Scripture Reading: Numbers 19:1-21:3 / Luke 5:33-6:11 / Proverbs 8:1-11
Did you know it’s hot in Cambodia? I have learned to appreciate fans and air conditioning more but the greatest comfort is water! As hot and dry as this country may be, the driest place in the world is the Atacama Desert in Chile. The average rainfall is less than ½ inch per year and some, as of this Desert, haven’t had rainfall for 400 years!
Israel had reached a point in their wilderness journey where water was scarce. They camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin. It was here, Miriam died and they had no more water. It says Israel, “…quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:3-5)
They were experiencing a life or death moment. Without water they would all die. They had reason to be concerned yet their complaining grew out of a heart of rebellion and dissatisfaction with Moses and Aaron. It is quite significant that Miriam had died here at Kadesh because the people took on her disgruntled spirit.
Miriam led Israel in song as she sang the great song of deliverance when Pharaoh’s army drowned at the Rea Sea. Yet it wasn’t long before she challenged Moses’ leadership and God stuck her with leprosy. Moses pleaded for her life and God restored her back to health. Miriam may have died but her rebellion lived on.
Israel needed water, wished they were dead, desired to be back in Egypt and threatened mutiny against Moses and Aaron. It
is strange that even the bondage of Egypt was more desired than their waterless place. They would rather go back to the evils of Egypt than trust God in the empty places of life.
Moses went to God in prayer and was given direction to speak to the rock and God would provide water. Earlier, God had Moses strike the rock and water flowed from it but here, Moses was specifically instructed to only “speak” to the rock. Moses failed to trust God for what He promised. In frustration, he used this time to bring attention to himself, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock? Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.” (vs.10,11)
God was faithful and water gushed from the rock but it came at a great price. For his disobedience, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. God wanted the miracle to reflect His power and provision, not Moses’ anger. Even the strongest leaders have weaknesses and there is a cost for misusing the power of God for personal expression, whether anger or pride. We will all experience times when we feel as parched and dry as the Atacama Desert. God will provide water and refreshment! He is a God of miracles…may we be people of faith and patience!