The Water - Aaron's Rod - the Rock - Meribah

Numbers 10:33  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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Take again the water.1 If the reader reads from Numbers 10, he will see grace condescending to lead them; the ark, which by right ought to have been in the middle of the host, goes before for three days' journey, to seek a place for them to rest in-as Jesus goes before His own sheep. This was grace. The Lord serves them as guide, above and beyond the legal relationship. From Num. 11 onwards we see Israel's rebellion, and the working of the flesh developed in its different forms: Taberah-Kibroth Hattaavah—Miriam and Aaron despising Moses—despising the pleasant land after sending the spies-the open rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, against Aaron and Moses, priest and king in Jeshurun. How are the people to be led through? Destruction may be just, but cannot lead us to the end of our journey. Here then is given a sign of the principle. Aaron's (that is, the priest's rod) is to guide and govern them, and that not in judgment, as the use of Moses' had been, but in life-giving resurrection power-the dry stick blossoms and bears fruit-the sign of priesthood with divine power of life. Grace in this way can alone lead us through-Moses' rod of law and judgment cannot. With this, consequently, is given what might seem otherwise out of place-the means of cleansing unintentional defilements unwittingly incurred (Num. 19, the red heifer), the connection of which with our subject is evident. Murmurs come in again for water, and Moses is told to take the rod and speak to the rock, and it should "give forth his water." There is no need to smite it with the rod of judgment now. But Moses does not rise to the height of divine grace, but, occupied with himself, talks of himself and Aaron, and smites the rock with his rod instead of glorifying God. God rises above the unbelief even of Moses, and gives the water, glorifying Himself; but shows that on the legal principle it is impossible to reach the land. Moses is shut out of it. The first time the rock had to be smitten ("and that rock was Christ") to have the spiritual stream to drink of; but afterward it was not so: it was only to be spoken to, and it would give its water. That is, under the grace of priesthood, which we need not for redemption, which is already accomplished, but for the weakness of the wilderness, it has only to be asked for and obtained. Thus we have sovereign grace giving freely and gratuitously; then legal condition, and failure and judgment; then priestly care and living grace affording, in spite of failure, the needed supply as the means of carrying the people through the wilderness to the promised land, after every form of the unbelief of the heart had been brought out. I may add, to complete the instruction, that quite at the close the question arises, Can these failing ones enter? The full justifying grace, and blessing too, is brought out, and in presence of the enemy it is declared as the full answer, "He bath not seen iniquity in Jacob, nor beheld perverseness in Israel."
Am I going out of scriptural principles to indulge my own fancy in these things? No; "they happened unto them for ensamples (τύποι types-forms of truth), and are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the world are come." And in these admirably instructive accounts, whose doubling gives them their peculiar character and force, infidelity sees, that is, imagines, two documents. And what more? Nothing? Yes, UNDENIABLE2 error. There may have been fifty documents, for aught I know; only, if there were, God has marvelously used the contents for our instruction. Meribah means "strife," and the two cases of striving were called strife.3 That is very surprising. As to a second appointment of elders,4 I may have easily, it is true, forgotten something; but I know of none. There were rulers of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands probably, appointed by the advice of Jethro; but that is quite another thing.