A turning point chapter of generational change. Many years of wandering have passed and the Israelites have made no actual progress to the promised land. They are back where they were in chapter 13.
It’s the place they believed the crushing report from the holy land spies and rejected the promise of it.
It’s a great symbol of a life spent in movement but not progress.
Miriam dies, the prophetess who sang after they crossed the Red sea. Aaron dies, and the priesthood passes seamlessly to his son.
Moses losses patience. We see pride and anger in this most humble of men.
The people grumble about water, and God wants to provide it from a rock, as he did in Exodus when he had Moses strike the rock with his staff. But this time, God wants Moses just to ask the water to come out.
In fact when Moses gathers the people he gives them an earful. God didn’t ask for this. Moses sort of whinges that he and God have to fix the problem yet again. And he strikes the rock twice, when he wasn’t supposed to strike it at all. He was supposed to be involved less this time, but Moses instead does more.
God provides the water because the people need it. But he is disappointed in Moses, acting like he has a part in God’s blessing, and taking a combative tone that was detracting from the generosity of it. He’s trying to take the limelight from God.
The commentator I read pointed out that water from the rock is a powerful picture for Jesus.
Moses flaws are on view here. He’s had a long life with many frustrations. They are understandable. He’s been the leader of a truly boneheaded people. His time is passing. It’s time for the newer generation to start the final journey to the promised land.
But those images from this chapter, of a life of action without spiritual progress, of a frustrated spiritual leader who starts to confuse himself with God, those pictures are keepers.
Keep me humble father, and moving towards you.