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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






26 November 2005

Moses and the Rock


Q: Can you please tell me the Old Testament book and the passage where Moses took the credit for the water that flowed from the rock? God told him to strike the stone with his staff and God would make water flow from it. Is this not also why Moses could not enter the Promised Land?

A: The reference is Numbers 20. It wasn’t so much that Moses took credit, but that he disbelieved and disobeyed God in his anger against Israel and struck it rather than speaking to it. The command from God in verse 8 was, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” In other words, he was to speak, not strike. Perhaps the Lord didn’t want people saying that it was just a hollow rock full of water and all it took was a good clobbering from Moses’ staff to crack it open. Also, Moses spoke to Israel as if he and Aaron, rather than the Lord, were going to bring forth water: “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring water for you out of this rock? (v. 10)”

Christ the RockThe incident concluded in verses 11-12: “Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.’”

Whatever the reason for the command, this event drastically changed the relationship between God and Moses. Yet the Lord didn’t abandon him. While Moses would die after being allowed to view the Promised Land from Mount Nebo, men still honored him and God still loved him (see Deuteronomy 34:1-8) — while Scripture lets us know that he was the greatest prophet until the coming of the Christ (Hebrews 3:1-6), who was the true spiritual “Rock that followed them. (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4)”

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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