Podcast: Speak to the Rock
Podcast: Speak to the Rock
Speak to the Rock
If you brought your Bibles with you today, turn to Numbers, way back near the beginning, Numbers the 20th chapter, verses 8-12. We’re going to start there today. And I’m going to launch, even if you’re not there. The background is, the children of Israel are thirsty and Moses is bringing this up to the Lord. It’s no surprise to the Lord; He knows all things and sees all things, but He said:
“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 commanded him, and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock and he said to them–”
(This is where he departed from the plan,)
“he said to them, now listen now you rebels, shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod and the 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 will not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Whoa. Sounds pretty severe, doesn’t it? I’ve entitled this message Speak to the Rock, the subtitle, God is in the Details. Let’s pray.
Lord, take this word, from Your word. Speak to our hearts. Speak to and through me for Your honor and glory, and may Your Word come alive with relevancy and practicality, authenticity, and life in our lives, in us and through us, Lord, for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The Lord said, “Speak to the rock,” and Moses struck the rock twice; spoke to the people, which he was not instructed to do; spoke to them out of anger, actually; called them rebels, actually; but, let’s go back to a previous reference.
In Exodus 17:6 (you may remember this one) another occasion that the Israelites were thirsty and were crying out for something to drink. In that occasion, the Lord said, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb and you shall strike the rock and the water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
So, the first time, God did say, strike the rock. And it went according to plan–Moses did exactly what God commanded him to do. Perfect, complete, lacking in nothing, and the water came out. In the second occasion, the water came out. But, God doesn’t care just about “what,” but “how” and “why.”
We’re going to drill deeper into this passage today, and some other passages, and talk about not just the “what,” not just the “how,” but the “why” that God has in mind.
First of all, let’s talk about some of the meanings of various things that have been referred to so far. The “rod” or the “staff” is a symbol of authority. So, when Moses took the rod, it was a symbol of God’s authority. So, during the first occasion, when he struck the rock, it was a symbol of God’s authority to strike the rock.
In the second occasion, he was asked or commanded to take the rod but not to use it. It was a symbol of authority not to strike the rock, but this time to speak to the rock. Now, what was that about? You may or may not be wondering, “What does it matter? They were thirsty and water was provided, mission accomplished! And by the way, nobody’s perfect, so Moses didn’t follow instructions exactly, but who does? You may or may not be thinking that. The Rock is Jesus. The staff is God’s authority. The Rock is Jesus. So, God is painting a picture here, even in Old Testament times, for the benefit of those that were there, but for our benefit now. For those of us that are reading the word of God, the Lord is presenting a picture. He’s presenting a picture for us. The Rock is Jesus.
In I Corinthians 10, and you can take note of this and look it up later if you’d like, I Corinthians 10: 1-4 says, “Friends, I want to remind you,” this is the Apostle Paul speaking to the Corinthian church, “Friends, I want to remind you that all of our ancestors walked under the cloud and went through the sea,” referring to the Red Sea parting and all of that; delivering the children of Israel. “This was like being baptised and becoming followers of Moses. All of them also ate of the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink which flowed from the spiritual rock that followed them. That rock was Christ.” So, here we have a New Testament validation and example of what that rock really was back in Exodus and in Numbers. That rock is a picture of Jesus Christ.
And, the Lord goes on to say in John chapter 7, verses 37 and 38, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” So, even back then, the Lord was painting a picture for them and for us.
And we know from John chapter 1, verse 17, “For the law came through Moses,” Moses went to the mountain, brought down the Ten Commandments, “…the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” And one more before I comment: Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Do you not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
So, what do we have so far? Let’s take a look at this. We have in the first reference, in exodus, God commands Moses, “Strike the rock.” What that refers to is a picture that Jesus only needed to be struck, or smitten, once for us. Just once. He went to the cross once for us. He was crucified once for us. He was smitten once for us. That’s what that picture is all about. The rock was struck, he was smitten, and the River of Life came out. For the nourishment of their bodies and for the nourishment of their souls and our souls. The Living Water, Jesus Christ, a picture thereof.
