-In the first month, the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Zin and stayed at Kadesh. This was apparently a different location from the earlier Kadesh located in the wilderness of Paran from which the spies set out many years before in their first attempt at scoping out the Promised Land, but it was in the same vicinity (Numbers 13:21-26). There was no water there, and the congregation assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron contending with their leaders and God. They complained and said they wished they had perished in the previous uprising of Korah during that rebellion in previous years. Their lot was desperate out in the dessert, and they needed the sustenance of water, not realizing the power of God to provide. They felt like they and their animals were about to die, even though God had made them significant and lasting promises. They called the adventure “wretched” and vehemently protested the fact that they were not abounding in the luxuries of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates where water was plentiful. They had somehow forgotten that it was their own lack of faith that kept them out of the Promised Land where all of those things were. God had prepared it, but they listened to the negative voices rather than Joshua and Caleb, who knew the LORD would give them victory if they proceeded in belief even against formidable foes (Numbers 13-14; 20:1-5).
-Then Moses and his brother, Aaron, came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell prostrate on their faces before God. The glory of the LORD appeared to them there, and God spoke, “Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and SPEAK (emphasis mine) to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink (Numbers 20:6-8).” Moses took the rod as commanded and gathered the people. He rebuked them as rebels and told them what was about to happen. “Then Moses lifted his hand and STRUCK (emphasis mine) the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank (Numbers 20:9-11).” As a result of this action, the LORD rebuked His leaders for not believing Him. He was offended because His commands were not treated “as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel.” Because of this disobedience, Moses and Aaron were not going to be allowed to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land themselves (Numbers 20:12). To understand this better we must look at the textual events and parse it out. God told Moses to speak to the rock. He disobeyed and hit the rock. I believe God even gave him a moment of grace to change his direction. The first strike was fruitless, it did not bring forth water. The second strike was when water poured forth. At this point the LORD was indignant with His servants because they did their own thing rather than follow His word. Moses had relied on past accomplishments and methods in this exercise of rebellion (Exodus 17:1-7). He used his own means and power and denied the Living God’s request. “Those were the waters of Meribah (i.e. contention), because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them (Numbers 20:13).”
-From Kadesh, Moses sent delegates out to Edom to petition their brother about moving through their territory on their way to the Promised Land. They only wanted to pass through. They promised not to take any of the produce of the land. They swore they would not even drink their water. They would stay on the King’s Highway and pay equitably for any of their needs along the way. They appealed to the fact that Edom fully well knew of their hiatus to Egypt from the land of their fathers and the hardship and suffering they had experienced in the process. They also made Edom aware that God was with them and always heard their cries for deliverance (Numbers 20:14-19). However, Edom would NOT let them pass through and came out against them with a heavy force and a strong hand. “Thus Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through his territory; so Israel turned away from him (Numbers 20:20-21).” This prophetically doomed Edom (Jeremiah 49:7-22, Ezekiel 25:12-14, Joel 3:19, Amos 1:11, Malachi 1:4). It was fulfillment of Genesis 12:3.
-They the sons of Israel came to Mount Hor, and this is where the LORD told Aaron it was time to pass from the earth. The great priest would be gathered to his people and die there on the mountain. He was buried there not being able to enter the Promised Land because of his rebellion at Meribah. Eleazar, his son, was given the holy garments upon Mount Hor. After Aaron passed away and was buried, they came back down from the mountain to inform the congregation. When they heard the news, they wept and mourned for their patriarchal priest 30 days (Numbers 20:22-29).
-*Application* God is serious about His commands. Sometimes, because we can’t really see Him, we excuse ourselves from doing what we know is right and disobey His authority. This can have catastrophic consequences as we see today in this passage. When we transgress His Law, we declare Him unholy by our sinful actions. While His grace is sufficient to cover all our sin and forgive us if we have trusted Him for salvation, our fellowship and blessing surely can be affected. When God tells you to do something, obey it fully and don’t take matters into your own hands.
Verse to Memorize: Numbers 20:13