We all know that Moses was denied entrance into the Promised Land, and that it had something to do with hitting a rock to get water. Let’s take another look at that.
The first instance of Moses’ hitting the rock is described in Exodus 17:1-7. The people were thirsty, and they were angry. So, Moses went to the LORD with the problem. Verses 5 and 6 say this:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (NASB)
The second time, when all of the trouble came down on Moses, is in Numbers 20:1-13. The people were once more thirsty and angry. Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting to meet with the LORD. Verses 7-12 tell the crux of the story:
“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.” (NASB)
Several years ago, I heard a fascinating sermon in this matter. The preacher reminded his hearers that, while the Old Testament is true and meant to be taken literally, it also contain many symbolic illustrations. For example, the rock which Moses struck was symbolic of Jesus as the source of our salvation, and the water symbolized His salvation.
The preacher went on to say that, when Moses struck the rock the first time, it represented Jesus being struck leading to His crucifixion. And the water which flowed from the rock a was symbolic of the living water which Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection would being to man.
Just as Moses’ striking the rock the first time represented Jesus’ crucifixion, so his speaking to it the second time would have represented a prayer of supplication for salvation, had he obeyed the LORD. But when he struck it the second time, it was symbolic of Jesus’ being crucified a second time, thus making God’s master plan null and void. And that is what angered God.
That is the only time I ever heard that explanation of why Moses angered God so completely. Afterall, it was not the first time Moses had been angry with Israel when he approached the LORD. So there was more to his punishment than merely becoming angry. I can’t vouch for that preacher’s account being true. But I offer it to you as a possibility to pray about and meditate on.