Themes in Numbers (04): Striking the Rock Twice

Date: 3/17/2013
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Type: Sunday Sermon
Topic: Anger
Organization: All Saints
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In the Wilderness: Themes from Numbers (04): Striking the Rock Twice

Num 20:1–12  . . . The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water.. . .10 and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. 12 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.”

In ch. 20 Moses, along with Aaron, is unfaithful (vv8, 10). This tragic text is at the end of the 40 years journey, just as they are to enter the Land. Yet it begins with the death of Miriam (v2) and the death-sentence of Aaron and Moses, who both died within the year. In the first “water from the rock” event, God said, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock . . . and you shall strike the rock (Ex. 17:6). So (the first time) Moses struck the rock “who was Christ” (per 1 Cor. 10). In ch. 20 Moses is commanded to “speak to the rock.” Instead he strikes the rock twice after rebuking the people in wrath (v10). For this he and Aaron may not enter the Promised Land (v12). Sin has consequences.

Lessons in Lent

  • Be angry and sin not. Striking the rock twice is a symbolic act of judgment. In the first strike, he reenacts vengeance on the previous generation (now dead) and in the second strike, he judges the current generation (promised to enter). This was expressly against God’s word and manifested temporary unbelief. Vengeance is always the Lord’s. 
  • Be patient and faint not. Striking the rock twice is a failure of faith. He failed to “believe in Me” (v12). This was a lack of trust that this (new) generation would enter into the Land. They were acting as their fathers had (Ex. 17, et al). Their striving set up Moses for anger and rashness which manifested doubt that God would even now bring them into the Land. The punishment is ironic since it is now Moses who is forbidden entrance.
  • Be humble and glory not. Striking the rock twice is a failure of worship. Moses failed to “sanctify” the Lord as “holy” by not declaring God’s power and glory (v12, 27:14, Dt. 32:51). This event was to the new generation, what the Red Sea was to those before. Instead of speaking the word of God’s power to the people (as he had at the sea), he acted too vainly (Ex. 14:12–13). His rash action shielded God’s glory from the people.


Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more