Why can’t our Creator be consistent? Wouldn’t it be nice if He followed his own rules, worked the same way with everyone every time, and didn’t change His mind? And yet, what works for His people in one place doesn’t in another. For instance, in Exodus 17, Moses can strike the rock to bring forth water, but, later, in Numbers 20, striking the rock is the sin that keeps Moses from entering the promised land. What’s the difference?
So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” 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. He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us, or not?”Exodus 17:4-7 NASB
In Exodus 17, Yahweh tells Moses to strike the rock (v.6). Yahweh gave different instructions in Numbers 20:
Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and afell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take athe 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 20:6-8 NASB
In this passage, Yahweh instructed Moses to speak to the rock. It’s a similar situation, with a different set of instructions. Moses, on the other hand, sees this as a similar situation, and chooses to use the instructions from last time:
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.Numbers 20:9-11 NASB
Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses strikes the rock twice with the staff, much like last time. Bad idea. For Yahweh, this is sufficient to keep Moses from entering the promised land. That may sound harsh, but look at Yahweh’s reasoning:
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.”Numbers 20:12 NASB
The methods our Creator uses differ. He decides to do one thing one way at one time, in one place. And then, does the same thing a different way at a different time in a different place. It’s the same thing? Why not use the same technique? Jesus doesn’t heal everyone one of the same disease the same way. He doesn’t use the same stories with everyone. Why not? Why is our Savior so inconsistent?
Moses didn’t believe Yahweh. This Savior changes His methods so we will focus on Him, not the methods. It’s not about how we can get what we want/need, it’s about the Creator providing for us what we need/want. Jesus didn’t want His disciples following His methods of healing, He wanted them to heal in His name, which is a very different thing.
Moses didn’t treat Yahweh as holy before the people. Yahweh had given Moses specific instructions, and Moses decided to do something else, as if whatever Yahweh said was optional, not imperative. This is disobedient, but also treats Yahweh as common, and not as separate, or holy. Jesus’ disciples healed, but in the name of Jesus. They treated Him as holy. The point here is the focus.
Yahweh-Jesus wants us, His people, to reserve Him as separate from all other relationships. He wants us to acknowledge that the source for everything we have is Him. He reserves to Himself a place above all of our other relationships, and this is how it should be. Jesus claims that unless we hate every other earthly relationship, including with ourselves, we cannot be His disciple. Yahweh says as much here in these passages. But He also says something else, in fact, He shouts it.
Yahweh brought forth water anyway. The people were disobedient, and then Moses was disobedient, and Yahweh remained faithful. Our obedience is not the basis for our Savior’s faithfulness. It’s weird to think about it that way, but it’s clear throughout Scripture. As the writer of Hebrews says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” It’s not obedience, it’s belief and reserving Jesus as holy. That’s the substance of faith. And then faith leads us to be obedient.
So, what will you do today to believe your Savior, Jesus? What will you do today to treat Him as holy among His people? Will you stand courageously even though you’re afraid? Will you refuse to bow to the whims of our culture, and declare Jesus as Lord? What would that look like for you?
As for me, it means doing the thing I’d rather not do around the house. It means not playing, but washing dishes, mowing the lawn, and being about cherishing my wife.
What is your view through this knothole?
Thank you for sharing your writing. Your question got me thinking and I had to click and read because my gut reaction was, “with all the diversity He has provided, why would we expect Him to react the same? “. That seems like another version of very-much putting God in a box, a human-built box! Isn’t it wonderful that He changes His tactics as we change/grow in our trust so we don’t settle? It brings me great joy knowing I can never reach the end of growth because God is so, so, so much bigger than me. Grow on!
Agreed! Good points, there! One way He stretches me is in refusing to let me figure Him out. He remains this elusive mystery, always just out of reach, daring me to push deeper into Him and His word. I can’t help but reach farther as He pulls me deeper. It’s kind of cool, but exciting.