When Moses struck the rock at Meribah and caused water to flow, was he justified in the anger he felt towards the Israelites? One third of Moses’ life (see Exodus 7:7 and Deuteronomy 34:7) was spent leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land. In those 40 years he dealt with a rebellious people that struggled to place God before their own lusts and desires.
At one time, God even wanted to destroy those rebellious people immediately, “Then the LORD said to Moses: ‘How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they’” (Numbers 14:11-12). But Moses interceded and quieted the anger of God, “Then the LORD said: ‘I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD—because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it’” (Numbers 14:20-23).
A generation died out and did not enter into those physical promises because of their rebellious attitude towards God. This punishment was severe to those who failed to follow after God. And this same punishment was leveled against Moses for his anger. “…and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. Moses said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels; must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his hand [in anger] and with his rod he struck the rock twice [instead of speaking to the rock as the Lord had commanded]. And the water poured out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank [fresh water]. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed (trusted) Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, you therefore shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them’” (Numbers 20:10-12, Amplified Bible 2015).
There are no exceptions made for rebellion against God, “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). Moses understood God (through God’s Holy Spirit), something the Israelites around him could not do. But the same consequences for sin still applied to Moses, and he likewise did not enter into the Promised Land.
God guided and trained Moses his entire life in order to lead His people. He governed a nation with Pharaoh, tended sheep for Jethro, and lead God’s people out of captivity. But the years spent with a people that constantly drifted away from God undoubtedly had an impact on his attitude, at least in that moment at Meribah. And one (seemingly) small act caused swift punishment from God.
Being surrounded by such ungodliness in our day can have that same effect on our attitudes. Left unchecked, we can sin in a way that distances us from the Will of God (however valid our actions might seem to the world). And one small act can cascade into a loss of eternal life. Understanding and retaining the Will of God in all our actions is fundamental in each of us reaching the lasting promises of becoming part of God’s eternal Family.