Then, when we come to the second reference in Numbers, we see that He is not saying, “Strike the rock,” again, he didn’t say that at all, because the rock doesn’t need to be struck again. Jesus doesn’t need to be smitten again. He died for us. Once. Once and for all. Now, by faith, we can speak to the Rock. By faith, we can live by faith. By faith, we can make choices from that reality, for us, as Christians today, Christ in us, the Hope of Glory. We don’t need to crucify Him again. We don’t need to come forward week after week and ask for forgiveness again when, in fact, we are forgiven. He went to the cross, where we humble ourselves and receive what He purchased for us. We don’t need to strike the Rock again; we don’t need to crucify Him again. Our sins already put Him on the cross. We don’t need to put Him on the cross again and again. One time He went to the cross. One time He was smitten. One time is all that was needed, as far as striking that Rock. Now, by faith we can speak to and from that Rock.
God is into the details. God is into absolute obedience and taking Him seriously. Moses let his heart get away from him. Proverbs 4:23 says, in the NIV 1984 version, “Above all else,” that gets my attention, by the way, “Above all else, guard your heart,” as in, take care of your heart, not build a wall to keep people out, take care of your heart, “for it is the wellspring,” isn’t that interesting? River of life? “…wellspring of life.” The heart is the wellspring of life. Moses let his heart get away. Isn’t it interesting.
To whom much has been given, much is required. Moses had a very close relationship with the Lord and what happened to him? He let his heart get away from him. Notice what he said in Numbers 20, interesting choice of words when he was addressing the people: Listen now, you rebels, shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock? It’s like, We? What is he talking about? Moses doesn’t have anything to do with what’s going to come out of that rock. It’s God Who is the Source. What is this “we” terminology? So, he allowed himself to get offended, he allowed his heart to get away from him, he took the people too seriously, too personally, he was engaging with them, he was obsessing over them, he was thinking too much about them. And he reacted to them in anger. It was a sin of presumption, it was a sin of pride. He let down his guard. He didn’t take care of his heart. God is in the details.
How he responded at that moment is not an example of the fear of the Lord, which is taking God very seriously. Taking Him very seriously, not taking others too seriously, lest we get offended. Not taking ourselves too seriously, lest we start trusting in ourselves and thinking that we have much to do with it. But, taking God very seriously.
Isn’t it interesting that when Moses was first called to lead the children of Israel out, he was very dependent. He felt very inadequate. He didn’t think he was up for the job. And, when he finally said yes, he realized how dependent he was going to be. It wasn’t something he was going to do for God. It was something he was going to do in response to God’s invitation, because God had heard the cry of the Israelites who had been in bondage for 400 years and He was going to rescue them with or without Moses. He was going to find someone who would respond to His invitation to lead them out, and Moses was that one.
So, things were going along great. He was dependent, he was realizing that he could do nothing apart from God. He wasn’t presumptuous. He wasn’t prideful. So, what happened? Did the Israelites just kind of wear on him after a while? You know, all their murmuring and complaining just kind of wear him down, wear him out? Did he lose his edge of taking care of his heart? Did he lose that edge of always taking God very seriously? Because God is into the details. We know that throughout the Bible, whether you’re talking about the Tabernacle or any other design or plan or will or way of the Lord, He is in the details. When He speaks clearly, He is into the details. There are some things that there may be more than one way to approach it, but on this particular matter, He said, “Speak to the rock.” He didn’t say, “Do what you want to do; I’ll supply the water.” Speak to the rock. The first time, He said, “Strike the rock.” Jesus only needs to be submitted. “Moses, I’m trying to paint a picture here. I’m trying to give a picture to the people that Jesus is the Rock, He is the supply, and once you need to strike it once and He doesn’t need to die again. This is going to happen many more years into the future, but I’m painting that picture right now.” Because we’re going to live by faith.
