Consider the following circumstance: Bill has been working at his job faithfully for over 20 years which is much longer than most of his fellow employees. Bill has shown up to work every day on time, has a strong work ethic, and has had a strong Christian testimony. Yet, Bill has had to put up with many pressures placed on him by his boss and fellow coworkers. Bill’s boss has promoted others ahead of him, has praised the work of others while turning a blind eye to Bill’s work, and treats Bill unfairly because he is a Christian. Bill’s coworkers go out of their way to make crude jokes and ridicule Bill’s Christian faith. Bill has had enough and feels as if something doesn’t change that he is going to explode. He feels as though his hard work is unappreciated. Bill has a choice to make. Either react in anger or respond in a Spirit-controlled, Christlike way.
In Numbers 20, Moses is faced with a similar situation. The children of Israel had been wandering in the wilderness for about 40 years up to this point. The generation that chose to disbelieve God’s promises 38 years earlier at Kadesh-barnea had died off and a new generation had arisen. Sadly, we see that this new generation had been infected with the same unbelief and complaining spirit that their fathers had. We see the children of Israel back in Kadesh complaining about a lack of water and saying that they would have been better back in Egypt. The Lord spoke to Moses and told him to take his rod, gather the people together, speak to the rock, which would result in water flowing out. Moses’ patience had been exhausted. Forty years of murmuring and unbelieving Israelites had taken its toll on Moses. Moses became extremely frustrated with the people and reacted in anger. Instead of responding to the people in the way that God prescribed, Moses called the people “rebels” and “smote the rock twice.” God did still give the people water from the rock, which was a testament to His grace, but Moses had disobeyed God. In an angry fit of rage, Moses reacted to the disobedience of the people and God judged him by excluding him from entering the Promised Land.
Every day we are faced with varying circumstances and pressures of life. Many of these circumstances are out of our control. However, what is in our control, is our ability to either respond or react to these situations. When the pressure is turned up in our lives, we can either allow our emotions to control us and react in fleshly sin or we can respond in a Christlike way. Moses lost his temper, disobeyed God, and forfeited his privilege of entering the Land. As Christians, we have the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who can help us to reign in hasty, sinful reactions and respond in a way that is patient, kind, loving, peaceful, and Christlike.