I have been to the place where Moses and Aaron were. They were again hearing the grumbling that all leaders seem to be subjected to, and doubtless they were tired of hearing it. I can tell you from experience that when such criticism comes from the people you’re just trying to help, it’s a hard place.
The place they were at was called Meribah, and can be translated from Hebrew to our English word “bitterness.” The people were, well, whining about not having any water, and that was going to kill them, their children, their livestock, and it must have been beginning to wear on Moses and Aaron.
Previously, Moses had struck a rock and produced water for the whole group (which numbered over half a million men, not counting women, children, and livestock – boy they had short memories). The Lord here advised a different plan. Moses was to speak to the rock, and it would yield its gift of water to the nation again. A Moses that was now literally between a rock and the hard place he was in had reached his limits. He had a different plan.
Instead of calmly speaking to the rock, Moses reverted to what had worked previously. He raised his arm and struck the rock. Water came pouring out to save God’s people again. The people would survive the desert. But it wasn’t what God had told Moses to do, and that had consequences for Moses. Moses would never lead the people into the promised land.
This is a stern warning. When God says something, we MUST obey, and we must do exactly what He says. When planning a worship service, for example, we must rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit every time. We cannot simply do what has worked before. Doing so will have serious consequences for us, even if they are not seen immediately.
Notice, however that only Moses bore the consequence. The people still got what they needed despite Moses’ disobedience. God is God. He will take care of His people regardless. So just do what He says…it ends better.