Moses and Aaron’s Sin at the Rock

By Jason N. McCort

Except for the crucifixion of Christ, one of the saddest events a person can read of in the Bible is the second account of Moses bringing forth water from a rock to satisfy the thirst of a murmuring congregation. As you may recall, the children of Israel were in the desert of Zin at this time (v. 1). Because they had no water, they began to complain to Moses (vv. 2-5), as they had done many times before. Moses and Aaron took the matter before God who gave them very specific instructions on how to bring forth water from the rock (vv. 7-9). Instead of speaking to the rock, as God had commanded them, he struck the rock twice (v. 11). As a result of this action, God forbade Moses and Aaron from leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land. It breaks my heart to read this story because after forty years and all that they had been through, they were on the brink of crossing over into Canaan but threw it all away because of their sin. Let us consider some of the lessons we can learn from Moses and Aaron’s “sin at the rock.”

1. There is no such thing as a “small” sin. Instead of being appalled, as I should, by the sin Moses and Aaron committed on this occasion, I will often sympathize with them because of the punishment they had to endure as a result of their actions. It is easy to think that in this case the punishment did not fit the crime. The only thing Moses did was strike the rock instead of speaking to it, right? What is the big deal? The big deal is that in God’s eyes, there is no such thing as a “small” sin. If God killed Uzzah for “just” taking hold of the ark of God (2 Sam. 6:6-7) and harshly punished Moses and Aaron for their seemingly “minor” transgressions, what makes us think that God is going to gloss over those things that we deem as only being “minor” sins (i.e., gossiping, disobeying traffic laws)? It is time that we realize that all sin is abhorred by God, not just the “big” sins such as homosexuality and abortion. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19).

2. Disobedience is a result of a lack of faith in God. God told Moses and Aaron that one of the reasons they were being punished was “because ye believed me not (v. 12) Apparently, even though God promised to bring forth water from the rock if they would heed his instructions (v. 8) and even though God had brought forth water from a rock in times past (Exod. 17:1-6), they still did not have enough faith in God that he would fulfill his end of the “bargain.” The same principle applies to us today. Our disregard of the commandments of God many times is a result our lack of faith in God that he will come through with what he has promised to his faithful children. Many Christians would take offense if they were told that their faith in God was lacking because of the sinful state they were in. However, let me illustrate this point in another way: If you were promised to be given one million dollars by your boss just to show up to work on time the next morning and you truly believed that this would come true, how many of you would be late to work the next morning?

3. God deserves and demands the glory. Moses and Aaron were also punished because they did not “sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel”(v. 12). After gathering the congregation together and standing before the rock, Moses said unto the group, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” (v. 10). Notice the “we” in this verse. Instead of giving God the glory for performing this incredible miracle, they acted as if they would be responsible for bringing water out of the rock. Herod was eaten by worms “because he gave not God the glory” (Acts 12:23). “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). Let us remember that everything we have, both that of a spiritual and physical nature, all comes from our God in heaven who has dealt these blessings to us even though we as sinful man do not deserve them whatsoever.

4. The end does not justify the means. Even though Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God commanded him and Aaron to do, water still came forth from the rock (v. 11). However, achievement of the desired goal (water coming forth from the rock) does not justify the sinful manner by which the goal was achieved. Many people today have incorporated the “road map” theory into their religious practice. They believe that since there are many different roads leading to the same place, it does not matter which road a person takes as long as he gets to the same place. Many denominations justify using the Lord’s money to build gymnasiums and the like because they can use them to attract people to their “worship” services. They feel that it does not matter how you bring people to “worship” services, just as long as they get there somehow. That theory may work when vacationing with the family, but it holds no water as far as obeying God is concerned. Our Lord has provided his children with plenty of ways to fulfill his commandments without us needing to invent our own ways to obey him.

Moses and Aaron almost made it to the Promised Land but, in the end, they fell short. Let us all be “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10).