Beginning of the End


Moses Fails on the Border of Canaan

This chapter is based on Numbers 20:1-13.

The living stream of water that refreshed Israel in the desert flowed for the first time from the rock that Moses struck in Horeb. During all their wanderings, wherever the need existed, a miracle made water gush out beside their camp. BOE 203.1

It was Christ who caused the refreshing stream to flow for Israel. “They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). He was the source of all physical as well as spiritual blessings. “They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out.” “It ran in the dry places like a river.” (Isaiah 48:21; Psalm 105:41). BOE 203.2

As the life-giving waters flowed from the smitten rock, so from Christ, “smitten by God,” “wounded for our transgressions,” “bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4, 5), the stream of salvation flows for lost human beings. As the rock had been struck once, so Christ was to be “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). Our Savior was not to be sacrificed a second time. The only thing necessary for those who are wanting the blessings of His grace is to ask in the name of Jesus, then the life-giving blood will flow out again, represented by the flowing water for Israel. BOE 203.3

Just before the Hebrews reached Kadesh, the living stream that had for many years gushed out beside their camp stopped. The Lord would test whether they would trust His leading or follow the unbelief of their ancestors. BOE 203.4

They could now see the hills of Canaan, which were only a short distance from Edom. The appointed route to Canaan ran through Edom. God had directed Moses, “Command the people, saying, ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau ... and they will be afraid of you. ... You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them for money, that you may drink’” (Deuteronomy 2:4-6). BOE 203.5

These directions should have been enough to explain why their supply of water had been cut off—they were about to pass through a well-watered, fertile country, in a direct route to the land of Canaan. When the miraculous flow of water stopped, this should have been a reason to be happy, a sign that the wilderness wandering was over. But the people seemed to have given up all hope that God would bring them into Canaan, and they loudly demanded the blessings of the wilderness. BOE 203.6

The water stopped before they reached Edom. This gave them the opportunity to walk by faith instead of sight for a little while. But the first test brought about the same spirit shown by their parents and grandparents. They forgot God’s hand, that for so many years had supplied their needs. Instead of turning to God for help, they complained in desperation, exclaiming, “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!” (that is, in the rebellion of Korah). BOE 204.1

Moses and Aaron, the leaders, went to the door of the tabernacle and fell on their faces. Moses was directed, “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.” BOE 204.2

The two brothers were now old men. They had put up with the rebellion of Israel for a long time. But now, Moses finally lost his patience. “Hear now, you rebels!” he cried. “Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Instead of merely speaking to the rock, as God had commanded him, he struck it twice with the rod. BOE 204.3

The water gushed out abundantly, but a great wrong had been done. Moses had spoken from irritated feelings. “Hear now, you rebels,” he said. This accusation was true, but even truth is not to be spoken in anger or impatience. When he took it on himself to accuse them, he grieved the Spirit of God. His lack of self-control was evident. This gave the people an opportunity to question whether in the past he had been following God’s directions. They now found the excuse they wanted for rejecting the reproofs God had sent through His servant. BOE 204.4