Gospel Lesson: Don't Smite Twice

Written by Brother Ben Hemmings on Thursday, October 30, 2014. Posted in Scripture Study

Gospel Lesson: Don't Smite Twice

Today's reading: Exodus 17:1-6 and Numbers 20:2-13

"Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders in Israel." – Exodus 17:6

About 60 percent of the human body is water. Humans must maintain this percentage in order to survive. After leaving Egypt, the Israelites were having difficulty trusting that God would provide for their needs. By the 17th chapter of Exodus, they were chiding Moses for their lack of water, murmuring against him. Moses, as their leader, went to God for direction. The Lord instructed him to go before the people and strike a rock with his staff. God wanted to use this as an example and provide water for the people.

This may seem like a simple story, but fast-forward 40 years (give or take a few) to a new generation of Israelites. Almost everyone who had seen the water flow from the rock had passed away. (Their lack of faith in taking the Promised Land resulted in 40 years of roaming the wilderness.)

Now it was their children who chided Moses for water. (Interesting note: they refer to themselves as the "congregation of the Lord" this time.) Like the first time, Moses and Aaron go to God for direction, and He instructs them to go before the people and speak to the rock, and God would provide water.

"And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice..." – Numbers 20:10-11

It almost seems like the same story, but Moses does something different. Instead of speaking to the rock, he strikes it twice with his staff. Even though he disobeyed God's commandment, God still provided water for the people, but Moses' actions had consequences: God didn't let him lead the people into the Promised Land.

There is a certain elegance to these stories that illustrates the plan of redemption. There was a reason why God instructed Moses and Aaron to speak to the rock — because it had already been struck 40 years before. There was no need to strike it again. Just as Christ (our rock) came and died on the cross for our sins, the rock was struck, and because of it, the water of life flowed from the rock. There is no need for us to strike the rock again. All we need to do is speak to it.

Questions to think on:

  • Why do you think that, even after speaking to God directly with Aaron by his side, did Moses not follow God's instructions in Numbers 20?
  • Do we find ourselves still trying to take things into our own hands and strike the rock again today?
  • Do we find it difficult at times to just speak to the Rock?
  • Why did God still allow the water to flow, even though Moses disobeyed His direction?

Illustration: Partial view of "Moses Striking the Rock" by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Next week's reading: Helaman 5:12 (just one verse!)

This lesson is part four of five.

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