The grace and patience which Yah has continued to exhibit on this side of Mt. Sinai is far less obvious once the Israelites know better yet still choose to sin. Regardless of which analogy we want to map over these stories: Israel as a child being taught by our Father, Israel as a potential bride being ‘wooed’ by a suitor, or even citizens learning about the constitution from their King—that relationship changes, by both design and necessity, over time. Once we get to Shavuot, and finally say “I DO”, we will become far more accountable. Everybody expects adults, spouses, or citizens to be treated differently, and that’s no difference in the Kingdom than it is in secular society. There are greater expectations and greater rewards—but there are also greater ramifications for disobedience.
Frankly, this is the problem with most modern Christian denominations. The Messiah is worshiped as “the Door”, and his grace is magnified accordingly. This is not bad theology—He is indeed the Door, and his grace is amazing. However, when Messiah returns to come for His Bride, he is soaked in the blood of the grapes of wrath. This is exactly the same Messiah that said, “Love your neighbor”, and “Judge not, least you are judged”, and “let the little children come unto me.” True, His first mission was shining the light on the Door, followed by joining and leading us on the Way—but that’s only the beginning of the story.
YHWH, the Father, is no different than the Son–they are one. We can see that transition occur immediately after Shavuot, when each and every one of the lessons we are learning on this 50 day road to Sinai is rejected, AFTER they are thoroughly understood and agreed to by all the people. The Book of Numbers highlights these sad dismissals of YHWH’s love, provision, and grace. Sabbath is rejected, Miriam herself rejects Moses, even the very Promised Land is rejected! On this side of Mt. Sinai, there is not one recorded death of a Hebrew due to their transgressions—but once they know better, it’s disturbingly awful.
It’s a contrast that is designed to be…disturbingly awful.
This reality is no different on this side of the Cross. Here’s another verse not selling well at Hobby Lobby, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but an expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much WORSE punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:26-29)
Well…that was quite an introduction to get to the other ‘water from a rock’ episode in Numbers Chapter 20. I encourage you to read the full context in your own Bible. The similarities to the surroundings and language are numerous, but there’s one specific contrast that I want to explore here. This event occurs at a place called Kedesh, which is spelled the same but pronounced slightly differently than the Hebrew word for “Holy”. Miriam died and was buried in this spot, so it’s an opportunity for another lesson on the repercussions of rebellion and bitterness. YHWH uses the word ‘Holy’ two more times in this very story, so His Holiness is also what is being underlined here.
“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. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and 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. 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.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and through them he showed himself HOLY.” (Numbers 20:10-13)
Just like we learned of Tzoor (The Rock) earlier in Exodus 17, Here in Numbers 20, we now learn of a new word for rock (I’ll use lower-case ‘r’). The word for ‘rock’ used here instead is sela, (Strongs H5553, if you’re playing at home). David refers to Yah once, in a song, both as a ‘sela’ and a ‘Tzoor’, but if you look at the context of this word for ‘rock’ throughout scripture, it seems as if it has a slight negative connotation—at least it rarely occurs under happy circumstances. In Judges 15, for example, Samson thirsts, and Yah splits open a “hollow place” at the “cleft of the rock of Etam”. Water comes forth. That seems positive, but this is the same site where Judah’s leaders try to arrest Samson and turn him over to the Philistines. Sure, that’s clear messianic prophecy, but it’s about betrayal and rebellion, not strictly about YHWH’s provision as water would typically represent.
The reason Yah removes Moses from role of deliverer is because he ruined the object lesson Yah was trying to teach here. He was told to ‘speak’ to bring forth water while holding the staff, but instead Moses’ impulsive anger and bitterness caused him to disobey. He used the staff to ‘strike’ the rock. Twice, in fact. Once is an accident, twice is a crime. The word for ‘strike’ in Hebrew is also translated as “slay” or “stripes” (as in a whipping). So the first Rock, the Tzoor, was obviously Messiah—being struck, whipped, and slain—and blood and water flowed from His side—providing living water once and for all to those who believe.
Here’s how the author of Hebrews puts this concept, “And every [earthly] priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Messiah had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:11-14)
So, by Moses disobeying and striking the rock again, he ruined a crucial truth about the nature of redemption, sanctification, salvation, and atonement. The truth is that ‘it is finished’. We simply need to rest and walk obediently in His finished work. Now that the Rock was struck, we simply need to carry the Staff of God (Yah’s authority through Messiah) and simply speak to it (pray, ask, proclaim the truth). This truth is not a New Testament concept—King David understood it all too well when he committed murder and adultery. He cried out to YHWH and was forgiven—he truly repented and put his hope in the finished work of The Rock, 1000 years before Yeshua was even born and walked the earth.
Messiah’s words from the cross, ‘it is finished’ does not imply we stop obeying Torah! The narrative in Numbers 20 underlines the importance of doing things His way, not ours. Our lives are supposed to be object-lessons, no different than Moses’ life. Keeping Shabbat, honoring The Feasts, keeping every command that set Israel apart from the nations—none of those activities are ‘earning’ us anything—but they are keeping us on the The Way. This Way is the very same straight and narrow path taught in Matthew 17 and living accordingly allows our lives to serve as reminders of His Holiness. When we ignore Sabbath, for example (or worse when we “keep” it but with a rebellious attitude!) He may still allow living water to flow in our lives, but we are not receiving the full blessing that He intends.
We still have three days left of camping here at The Rock. Who would have thought there would be so much to learn spring-boarding just off of these 7 verses in Exodus!?