He sat in his tent with tears running down his cheeks. Usually a stoic man, now he could not hold back the sobs that pierced the early morning. His sister had always watched out for him. Cared for him when he was just a little boy, traveled with him through the desert. She had celebrated with him, and mourned with him. Now, he was alone, her body buried on the mountain. He had known that she had been getting old, but he had been avoiding acknowledging it. The trip up the mountain was too much for her, and her body just gave up. Now, all he was left with was his brother Aaron, who was even older than his sister and would be gone soon enough. He felt like blaming God, felt like it was unjust. He felt angry at his people, who were just too stubborn. Most of all, he felt empty without Miriam.
Suddenly, Joshua called from outside the tent:
"Moses, the people are complaining again. They want you to hear their grievances"
Moses stood up slowly and tried to collect himself.
"What do they want?" Moses asked with a sarcastic tone. "They didn't get enough beauty sleep? Is the manna too dry for them? Or do they want meat again?"
"Water, sir." Joshua replied. "There isn't any for miles around. They're getting violent. They say that they wish they had died back when the Lord killed the followers of Korah, because they're dying of thirst."
Moses felt rage bubbling up inside, another complaint from these people. After all that Moses and the Lord had done for them! Tears began to well up in his eyes again. Thoughts racing through his mind. Why didn't someone tell me earlier? Perhaps they would riot. They might break camp, and try to go back to Egypt. More tears. How in the world was he supposed to fix this? He was just a man doing his best to try to lead God's people into the promise land. God! He thought back to the last time they went without water, the Lord had provided. He needed to seek the Lord again.
With Aaron by his side, Moses fell down at the entrance of the tabernacle. In a moment, the glory of God filled the room. The fear, the anger, the hurt all vanished, only wonder and worship were left. God spoke to Moses:
"Take the staff, and assemble the community. You and your brother Aaron are to speak to the rock while they watch, and water will pour out of it."
In a great gust of wind, the presence of the Lord was gone, and Moses and Aaron were again alone.
"Speak to the rock?" Aaron asked Moses. "I thought we just hit the rock with the staff the last time."
"This is the Lord's will." Replied Moses. "This is what we must do."
An hour later, the whole community had arrived in front of a large rock that the Lord had pointed out to Moses and Aaron. Leaning on the staff, Moses overlooked the assembly with a glare. They whispered to one another, mocking Moses and Aaron, and the rock they were going to "speak" to. Their eyes watched, judging Moses and his leadership. The different heads of the tribes didn't say a word, but watched, waiting for Moses to mess up. The crowd grew louder and louder, and Moses grew more and more furious. Screaming at the top of his lungs he said:
"Alright you rebels! You want water, do you? Fine! Have it!"
With that, he took the staff, and began striking the boulder.
The staff collided with stone and water began to dribble out. He yelled again, raising the staff for a second swing. It wasn't about the rock anymore. He wanted the people to fear him. He wanted them to just shut up.
They question his character, they question his qualifications, they question his power! No more!
He pulled back for another strike, when suddenly a flood of water poured out of the rock, knocking Moses off his feet.
"Leave me alone!" Moses protested as Joshua tried to help him up. "I can take care of myself!"
As Moses stood to his feet, a chill ran down his spine. The people cheered, and began to drink from the rock. Moses' heart sunk. He had failed. As fast as he could, he and Aaron ran back to the tabernacle, falling down at the entrance. The presence of God, felt hot and convicting.
"You didn't trust me to show my holiness to the Israelites." The words of the Lord like hammers on his heart. "You will not bring my people into the promised land."
Tears ran down Moses' face, the words of the Lord echoing in his mind. Just like Miriam, he would die in the desert.
Wow. I know God is just, but I feel sorry for Moses. Having worked so hard for the people of Israel, trying his best to serve God, and struggling with the everyday struggles of life. Moses let the attacks on his character and identity define his actions. That is, Moses allowed for what people were saying about him to shape the way he acted. In the life of a leader, the words of man should not be the basis of our work. Instead, a Godly leader must be one that is based on Jesus.
But, I'll discuss what that means next week.