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 shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Numbers 20:8-13 is the account of the waters of Meribah. God tells Moses and Aaron to take the blossoming rod from the tabernacle and speak to a specific rock and get water for the Israelites. Moses and Aaron, instead, take the rod and chastise the Israelites and hit the rock with the rod. Verse 12 is God’s response to their disobedience.
The obvious lesson here is that God’s work must be done in God’s way or there will be consequences. Both Moses and Aaron heard the instructions. Only Moses is recorded as being disobedient, but Aaron could have stepped in to remind Moses of what he should have been doing. In the end, neither one is permitted to enter into the Promised Land. Aaron dies a short while later on a mountaintop and Moses will go up to a mountaintop to look at the Promised Land from a distance before he also dies. All the work; all the prayer and agonizing over the Israelites and one act of disobedience was enough to keep them out of the Promised Land. And I have to wonder why.
The New Testament sheds some light on the why. The rock that Moses strikes is said to be a metaphor for Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). God was putting together a picture of Christ and Moses and Aaron marred that image. I can only guess what God might have said through Moses and Aaron being obedient. Instead, I have a lesson in the consequences of disobedience.
The consequences are twofold, in the case of this incident.
The first and most important consequence is marring the work of God. God was doing something and Moses and Aaron disobeying Him and His instruction distorted the picture God was painting. The message did not come through clearly. And we still lack what might have been.
The second consequence is the personal cost to Moses and Aaron. These two had endured much in trying to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. There are many recorded instances of one or both of these men on their faces in intercession for the Israelites. More than once, God goes to bat for these men and reaffirms His choice of them as His representatives. And God does not revoke His choice. These men remain His representatives until their deaths. But their disobedience in this matter comes with a cost of not being able to enter the Promised Land.
What cost does my disobedience carry? There is the obvious cost of Christ’s redeeming work, but there are, possibly, other costs that I do not always consider. If my disobedience is public, then I damage the image of God’s work and character to those who know I am a believer and see my disobedience. Even the disobedience I think is private can be known and can distort how others perceive God. This, I suspect, is part of why Samuel told Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice. It is better to keep the picture intact than to try to mend it.
Father, please forgive me for the times I have mangled Your image by my disobedience. Please keep me mindful of the costs of disobedience and strengthen me to be obedient and to represent You faithfully.