Bread from heaven – Water from a rock

In this post I would like to take a few moments to consider the role that we, as servants of the Lord, play in our own salvation. There is a particular scripture in the Old Testament that has brought this thought to the fore of my thoughts over the past few days. If we look at Numbers 20:8-12 we find a notable event in the course of  biblical events. In this account the children of Israel have “assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.” This story is particularly interesting because the children of Israel are angry with Moses and Aaron because they are without water. If taken in isolation, their complaint would seem justified. For, who can live without water? But if you consider that it is the Lord who has been providing their every meal for some time, their gripe becomes a little spurious. “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” (John 6:31-33 RSV)  The Lord was sustaining the children of Israel on a daily basis with “bread from Heaven”. They ate from the goodness of the the Lord the very day they arose in protest! If God made sure that they would have food every day would he not also ensure they had water? It is in this context that we find Numbers 20:8-12.

Confronted with the complaint of the people Moses and Aaron go to the Lord in prayer. The Lord answers their prayer and instructs them: “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.” (Numbers 20:8) Moses, undoubtedly in great irritation misses an opportunity to teach the people about relying on the Lord.  Instead he, “said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And 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.” (Numbers 20:10-11) That he struck the rock twice, instead of “tell[ing] the rock” (Numbers 20:8), that he called the children of Israel “rebels” and that he said, “shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”, truly justifies the statement of the Lord in verse 12. “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.” Moses and Aaron missed an opportunity to uphold the righteousness of the Lord. To extol his greatness in sustaining the people with manna and to urge the people to greater faith in the Lord.

The question that has gripped me most recently is; why did the Lord ask Moses and Aaron to, “tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water”? Why didn’t the Lord simply cause water to spring forth from the rock? That the Lord asked Moses and Aaron to be the conduit of his will on earth is significant. It is made even more significant by the fact that the Lord punished them for their foible in this matter. In fact, they were prevented from entering the promised land.

It would be preposterous to say that striking the rock twice caused water to flow from the rock. Water came forth through the power of the Lord. So, just because Moses and Aaron were asked to play a role in this divine event does not mean that they were the cause. Even though they were not the cause, the Lord cause the water to flow, their role was quite significant. Likewise, when we are instructed through the Word to: follow his commands, believe, be baptized, repent, confess, have faith, imitate God, live pure lives, know his will, and be blameless. We would never say that these things earn us salvation. But, it does not change the fact that we are commanded, like Aaron and Moses to do them. Like Aaron and Moses we will be judged by the manner in which we carry out the will of the Lord.

John 14:15, John 14:21, I John 2:3-5 , John 1:12, Mark 16:16, John 3:14-15, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30, II Corinthians 7:10, Matt 10:32, Romans 10:9-10, I John 4:2, I Peter 3:21-22, Mark 16:16, Acts 18:8, Hebrews 11:6, Acts 15:9, Acts 26:18, Ephesians 5:1, I Corinthians 11:1, III John 1:11, I John 3:3, Philippians 4:8, Matthew 5:8, Philippians 2:15, I Corinthians 1:8, I Thessalonians 5:23 , Matthew 22:37-40, I John 4:12, I John 4:7, Ephesians 5:17, Philippians 2:12, I Peter 2:2

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