Obedience can be as simple as speaking instead of striking a rock.
We were following the story of Moses, the great leader of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.
“Only problem was,” I told the class, “that after all those years of leading the people, God told Moses he would not enter that land of promise.”
“Huh?” the kids asked. “Why not?”
So we read the story.
“Tell me what God told Moses to do,” I told the child who was reading the story to the rest of us.
She read the words, “Pick up your rod and go speak to the rock, and water will come out of the rock. So Moses took up his rod and struck it, not once, but twice. And water came out of the rock.”
“Did it matter that he didn’t follow God’s way to do it?” I asked the class.
“Well, water still came out of the rock,” one of the kids replied, “I mean, they needed water, and God sent water from the rock.”
“True,” I told the kids. “But did Moses do it the way God said to do it?” I asked.
Eyes wide in amazement, they just looked at me.
“God said, speak to the rock, and Moses struck the rock, not once, but twice,” I told them. “So did he do it the way God told him to?”
Heads shook in reply.
“And that is why,” I told the class, “that God told Moses he would never enter the Promised Land.”
Talk about legalism!
Did it matter if Moses hit the rock instead of speaking to it? Did God really care?
It would seem not because water gushed from the rock and the people were able to get water – which was the problem in the first place.
It would seem it did matter because Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
For forty years, Moses followed God. (Except for the time he became angry and threw the stone tablets with the 10 Commandments onto the ground). Moses led the Children of Israel through the desert. He watched God provide manna every day of the week but the Sabbath. Moses wasn’t perfect, but he did lead the people and he did follow God.
When the Children of Israel finally reached the edge of the desert, God took Moses up to a mountain and showed him the land he would never enter.
“Look over there,” God told Moses. “There is the Promised Land. You can see it, but you can’t touch it. And you can’t go there. Instead, you will die here.”
That’s what happened. Moses went up into a mountain and died there, all because of that one instance. If you’re curious about the story, you can read it here.
Why God allows some people to sin without seemingly any consequences, I don’t understand. Why, at other times, justice is swift and immediate I don’t understand either.
I do know this: if God says we should speak once, then striking twice is not okay.
The end result might be the same, but the method is wrong – just because God says so.