The Spirit, Grace, and Chastisement
Moses struck the rock twice and water poured forth. (Numbers 20:7)
Obedience and faith bring power while disobedience and lack of faith yield impotence. When Israel continues to grumble and complain against God while in the wilderness, demanding water, accusing Moses of bringing them into the wilderness only to kill them, both Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before God, and the glory of the Lord comes upon them. God told Moses to pick up Aaron’s rod and speak to the rock; water would then flow. Moses struck the rock twice and indeed the water did flow forth from the rock, bestowing life-giving refreshment to the people and their flocks. But God then told Moses that due to his unbelief he would not enter the Promised Land, that God would only allow him to look into it from Mt. Pisgah. So God took Moses to the top of Mt. Pisgah for a look into Canaan, and Moses died shortly thereafter.
Why would God seemingly deal so harshly with Moses? In Exodus 7, in the midst of the ten plagues where Yahweh was manifesting his power over that of Pharaoh, God told Moses to take his rod – the one which had turned into a snake, the one he would later use to part the waters so that Israel could pass through and Pharaoh and his army drown – and strike the waters of the Nile. They turned to blood. Moses’ rod was one of authority, power, and judgment. Later, after the exodus, when Israel first began their grumbling, God told Moses to take his rod of power, judgment, and authority and strike the rock. Water flowed to give life and refreshment to the people. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10 that the rock Moses struck was Christ. We know from Ezekiel 36, 47, John 7 that water symbolizes the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. Isaiah tells us that Christ was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, that the chastening for our well being fell upon him, that by his scourging we are healed. Moses striking the rock in Exodus 17 portrays Christ smitten for our sin, taking judgment upon himself in his death. The death of Christ brings life and refreshment to all who partake in faith of our Rock and Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, our Saviour (Isa. 43, Psa. 19).
But the Rock was only to be smitten one time. Moses was instructed in Numbers 17 to take Aaron’s rod, the one which budded, a priestly rod, and merely speak to the rock. Speaking was all that was necessary. The water would flow because Christ has been struck by the rod of judgment. The priestly work of Christ would suffice. Christ died for sins, once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit (1 Pet. 3:18). Since Christ has been raised from the dead, death shall no longer be master over him (Rom. 6:8ff).
God chastised Moses because of his disobedience and lack of faith. He refused to allow him to enter Canaan. Yet in his unbelief God was still gracious. Israel, in spite of their grumbling in unbelief, still received the water they needed. Moses still saw the Promised Land from Mt. Pisgah.
So, what does this mean for you? Obedience and faith yield power while disobedience and unbelief bring impotence. Okay, you are a Christian. Your sins are forgiven. You know that the Father is directing your life, providing for your every need, preparing a place for you in heaven; and of course, this is all glorious. The water flows from the rock. You have been to Mt. Pisgah. Perhaps, however, you have not entered into Canaan. Why? Unbelief and disobedience. See Hebrews 4. Jesus tells the lukewarm Laodicean church that because they are lukewarm he will spit them out of his mouth. The Lord disciplines those whom he loves, he chastens every son whom he receives. We are told the remedy for lukewarmness is repentance. God is gracious to his people but he also disciplines them for disobedience and unbelief.
I wonder if the lack of Holy Spirit power in our ministries is due to having struck the rock of Christ when we only needed to speak to him in his priestly office. I fear that many of us are missing so much of what God has for us. Do you believe Jesus is more powerful than the homosexual and abortion agenda? Do you believe Jesus is more powerful than Islam and western secularism and post-modernism? Do you believe Jesus can transform whole communities, like he did the Roman world shortly after his ascension? I am sure you answer, ‘Of course he can.’ But why are we seeing so few conversions, so little progress in righteousness and holiness? Is it not unbelief and disobedience! You have grace. You have forgiveness and eternal life, but you lack power and efficacy in your church. You have grace but you also have chastisement.
The Father told Jesus in that great Messianic Psalm 2, ‘Ask of me, and I will surely give the nations as thine inheritance, the very ends of the earth as thy possession.’ The four living creatures and twenty-four elders, when seeing the glorified Christ take the book and break its seals said, ‘Worthy art thou to take the book and to break its seals, for thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with thy blood, men from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation’ (Rev. 5:9, 10). It is God’s will that the nations be saved, that all the nations flow to Jerusalem. God will accomplish his purpose, but here’s the question for you – will you be part of his programme or will you merely sit back and watch others engage in Spirit-anointed ministry, seeing the nations flow into Zion?
What must you do? First you must see your need. You must come to realize that you are not rich, that you are wretched, miserable, poor, and blind, and naked. You must be arrested from your worldly stupor, being humiliated at your sinful unbelief and worldliness. You must then repent. You must think differently about yourself, the world, and the ministry of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You must then act differently, seeking God in earnest prayer, turning from acts and attitudes of sin, grieving over your impotence and coldness of heart. And then you must believe that God will do what he says he will do. Ask him for the salvation of souls, for the healing of marriages, for the reconciling of people within churches. A son who is instructed by his father to cut the grass and is out of gasoline, need not be reluctant to ask his father for it. He knows it is his father’s will for him to cut the grass and he will supply him all he needs to do the work. How much more true is this with the salvation of the nations! Ask, seek, knock and believe the door will be opened to you. Consciously obey God in his commands, and when you fail, quickly repent. Expect him to do great and mighty things.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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