Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals." So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."
I’ve always felt sorry for Moses when I read this account. After all, we all sin, and this seemed like such a small error. God said, “Speak to the rock,” but Moses struck it instead. Not a major incident in a life full of obedience, right?
Evidently God thought it was huge. Because of this one act, Moses would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Why did God make such a big deal out of this? Why were the consequences so dire?
It would be easy to take this in any of several directions.
- We could talk about the fact that all sin is serious, and there’s no such thing as a small sin.
- We could discuss how damaging it is when leaders sin
- We could draw out inferences about how pride and anger lead to sin
- We could point out that all sin springs from disbelief, and results in failure to hallow God in the sight of others.
All of those things would be true and worthy of discussion, but there’s another aspect I want to address today. Because one of the amazing things about the Bible is how the Gospel is woven throughout, even many hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. And this story spells out part of the Gospel in vivid detail.
The Old Testament is a living allegory, spiritual truths written into the reality of flesh-and-blood lives. Don’t misunderstand…I’m not saying that the stories are mere allegories, as if the events never happened. What I’m saying is that the events, which actually happened, paint pictures of Spiritual realities far beyond the awareness of those who lived them. And in the meta-narrative of the Children of Israel, metaphors abound.
- Egypt represents the believer’s old life of sin before salvation.
- Moses represents the law.
- The Promised Land represents the believer’s ultimate destination…Heaven itself.
And the whole picture would have been marred beyond recognition if Moses had been allowed to lead the people into the Promised Land.
Because Moses represents the Law, and the Law cannot save.
So who got to lead the people in? Someone named Joshua. In Hebrew, it’s Yehoshua or Yeshua. In New Testament languages, it is translated “Jesus.”
It means, “Jehovah saves.”
He does indeed.
Isn’t God awesome? The Gospel is right there. The Law (Moses) can’t bring us into the Promised Land. Jesus (Yeshua or Joshua) does. Let’s look at some of the other symbolism here.
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son… (Rom 8:3)
Joshua’s leadership ministry was inaugurated by the miraculous passage through the Jordan, which was done to prove that “God is among you”
Jesus’ ministry was inaugurated by the miraculous events surrounding His baptism (the descent of the Spirit, and the Father’s verbal affirmation) in that same Jordan river, which were done to prove that God was among us
Immediately after this dramatic inauguration, Joshua was instructed to choose 12 men
After His dramatic inauguration, Jesus chose 12 men (Matt 10:2-4).
Joshua did not lead his people into unconquered territory. He led them into warfare (see most of the book of Joshua).
Jesus waged all-out war on the forces of evil (Luke 4:41, for example), and leads us in spiritual warfare all of our days, until we enter our rest in our Promised Land (Eph. 6:12)
~~~There are probably more awesome parallels than these, but you get the picture. These things were written for us to learn from (1 Co. 10:11).
Moses certainly didn’t understand this. If he had, I’m sure it would have comforted him. But as it is, he carried the pain of his punishment until the day he died. In his human frailty, he even stooped to blaming the people for what happened to him that day (Deu 1:37). He had no idea that God had meant it for good, to draw a beautiful picture of salvation through the Heavenly “Joshua,” our Lord Jesus, and not through the Law.
The Scriptures have been written in full for us…at least while we’re here on earth. But there are still holy words being recorded in Heaven (Mal. 3:16), words which I’m sure we’ll see when we get up there. Words which describe the things that people do, and which will record for all of eternity how God painted our lives into a glorious mosaic. Right now we are just as blind as Moses was to the metaphors built into our stories. We can’t imagine the ways that they will bless others. But I’m convinced that much of eternity will be spent examining the incredible pictures that God crafted from each of our lives. We’ll see how God made the ordinary places of our lives holy by His presence, even when we weren’t aware of it. We’ll see the shadow of Calvary and the glories of grace inked onto every one of our pages, and we’ll come away with an eternal case of holy goosebumps. What part of God’s mosaic are you living today?
Be a worthy paintbrush for Him. Trust the artist to showcase Christ through whatever your circumstances may be, even if they’re painful. All of creation is looking forward to the day when the masterpiece will be unveiled. When that happens, it will all have been worth it.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
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