Summary: God forgives our sin but we must suffer the consequences.
A. THE SETTING
1. The Time: At the end of 40 years wandering in the wilderness.
2. The Place: Return to where Israel rebelled. “Camped in Kadesh” the entrance into the Promised Land.
3. The Calendar: “In early spring the people arrived” (Num. 21:1, NLT).
4. Expectation: The springs were drying up.
5. Old Habits: The new generation did the same as their fathers. “There was no water . . . the people blamed Moses” (20:2-3).
B. NUMBERS 20:1-13 (ELT)
In April the people arrived back in Kadesh after 40 years of wandering and Miriam died there. The people quarreled with Moses when there was no water and said, “We should have died with our ancestors when God punished them. Why have you led us here to die along with our livestock? This place has nothing good to eat, grain, figs, or pomegranates.” Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle and prayed with their faces to the ground. The glory of the Lord appeared to them and God said, “Take your staff before the entire assembly and let the people watch you. Command the rock to pour out its waters and there will be enough for them and their livestock.” So Moses obeyed and took his staff with him. He told the people, “Listen you rebels,” he shouted, “must I bring water out of the rock for you to drink?” Moses raised his staff high, then struck the rock twice and the water gushed out and everyone drank and so did their livestock. The Lord said to Moses, “Because you did not believe Me by obeying Me, nor did you sanctify Me before the people; you shall not bring the people into the land I have promised them.” To this day, the place is called Meribah, the place of arguing.
C. LESSONS TO LEARN
1. The same circumstances of the first sin had the same results. A second time people blamed Moses for the lack of water.
2. New generations faced the same sins as the old when they faced the same temptations. It’s natural to complain.
3. New generations do not necessarily learn the lessons of their fathers, whether the previous lessons were negative or positive.
4. Every generation has a “heart” problem of rebellion and doubt. There are two heads of the same coin. “In sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).
5. Moses had learned to bring problems to God. “They fell on their faces” (20:6).
6. Miracles shouldn’t be private, but “before the people” (20:8).
7. The command, “Take the rod,” reminded Moses of past miracles.
8. The rod was kept in the Tabernacle, i.e., treated as special, “Took the rod from before the Lord” (20:9).
9. God uses new methods with a new generation. “Speak to the rock” (20:8).
Methods are many,
Principles are few,
Methods may change,
But principles never do.
10. Moses used the old way (strike the rock). Why do we hang on to the past? (a) It worked, (b) we’re comfortable, (c) we’re not learning, (d) we don’t embrace the future, (e) we live in the past, (f) we think God never changes.
11. The temptation of the old is to live in the past. “I struck the rock last time.”
12. The old don’t face the new challenges of tomorrow. (a) New land before Israel, (b) leave the desert.
13. Find God’s will when facing new challenges. (a) Still led by cloud, (b) still fed by manna (Joshua 5:12), (c) still had promise of receiving the land.
14. In leadership – be strong before people. In worship – yield before God.
D. MOSES RUINED THE TYPE
1. An Old Testament type was a divine foreshadow of a New Testament truth, using objects, people, actions, and events.
2. The rock was a type of Christ. “They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4, NKJV).
3. First time (Ex. 17), strike the rock as a picture of Christ smitten in death. Second time (Num. 20), speak to the rock, i.e., come to Christ based on the Word of God.
4. Christ died once. “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). The death of Christ is a finished act (once = 8 times).
E. THE DECISION WAS IRREVERSIBLE
1. God forgives our sin, but we must suffer its consequences. “You will not lead them into the land” (20:12).
2. Confession didn’t change God’s mind. “I pray, let me cross over and see the good land” (Deut. 3:25). But, “The Lord was angry with me . . . and would not listen” (Deut. 3:26).
3. Sometimes there are no second chances. “The Lord said . . . ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of that matter’” (Deut. 3:26).