“Golpea la roca!” “Golpea la roca!” I remember hearing an Ecuadorian preacher say those words over and over during a sermon years ago from Exodus 17:1-6. I confess that I understood only a small portion of that sermon, but those particular words stuck in my mind. “Strike the rock!” God told Moses to use his rod to strike the rock in order to get fresh water for the people. It was a specific instruction to fill a specific need. The preacher was using the passage to remind the congregation of the importance of obeying God’s commands in all the areas of their lives. It’s a fascinating story.
The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. Exodus 17:1-6
Everything turned out great. The people had water, and Moses continued to demonstrate that he was God’s chosen man to lead them.
BUT, a big problem came up in the very next book of the Bible. Once again the people were thirsty and complained bitterly and loudly to Moses and his brother Aaron. Again, Moses cried out to the Lord for an answer. The Lord spoke to him and said —
“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.” Numbers 20:8
So Moses did ALMOST exactly what God had commanded. He took his rod. He assembled the people. They stood before the rock. But instead of SPEAKING to the rock, he struck it twice with his rod. Water came gushing out of the rock, but God was displeased. So displeased, in fact, that he declared that neither Moses nor Aaron would be allowed to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.
Both words begin with the same letter and end with the same letter sound — at least in English. I need to ask my son what the words are in Hebrew. But the commands from God were distinctive and specific, and Moses chose to disregard the difference. He suffered a huge consequence for obeying PARTIALLY.
What has God told me to do that I’ve only done a percentage of but not 100%? When have I followed His instructions for me from last year but not the ones for this year? In what areas have I failed to believe that He wants to show me and teach me something NEW and to reveal even more of His power and holiness? Why do I stop short of complete obedience?
These are questions I’m asking myself as I look at my fresh, clean 2017 calendar. What will total obedience to God look like this year and where will it take me? I hope I’ll be willing to find out.