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  • Writer's picturePastor Hans Fiene

Matins Devotion: May 26, 2023

Numbers 20:1-21

Two questions for today: Number one, why does Moses strike the water-yielding rock twice? And two, why does God respond to this by barring Moses from entering the Promised Land?

Well, to confuse everything with more numbers, there are two answers to the first question. First, Moses strikes the rock twice because he’s angry at the people. He’s tired of their constant rebellion and complaining. He’s tired of them lashing out at him, then getting humbled by the wrath of God, then lashing out again five seconds later, like we heard about this week in Korah’s rebellion. But the other reason Moses strikes the rock is because he’s angry at God. He’s sick of having to lead these people that God made him lead. And in that anger, he doesn’t trust God to do what he’s promised so he adds to it to make sure God keeps His word and gets these miserable people off his back.

So then, why does God bar Moses from entering the Promised Land. Again, we’ve got two answers to question two. First, God does this because the Promised Land is a type of God’s kingdom. It’s a foreshadowing of the eternal kingdom Christ is going to establish. And God wants Moses to know, just as he wants all of us to know, that you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven by trusting in yourself. If you think God’s mercy and salvation aren’t enough, if you think His promises can’t be trusted and that you need to add your own works in order to make yourself sufficiently holy, then you don’t believe. Moses repented, of course, and has inherited eternal life. But those who breathe their last striking the rock twice and rejecting the sufficiency of Christ’s blood cannot inherit eternal life.

The second reason God bars Moses from entering the Promised Land is that, as St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, the rock was Christ. That is, the rock was Christ giving life to His people in the wilderness as a foreshadowing of baptism, where he would bring the waters of salvation to those in the barren wasteland of condemnation. Here, God was pouring out mercy upon His people, cleansing and feeding them with His love. But Moses tried to clothe God’s mercy in anger. He tried to take the feast of salvation and dump it on the heads of his brothers. And so God denied Moses entrance to the Promised Land because you cannot turn the means of grace into means of wrath and inherit eternal life.

So may God turn us from our hatred of our neighbor and our hatred of God. In the rock of Christ, may God bless us to see that we never need to hate those who exhaust and grieve us because they have been covered in the same salvation that washed us clean when we exhausted and grieved our Lord. In the blood of Jesus Christ, may we see that the rock is opened, the living waters are flowing from His side, and that God needs nothing from us in order to love us and welcome us into His eternal kingdom.

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