For both of you betrayed me with the Israelites at the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. You failed to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel there. So you will see the land from a distance, but you may not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel. [Deuteronomy 32:51-52 (NLT)]
When the Israelites won their first battle against the Amalekites and Moses acknowledged God as the reason for their victory, they’d been away from Egypt for less than two months. The power of God that exhibited itself in his staff was new to Moses. Nearly forty years later, the Israelites arrived in the wilderness of Zin to camp at Kadesh. Because there was no water, they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The brothers wisely took the problem to God who gave them specific instructions: take the staff, speak to the rock, and watch the water pour out. Instead, Moses angrily spoke to the people, “Must we bring you water from this rock?” and then struck the rock twice with his staff. Although God graciously provided the water in spite of the men’s disobedience, they defied a direct command from God and were punished. Neither man was allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Granted, Moses was tired, frustrated and annoyed. He’d spent a third of his life leading over two million of these “stiff-necked people” and now, with the end in sight, they protested and complained yet again. Perhaps it was his anger that led him to disobey God. On the other hand, perhaps Moses had forgotten who it was that provided forty years’ worth of guidance and miracles. In forty years, through God’s power, Moses and that staff had done more than cause plagues in Egypt, part the Red Sea, and bring the Israelites victory in battle. He’d been in the presence of God and received the Ten Commandments, made bitter water sweet, provided both quail and manna, and led a nation through the wilderness. By saying that he and Aaron would bring the people water, it seems that Moses may have forgotten who actually provided that water. Moses and Aaron showed too much faith in themselves and the staff and too little faith in God.
We break faith with God when we disobey Him or fail to acknowledge His presence in our lives. God is quite direct when telling us what to do and how to do it and He expects us to do it His way. Because of their disobedience, Moses and Aaron missed the blessing for which they had waited forty years. We don’t want to view the Promised Land from a distance; we want to enter it! Moreover, let’s never forget who actually provides us with the guidance, wisdom, strength, and ability to attain whatever success we have on our journey through life. Like Moses’ staff, we are merely His instruments; both the power and glory belong to God.