In pondering Moses and the rock in Numbers Chapter 20 I turned to Keil & Delitzsch (a commentary) and found that they express in a few words what might take me many words:
He [Moses] then struck the rock twice with the rod, “as if it depended upon human exertion, and not upon the power of God alone,” or as if the promise of God “would not have been fulfilled without all the smiting on his part” (Knobel).
As a young Christian my devotional readings focused on Jesus teaching that He could do nothing of himself, but could do only what the Father within Him was doing. That same teaching planted Galatians 2:20 deep in my soul, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
As a pastor the great temptation was to “make something happen”. I’m certain I crossed the line more than once, I’m certain I’ve attempted to make things happen. I’m equally as certain that those actions were costly. You see, if Jesus Christ is our Sabbath Rest, if He is our completeness, then (to echo Hebrews Chapter 4) we are to cease from our own works even as God ceased from His works on the seventh day.
The context of Numbers Chapter 20 suggests that Israel had been in the wilderness for many years; for all of those years Moses had obeyed the voice of Yahweh and not taken things into his own hands (yes, there was the frustration exhibited in breaking the Ten Commandments – an interesting comparison with striking the rock) but now, toward the end of the journey, when the prize is so close, Moses takes things into his own hands and does not trust the Word of God. Is this so? Perhaps…perhaps not. Whether Moses trusted God’s Word or not, his anger and frustration usurped obedience. Can we say that anger and frustration overshadowed obedience?
The pressure to make things happen is great in vocational ministry. It is a pressure aided and abetted by a “numbers and success” mentality, by a consumer-driven mentality. I wonder how many of us are barred from Canaan, from the experiential fullness of Christ in this life, and don’t know it?
And the thing is that striking the rock takes so many forms that what looks like striking the rock in one place may not be and that what looks like trust in Christ in another place may be striking the rock – it is a matter of the heart, a matter of restful obedience to Jesus Christ. Only the person with the staff of leadership in his hand may know for sure.