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The wilderness is a barren place; filled with rocks and lifelessness. Our particular wilderness was spent partially in the rocky wilds of New Brunswick, Canada. Likewise, Moses and the Hebrews encountered rocks during their wilderness wanderings as well. It is no surprise then, that the most important lesson we learned about the wilderness has to do with rocks. Specifically, how we deal with the rocks that we encounter in the wilderness. Our attitude will determine whether or not we will enter the Promised Land with God’s favor on us; or not at all.

In Exodus 17:1-7 we read the account of the Israelites encamped at Rephidim; where there was no water. The people complained of this lack and turned against Moses. Moses turned to God and God commanded him to strike the rock; which he did, and water came forth. Now much later in their journey, we read in Numbers 20:1-1 that the Israelites were led to a place called Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, where again there was no water. Once again the people complained about the lack, and God spoke to Moses. This time, however, He specifically told Moses to speak to the rock so that water would come pouring forth. Moses disobeyed this command and instead struck the rock twice. The rock still brought forth water for the people but at a high price. God’s punishment to Moses for this disobedience, was an exclusion from entering the Promised Land.

On the surface it may seem that God’s punishment of Moses over, what appears to be, a small error in obedience was unduly harsh. This thinking is faulty. God’s judgements are always perfect, regardless of our inability to understand them. In this instance, Moses’ punishment was exact and precise. He disobeyed at a particular point in the journey and this is an important lesson for believers today.

To understand this lesson better, we need to first understand the importance of what the rocks represent. As with all of God’s truth, every lesson He gives is multi-layered and full of meaning. As we wandered through our own wilderness, God unveiled to us an understanding that the rocks represent the physical cross, and the eternal cross, of Jesus.

We know that Jesus is called the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4); and He is the source of Living Water (John 4:10). When Moses struck the rock the first time, it was a prophetic act representing Jesus’ physical cross; where He was struck for our salvation. As we move through life, we first need to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for our punishment, if we are to have a relationship with God. This fact is non-negotiable.

The parallel of the prophetic act of striking the rock, and Jesus’ physical cross was obvious to us; and we accepted this understanding. The second prophetic act of Moses being told to speak to the rock, and the spiritual connection with the eternal cross, was harder for us to understand. We knew that Jesus was not and will never be sacrificed a second time; so Moses’ act of striking the rock twice, was indeed a grave error on his part. Likewise, we also knew that the physical cross of Christ would start us on the journey of faith; but it alone could not complete our relationship with God. The physical cross was never meant for the purpose of transforming us into spiritual maturity.

It is telling that God told Moses to speak to the rock. Speaking denotes conversation, relationship, intimacy and communion. This model was exactly what God wanted Moses to demonstrate to the people. In order for us to mature in faith, we need to have an intimate ongoing relationship with Jesus. This is the heart of the eternal cross, where we are called to pick up our cross. Living in constant communion with Him, surrendering continually to His will and to His way. We don’t have to marvel at God’s punishment for Moses’ disobedience; it was strict for good reason. Moses failed to display prophetically to the Israelites, God’s heart and desire for an intimate relationship with them.

Our understanding of the physical cross, and the eternal cross, has been the foundation of our journey of faith, for some degree of time now. We are convinced that we need to mature beyond the physical cross, and embrace the eternal cross, daily. This committed love relationship is necessary if we wish to mature in faith, and be a part of the Bride of Christ. This is also the message we give to all that will willingly listen.

It was quite a shock when, a few nights past, God shook me from my sleep, and gave me a whole new understanding of the rocks in the wilderness. He unveiled a layer of revelation that I had never considered before; and so He expanded our wisdom once again.

What God revealed to me, in the early morning hours, was the first rock that Moses encountered, was like our ‘self’ nature. This rock of ‘self’ stands in the way of the living water; living water that should be flowing unhindered from within, as Jesus said in John 7:37-38. “Now on the final and most important day of the Feast, Jesus stood, and He cried in a loud voice, If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink! He who believes in Me [who cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me] as the Scripture has said, From his innermost being shall flow [continuously] springs and rivers of living water.” The commandment is clear; we must strike the rock of ‘self’ within in order to live the life of faith God is calling us to. It must be struck, irreparably destroyed, so that we can continue on the ancient path of maturity in the spirit. If we do not do this, living water will not flow from our inmost being unobstructed.

The next rock we encounter is Jesus. This rock we are not to strike; instead we are to speak to Him. To come into deeper relationship and union with Him. Just as God the Father is the orchestrator of our wilderness, Jesus is our Guide and Helper through it. As the Author and Perfector of our faith, we need to continually submit to Jesus’ guidance, as we navigate the treacherous shoals of the wilderness. We need to speak to our Rock and listen to Him, ready to obey His every command.

Now that God unveiled a new understanding of the two rocks we encounter in the wilderness, the rock of ‘self’ and the rock of Jesus, He gave me a chilling assessment of how we easily mix up our responses to these rocks. Too often, in the wilderness, we speak to the rock of ‘self’, trying to reason with it, and strike Jesus with our words and actions.

Allow me to illustrate with an example from last year. Last July, after we had finished our book and also moved out of our basement suite, we had fully expected God to deliver us to the home He had promised; a promise made to us many years before. When this did not happen as we expected, and we were left to wander about Kingston, living in the car and sleeping in a tent, we got angry. Very angry. I wish I could say that we were gracious about being homeless again, but we weren’t, and I led the charge. I was very bitter and frustrated with God, and lambasted Him with harsh words and thoughts. This was a classic case where I was speaking to the rock of ‘self’ within me, and giving it a pass to be angry; while simultaneously striking Jesus for leading us back into homelessness. This was not right, and I have had to repent a good deal for my error.

Unfortunately, there have been many times in the wilderness where, as a family, we could not understand what God was doing with us, and we would strike out at Him with hard harsh words. It has taken us a long time to repent of these attitudes, and learn not to strike Jesus who is our only guide through this confusing time of life. Thankfully, He is gracious to us as we learn, through sanctified experiences, not to strike the rock. Similarly, it has taken us a long time to understand just how much ‘self’ is an immovable rock within us; a rock that can never be reasoned with. ‘Self’ can never be spoken to, only destroyed, for it only stands as a barrier in the way of our walk with God. It is destined for destruction, and it is better to face this lion now, rather than when it will be too late.

Wherever you may find yourself today, you can rest assured that when He takes you through the wilderness, you too will have to face these two rocks. They will not be easy to see at times. ‘Self’ is duplicitous and cunning; hiding wherever it feels it can be undiscovered and confusing you into thinking it is God. Jesus, humble and mild, will not draw attention to Himself, but will gently lead, going before you, and beckoning you to follow. Granted, there will be many times where the path Jesus leads you on, will look to be confusing and hard. At those times ‘self’ will cry out, and these are the times you will need to strike it down and continue to follow Jesus, regardless of the cost. You will make many mistakes. You will err and blame Jesus for the faults of ‘self’. It is OK. His grace and love will cover you, as long as you repent and continue to follow Him. Just don’t quit following Him. Speak to the Rock that is Jesus; stay close to Him and all will be well.

May the mistakes we have made be a lesson to all who read this blog. Jesus is our Rock; His sacrifice on the physical cross and His eternal cross are there to bring us into full union with Himself. We need to strike our 'self' nature and destroy it completely, then speak to Jesus, coming to Him in complete brokenness so He becomes our Rock; embracing His physical and eternal cross. It is our prayer this very day, that you will choose wisely, so that you can be led into your own Promised Land.


Homer and Wanda