5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17:5-6)
We see in today’s reading what will become a familiar pattern in Exodus-Numbers: When the children of Israel are tired, they act, well, like children. They grumble. They whine. They complain. When they are being attacked, they are terrified. And when they are thirsty, the accuse Moses of leading them out into the desert so they will die of thirst.
They are only forty-five days in to a road trip that will ultimately last forty years. If you have kids, you are beginning to understand why Moses is such a hero of the faith!
So the people complain, and God tells Moses to strike the rock so water will come out of it. “In fact,” says God in effect, “I want you to strike it just like you struck the Nile.” So Moses does, the water comes forth, and the people are satisfied.
As I was reading this morning, it occurred to me that later on, Moses will get disqualified from entering the Promised Land precisely because he struck a rock that God told him to merely speak to (We will get to this on Day 62, but it’s in Numbers 20, if you want to look ahead). And I thought that was unnecessarily harsh on God’s part. Why keep Moses out of the Promised Land simply because he did things the same way he had done them twice before?
And then, it hit me that we are guilty of the same thing in our churches. “Well, this way of doing things has always worked in the past. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.” And we don’t seek God’s face. We don’t consider the possibility that God may have a different way of doing it this time. And as a result, we can miss the Promised Land God has for us.
I’m not saying we have to change just for the sake of change. But I am saying that for every challenge we face as a church, we must seek God. We can’t assume that God wants us to deal with this challenge the same way we dealt with a similar one forty years before.
This time, God told Moses to strike the rock. But next time, it will be different. This is how God rolls. Consider what God told His people through the prophet Isaiah:
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)
Don’t miss your Promised Land.