Moses plays a huge role in the early pages of the Bible. He courageously confronted Pharaoh when Israel was under bondage in Egypt. He was the leader of the children of Israel as they traveled through the wilderness for forty years. He had a special relationship with God, such that God spoke to him face-to-face, and not through dreams or visions. In spite of all this, when Moses struck a rock instead of speaking to it, God refused to let him enter the Promised Land. Have you ever questioned God’s decision?
If you aren’t familiar with the story, let me refer you to Numbers 20 in your Bible. In verse 8 God tells 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.” But instead of speaking to it, verse 11 records that “Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” The results were the same; water gushed out and people drank. So, what was the big deal?
This wasn’t the first time Moses had been confronted by a thirsty community. When they needed clean water before, God had instructed Moses to strike a rock to have water gush forth. The story is in Exodus 17. So, striking the rock was approved by God one time, but found His displeasure the second. While it is true that Moses was disobedient, I don’t think that was the reason why God refused to let him enter the Promised Land.
It is my opinion that the answer lies in the symbolism of the rock. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 reads, “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”
The rock that Moses struck symbolized the Lord Jesus. We are to learn that God’s Messiah is the source of living water. The first time Moses struck the rock represented the torture and crucifixion of Christ in order to provide salvation. As Moses stood before the rock the second time, it represented the fact that Jesus would never be struck a second time to provide the thirst-cleansing water of salvation. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear in 9:28, “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.”
God was painting a picture through Moses to help us understand that the Messiah would die, but it would only happen once. Because Jesus was without sin, His one sacrifice was sufficient to pay the penalty for all sins of all people of all times. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
Personally, Jesus’ sacrifice did not have any effect on me until the moment I acknowledged that His death was payment for my sins. Ever since I did that in 1971, I have enjoyed the refreshing water of His presence and eternal life. God has never left me alone to maneuver through life on my own. If you haven’t received Jesus Christ yet, I hope you’ll do that soon. His water of eternal life will pour out and satisfy the deep thirst of your soul.