Finishing Strong – Avoiding the Big Mistake – Numbers 20

Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.  Numbers 12:3 NKJV

Moses was a remarkable man of faith.  Like God Himself, he put up with a tremendous amount of opposition throughout the forty years the Israelites lived in the wilderness.  Many times, he interceded for the people when their rejection of God had placed them in a precarious situation with Him.  And God always pardoned the people as a result of Moses prayers.

But after forty years of remarkable faith and living out the path God had desired for him; Moses made a serious mistake in God’s eyes.  While it would not have an impact on his eternal standing (he did later appear with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and some of his disciples in Matthew 17:3), it did have profound implications on his earthly leadership.  And to make matters worse, it happened near the end of his life.  How he must have wished for a do-over!

Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”  Numbers 20:2-5 ESV

True to form, while on the cusp of finally entering the Promised Land, and after having rejected God’s first directive to enter 38 years previous, the people complained harshly to Moses. 

This was not the first time the people needed God to provide them with fresh water.  In earlier situations, the Lord made bitter waters sweet, and later had Moses strike a rock with his staff, allowing abundant fresh water to flow forth and meet all the people’s needs.

This time, the Lord told Moses to speak to the rock rather than strike it.  But Moses, in his anger with the people, reared back and struck the rock twice, defying God’s command.  The water still came forth to meet the needs of the people, but God was not happy with Moses’ actions.

12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”  Numbers 25:12 ESV

Some have interpreted that the rock represented Christ and the living water of the Holy Spirit, and by striking it twice, Moses was crucifying Christ a second time.

and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.  1 Corinthians 10:4 ESV

We all make mistakes.  We all sin.  When we confess our sins to God, He readily forgives us.  That is a great joy for all believers in Christ.

But we see from this account that even though we are forgiven for sinful actions, they can still have serious negative consequences in our lives.  We especially want to avoid making the Big Mistake, particularly towards the end of an otherwise successful life’s journey.

What kinds of things can result in making the Big Mistake?  Anything that prevents us from finishing life strong qualifies.  Impulsive actions can seem like a good idea at the time, as they often appeal to our lower instincts.  But any of our lower instincts can lead us to make a fateful sin mistake that seriously degrades the quality of our lives.

Moses anger and pride led him to place himself in a position above God with a poor choice of actions.  It was a big error, and it cost him the triumph of personally leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.  But he did finally make it into that land hundreds of years later on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus Christ.


Where am I in danger of making the Big Mistake of my life today?  God, please open my eyes to allow me to see the danger of my ways and to adjust my attitudes and actions to avoid a fateful error.

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