From Eternity Past


Chapter 37—Moses Fails on the Border of Canaan

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

From the smitten rock in Horeb first flowed the living stream that refreshed Israel in the desert. During all their wanderings, wherever the need existed, by a miracle water gushed out beside their encampment. EP 289.1

It was Christ that 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 temporal as well as spiritual blessings. “They thirsted not when He led them through the deserts: He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: He clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.” “They ran in the dry places like a river.” Isaiah 48:21; Psalm 105:41. EP 289.2

As the life-giving waters flowed from the smitten rock, so from Christ, “smitten of God,” “wounded for our transgressions,” “bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4, 5), the stream of salvation flows for a lost race. As the rock had been once smitten, so Christ was to be “once offered to bear the sins of many.” Hebrews 9:28. Our Saviour was not to be sacrificed a second time. It is only necessary for those who seek the blessings of His grace to ask in the name of Jesus, then will flow forth afresh the life-giving blood, symbolized by the flowing water for Israel. EP 289.3

Just before the Hebrew host reached Kadesh, the living stream ceased that for many years had gushed out beside their encampment. The Lord would prove whether they would trust His providence or imitate the unbelief of their fathers. EP 289.4

They were now in sight of the hills of Canaan, but a little distance from Edom, through which lay the appointed route to Canaan. The direction had been given to Moses, “Command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, ... and they shall be afraid of you... . Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink.” Deuteronomy 2:4-6. EP 290.1

These directions should have been sufficient 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 course to the land of Canaan. The cessation of the miraculous flow of water should therefore have been a cause of rejoicing, a token that the wilderness wandering was ended. But the people seemed to have given up all hope that God would bring them into Canaan, and they clamored for the blessings of the wilderness. EP 290.2

The water ceased before they had reached Edom. There was opportunity for a little time to walk by faith instead of sight. But the first trial developed the same spirit manifested by their fathers. They forgot the hand that had for so many years supplied their wants. Instead of turning to God for help, they murmured in desperation, exclaiming, “Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!” (that is, in the rebellion of Korah). EP 290.3

Moses and Aaron, the leaders, went to the door of the tabernacle and fell upon their faces. Moses was directed, “Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock.” EP 290.4

The two brothers were now aged men. Long had they borne with the rebellion of Israel. But now, at last the patience of Moses gave way. “Hear now, ye rebels,” he cried, “must we fetch you water of this rock?” Instead of speaking to the rock, as God had commanded him, he smote it twice with the rod. EP 290.5

The water gushed forth in abundance, but a great wrong had been done. Moses had spoken from irritated feelings. “Hear now, ye rebels,” he said. This accusation was true, but even truth is not to be spoken in passion or impatience. When he took it upon himself to accuse them, he grieved the Spirit of God. His lack of self-control was evident. Thus the people were given occasion to question whether his past course had been under the direction of God. They had now found the pretext desired for rejecting the reproofs God had sent through His servant. EP 291.1