit, especially Aslan. Aslan meets her alone on a walk through the woods and instructs her to wake the others and follow a certain path. The others must simply trust her account of meeting Aslan and his direction to follow him. Lucy’s faith in Aslan falters and she begins to doubt her meeting with Aslan. The group ends up voting against Lucy to go by a different and disastrous path which almost kills them. Here is the conversation between Aslan and Lucy about her decision to go along with the group and take the wrong path even though she knew the right path that Aslan set out for her (and her alone):“But what would have been the good?”
Aslan said nothing.
“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”
“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”
“Oh dear,” said Lucy.
“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.” ― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
Lucy wakes the group and recounts her second meeting with Aslan and states that she must follow him even if the others do not, but here is the catch — the others will not be able to see him at first. They must follow Lucy who is in turn following Aslan. Only after starting their journey will they begin to see Aslan who is leading them. This is an amazing picture of what discipleship and Christian leadership is supposed to be like. We are called to lead others to follow Christ, even if they cannot see him so clearly themselves.
I think Aaron and Moses were behaving a bit like Lucy after her first meeting with Aslan. They were bowing to the peer pressure of the “rebels” and not trusting God to provide for His people — they lacked faith. There is a cost for Aaron and Moses’ lack of faith, just like there was a cost for Lucy for her lack of faith. They will never know what would have happened had they fully obeyed and trusted God.
Even as God provides the miraculous water from the rock through Moses and Aaron it is clear that the Israelites, and Aaron and Moses, lack of faith will cost them the promised land. Part of me wants to cry foul, but the reality is God did provide for the Israelites even in their unbelief and lack of faith. They just missed something better that would have come had they been able to trust God and see his kingdom on earth rather than the immediate desert patch in front of them. They lacked the posture and perspective that would have allowed them to see God during this hard time.
Prayer: Lord give me the eyes to see your kingdom here on earth and help me to lead others who cannot yet see it.