Notice what it says in Romans 6:10, “When Christ died, he died for sin once and for all. But, now he is alive and he lives only for God. In the same way, you must think of yourselves as dead to the power of sin. But Christ Jesus has given you life and you live for God.” Notice that first line, “When Christ died, he died for sin once and for all.” When the Rock was smitten, that was it. It doesn’t need to be smitten again and again. Once is all.
And then we go on to Hebrews 10:10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once and for all. Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties,” before the Great High Priest, before the Ultimate Sacrifice came, “Day after day, every priest stands and performs his religious duties, again and again he offers the same sacrifices which can never take away sins, but when this priest,” Jesus, the Great High Priest, in other words, “had offered for all time, one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
Remember when He hung from the cross, “It is finished.” We don’t have to redo it. He doesn’t have to redo it. He doesn’t have to go again and again and again. It is finished.
Let’s summarize what we’ve talked about so far. The Rock was smitten and from the smitten Rock comes life. From Jesus being smitten, there comes forth life to you. But once the Rock has been smitten, it never needs to be smitten again. He died once and for all so that we don’t need to smite the Rock to get the water. All we need to do is by faith, ask. Speak to the Rock, and the water will come. Jesus was smitten, and the water of life came forth. Now all that is necessary is just to speak, ask, and you will receive the water of life freely. God was painting a picture back then. For them and for us. It’s for us now. Please don’t think that we’re just talking in Old Testament terms, it’s not relevant to us. Jesus was that Rock. The Rock produced water. He is the water of life. He was smitten once. He doesn’t need to be smitten again. Now, we speak to the Rock; we agree with the Rock; we submit to the Rock; and the Rock, by faith, still lives in and through us for His glory.
And then we see John 14, verses 13 through 15, “Whatever you ask in my name, this will I do, that the Father will be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” It’s in the motives. Motives that will draw us closer to the Lord.
Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But, he was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. And with his stripes, we are–” not were, “–are healed.”
So, where does this bring us today, in terms of practical application to us? Are you into the details? Are you taking God seriously? Has He spoken? He’s given you light; He’s spoken to you from His word, by His Spirit, and you know what He wants. You can play with that, you can toy with that, you can wonder about that, but you know. I’m talking about what you know. I’m not talking about what you don’t know, I’m talking about what you know. He’s been clear. Do you need more? [laughter] Does the Rock need to be smitten again for the water to come out? No. He’s given us everything we need for life and Godliness.
Will we walk in the light that He’s given us and will we obey Him in the details because we love Him. And, if we love Him, as it says in John 14:21, He’ll make Himself more real to us. And then, as He makes Himself more real to us, the more we’ll know Him, the more we’ll love Him, the more we’ll want to obey, and it keeps snowballing. The more you love Him, the more you obey Him; the more you obey Him, the more you’ll know Him; the more you know Him, the more you’ll love Him; and it keeps growing and deepening. And you keep growing in confidence that He is Who He says He is, so you won’t be making an issue of faith in faith and hope in hope and hanging on by a thread: “I’m hoping for the best!” No, you’re growing in confidence that He is Who He says He is.
Will you take Him seriously? [laughter] Sadly, Moses shows us that we can get off the track. May we learn from that. So, symbolically, Moses had led them out of Egypt, which represents the world; across the Red sea, which represents the new birth–the blood of the lamb, Jesus shedding His blood for us. What is the Promised Land all about? It’s all about the Spirit-filled, abundant, fruitful life. Becoming all that God intended you to be and all that He has purchased for you. He was smitten and He wants the water to flow in and through you for His glory. He wants everyone’s destiny to be realized. But, if we don’t pass these tests–if we get offended and get into unforgiveness; if we get off the track and we’re not as particular about obedience; if we think there’s an alternative way, we can miss out on what He purchased for us. I’m not talking about losing your salvation. I’m not talking about not going to Heaven. I’m talking about those of us that are in Christ, who are sons and daughters of the King. We will see Moses in Heaven, but that doesn’t mean that he fulfilled the plan that God had for him. Will that be true of us? Will we miss that unnecessarily? It’s not earning it. It’s not performing. It’s obeying out of love. It’s taking God very seriously.
