Perhaps you’re familiar with the story in Numbers 20, of Moses’ temper tantrum that kept him out of the promised land.
(verses 7 – 12) “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.’ So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?’ Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.'”
For years, I pouted over this story on Moses’ behalf. I thought it was such a minor thing, after all that Moses had done for the Israelites, to smack the rock rather than speaking to it as he was instructed.
But when I read the passage deeper, I saw things differently.
First, Moses said, “… shall we bring forth water from this rock?”
I don’t think the “we” was “me & God,” and even if it were, it would be presumptuous to say the least. No, Moses was referring to himself and Aaron. He was frustrated with the Israelites (can’t blame him there), and ready to put a stop to their incessant whining. And he blatantly took credit for the miracle with that little word, “we.”
Then he brandished his rod–though a simple spoken word would have sufficed–and put on quite a show. Hey, people, watch this! In so doing, he presented himself as one with power and authority to meet their needs.
The point of miracles is always to glorify God–to redirect our gaze from our struggles to God’s all-sufficient grace and power. Moses’ words and actions certainly redirected the Israelites’ gaze, but not to God. The focus instead was on Moses’ little power play.
Do you ever find yourself “smiting the stone?” I do. When I get frustrated over my circumstances, I snatch them away from God’s hands and try to do something fancy or creative or powerful to force things to work out. (I have to laugh at my foolish belief that I can do anything “powerful” in comparison to God!)
Pete spent seven years in seminary and we’ve spent five years’ since looking for a full time ministry. That search wound up taking us over a thousand miles from our home of eighteen years. Then things fell apart and he’s back in engineering. We’re infinitely grateful for his job and the provision that comes from that. But my heart is not settled. So I find myself looking for ways to get Pete noticed. When our Sunday school teacher’s going to be out of town, I want Pete to be the first, the only, the obvious choice to substitute for him. When our pastor congratulates Pete on his new engineering job, I want to interject, to make sure that he knows Pete’s still available for any staff position that might open up some time soon (don’t worry, I kept my big mouth shut).
It’s fine to be proactive and have goals and try to reach them. But I have to check my motives. Am I obeying God’s direction, being patient for His timing? Or am I trying to step ahead of God and “fix” things my own way? I’d love to be able to find that balance. To lay down my rod and let God bring forth the water.