There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The people blamed Moses and said, “If only we had died in the LORD’s presence with our brothers! Why have you brought the congregation of the LORD’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!”
Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD said to Moses, “You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.”
So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the LORD. Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. “Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill. (Numbers 20:2-11)
Once before, the people had found themselves short of water. And just as they had reacted to everything that had ever been the least bit hard—they accused God and Moses of seeking their ruin. Once again, they waxed nostalgic over their prosperity in Egypt—that place from which for generations they had begged God to rescue them.
God responded by satisfying their needs. Never once, when they were hungry or thirsty, did God ever leave them in that state. God always provided for them.
Moses, however, being a human being, had finally had enough. After all the crabbing and complaining, after all the negativity, he finally snapped. He let his temper get the better of him. Despite his disobedience, God still delivered what the people needed. Bringing water out of the rock was something God did. It was not a consequence of saying the right magic words with just the right hand signals.
God will do what he wants to do for us whether we obey him or not. But there are still potentially negative consequences for disobedience. In Moses’ case, he had to die.