Now, wait a minute! Did we miss something? Where did Moses get the okay to deliver that scathing address? The truth is, he didn’t. Then where did it come from? From anger. Brimming with hostility and reacting in unbelief, he takes that rod and preaches an angry sermon to the people. His short fuse prompts him to take advantage of an opportunity to level these rebels with enraged verbiage.
I think there’s even a hint of blasphemy here. “Shall we bring water out of the rock?” he asks. But Moses, when did you ever bring water out of a rock? Isn’t God the one who summons water? True enough. But when you give in to rage, you sort of black out; you set aside your right mind and are driven by the unchecked emotions of anger. So the text states, Moses “lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod” (20:11, italics mine).
God had told him to speak to the rock; Moses struck it, not just once, but twice. And I frankly doubt whether he even cared if water came. He probably hoped it wouldn’t. He was so angry, he wanted their throats to stay dry. He wanted them to choke and writhe in their thirst. “Do you think we’ll give you water, you low-life scumbags? Hah!” So he belts the rock—Wham! Wham!—and much to his surprise, out flows fresh water. Scripture tells us that “water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank” (v. 11). Absolutely amazing! Amazing grace!
But that’s the way God’s grace works, isn’t it? Have you ever acted in rash unbelief, and yet God went ahead and opened up the door in spite of you? Talk about ultra humiliation. It happens when you’re out to lunch spiritually, when you’re walking in the flesh and you know it. You know when it began, and you know the depth and intensity of your carnality, but God graciously gives you what is best anyway. It’s remarkable, isn’t it, this thing called grace? It was grace that brought forth that clear stream of fresh water for the rebellious Israelites, as well as for ill-tempered Moses.