“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord. And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.” – 1 Samuel 15:23-28
I find this passage to be among the saddest in scripture. A man, stripped of his kingdom as be begs for mercy, yet he is assured that he will walk out the consequences of his willful sin. God is merciful and gracious to forgive our shortcomings and mishaps, yet when someone knows the will of God and still chooses to do their own thing (which is rebellion), God is kindled to anger and action. If God has called you to an action or spoken something to you, be sure that you listen, for He never speaks without purpose and He takes these purposes very seriously. We can’t assume to understand the complexity of God’s understanding of a situation and therefor we can not assume to know the importance of our obedience or the severity of our disobedience. No matter how small a matter may seem to us, it has great and unseen effects in the spiritual and in the physical to come, provoking God to either great anger when we disobey, or great joy when we obey.
We see this play out all through scripture. From Esau to Abraham, from Samson to Noah we see the blessings and consequences of obedience and willful disobedience to God’s voice. But perhaps no one event in scripture can drive home with such clarity, the severity of a single disobedience to God’s voice as the story of Moses and the stricken rock.
In Numbers chapter 20 we see Moses in a similar situation as Saul. Just like Saul, because of a desire to appease a rebellious congregation, Moses found himself in opposition to the will and instruction of God which caused him to be punished severely for striking a rock when God had told Him to only speak to it. This seems like such a little thing yet after all Moses’s toil and labor God did not allow him to inter into promise because of this one thing, why? Because he assumed to know more then God and acted on his own, of his own understanding, and for his own good.
As always with God, His ways are not our ways and His thoughts and purposes are far above our understanding. As with everything God says to do, God has several very important reasons for what He says. For one, God had built the people’s faith in Moses by commanding him to strike the rock and bring forth water the first time, but now He wanted to build their faith in Him by having Moses speak His words and call forth the water in the Name of The Lord their God. By simply repeating what had worked before rather then following the leading of God and striking the rock the second time, Moses took glory for himself that was meant for God.
Yet an other, and far more important reason for God’s anger at Moses’ disobedience was because God was setting forth a similitude, an archetype, a message, a testimony that would ring through the ages of the coming Christ, the rock of our salvation. Moses was told to strike the rock once and water would flow out of it, this was later played out at Calvary when Jesus (our rock and savior) was pierced in His side and living waters flowed out. (Water representing the Holy Spirit and also the Word of God). However, once stricken (crucified) there is no need to do it again, we need only to believe and speak to Jesus in faith and repentance, calling upon the Name of The Lord, and that spiritual rock that is Christ Jesus will pour out His spirit upon us.
“And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10:4
In striking the rock a second time, Moses’s disobedience not only ruined God’s example of the coming plan of salvation for the world through the obedience of His perfect son, but it also showed the reality of sin after one has come to the knowledge of the truth. Moses’ disobedience caused him to strike the rock a second time, implying that once we have tasted of the living waters of God’s Holy Spirit of Truth through salvation, if we choose to willingly disobey Him, then we crucify Christ all over again (spiritually speaking) and this is greatly displeasing to God.
“…for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” – Hebrews 6:4-6
Yet an other reason for God’s instructions to first strike the rock (a type of Christ) for water (a type of Holy Spirit /Baptism/cleansing), rather then to only speak to receive it, was to set a precedence for the transition from a works based approach to God (striking the rock) to a faith based one (speaking to the rock and calling the water forth in the Name of The Lord).
We can not assume to know all the reasons God wanted Moses to speak to the rock that he instead struck, but just looking at these few examples we can begin to see why God was so displeased that Moses had chosen to do it His way and disregard the importance of God’s way. Moses had no way of understanding the complexity of what God was trying to do, the severity of his disobedience, nor the consequences it would enact. Yet he bore them all the same. No obedience will ever go unblessed, but likewise, no willing disobedience will ever go unpunished because it is a prideful thing to assume to understand more then God.
“Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” – Proverbs 16:5-6
Never take lightly the leading of the voice of God, no matter how simple or pointless it may seem in the moment. God’s words are never without cause or purpose far beyond our understanding. Therefor in all things, we need to make God’s plan as important to us as it is to Him and worry less about understanding, and more about trusting and obeying, less we face the consequences.