Well, let me give you an action point for application. It’s going to be something that will be impossible for you to do on your own strength. So, I think that’s why I should offer this kind of an opportunity to you. In the natural, you won’t be able to do it. In Matthew 5:44, it says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Somebody that’s betrayed you. Somebody that’s wronged you. Somebody that’s saying untrue things about you, and people are actually believing them. And you’re not able to stop it or control it, what are you going to do? People are believing them, you’re losing relationships, what’s going to happen next? If it doesn’t involve a person, maybe it involves things, finances. Maybe health issues. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
Here’s what I want to present to you as an application: Take God very seriously. You don’t need to strike the Rock. [laughter] The Rock has been struck and smitten. The water of life, the river of life is therefore here. But, here’s what He’s asking you to do: let’s just talk about it in terms of “extreme.”
Imagine the worst-case scenario, in terms of what you’re fearing might happen. Go there, in your mind and heart. Not out of resignation, not without prayer, not without heartache, not without discomfort, not resigning to it, but go there, that extreme situation. We have been in those extreme situations in in our own hearts, in our own lives. More recently, with one of our children. You go there and you settle it at the extreme and you ask yourself and you talk to the Lord about this: is Jesus enough at the extreme? The extreme may never happen. What you fear may never come to pass. But if it does, you’ve settled it at the extreme; and if you’ve settled it at the extreme, everything short of the extreme is also settled and you’re free. If Jesus is enough at the extreme, if the Rock Who’s been smitten and He has an infinite supply of life and water and nourishment and refreshment and sufficiency for you–not dependent upon circumstances, not dependent upon that other person changing, not dependent upon justice, not dependent upon that person asking for forgiveness, not dependent upon that person being physically healed and living versus dying, whether that’s you or somebody else. Go there, not out of resignation. Go there and say, “Lord, if that were to happen, You are all I need. You are enough. You alone satisfy.” And that’s where you’ll be free.
Will you go there with me today? We’ve gone there many times over the years. [laughter] We know what it’s like to go through–just like all of you, we know what it’s like to face the unknown. With Moses, I wonder, was he wondering if water was really going to come out of that rock? I mean, did he have to help God out a little bit? I mean, you know, it’s easy to do what’s familiar. He struck it the first time, so, “Let’s strike it twice this time, just to make sure some water comes out!” Was that the kind of unbelief he had? Or, was it an unbelief of, “I’m not sure if God’s going to deal with these people, and they’re really getting under my skin and I’m not sure if He’s going to deal with them the way that I think they ought to be dealt with.” What was it? Well, one thing for sure, his heart got away from him and he didn’t do what God said to do and it kept him out of the Promised Land.
Will you allow that to happen to you? Will you allow the fear of (fill in the blank) keep you out of the Promised Land of all that God has for you? Will you let that unforgiveness keep you out of the Promised Land? Will you allow anything or anyone keep you from being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ?
We do have a choice. We may not like our options sometimes. You know, if somebody’s holding a gun to your head and say, “Renounce Christ or I’ll blow your head off,” I don’t like that choice. I don’t like that option, but we have a choice, even then. I’m going to cut your head off, I’m going to blow your head off, we do have a choice. Again, we wouldn’t have chosen that option, but we always have a choice. Really, we’re never without a choice. Moses had a choice. You and I have a choice.
We’re not looking for trouble. I’m not looking for pain. When I talk about settling things at the extreme, I don’t want the worst-case scenario to happen, do you?! But, I do know this, as we have applied this many times: as you go to the worst-case scenario, which includes the unknown, and when Jesus, the known, Jesus, the Rock, is allowed to be enough, there you’re free. Your heart is free. Everywhere short of the extreme. Will you take Him seriously, as opposed to taking yourself too seriously, as opposed to taking somebody else too seriously, will you take Him very seriously? Will you guard your heart above all things? For out of it flows the wellspring of life. Jesus flowing through you and me.