Out on a Technicality


Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (Numbers 20:11)

The people were bitching. That’s what the Israelites did best. Moses had risked his neck to rescue them from making bricks in Egypt.  He had stood up to the great and powerful wizards of sand.  He had split the Red Sea like a headache and led them across without embarrassing wetness. He had brought them to Mt. Sinai where they could watch the divine fireworks display for free.  He had arranged a manna and quail to-go menu.  And what did he get for his trouble?

Complaints from the get-go. “If we had only croaked in the desert” they whined at Moses. “Why did you bring us here only to have us die?” Yada yada yada. Even Aaron and Miriam, his two best buddies, got on his case. Frankly, I think Moses should have let the Big Guy fry the whole lot of them back at Sinai. Boom! Snap-crackle-pop! And Moses is a free man.

But no. Moses is a nice guy. He puts up with their incessant yowling and tries to make them comfortable. He runs interference between them and God, who has a very short fuse. Then those ungrateful Israelites have the gall to demand water in the desert—cool, clear, H2O God shoot me now water.

So God says to Moses, “Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.” So Moses gathers the chosen gripers and says to them, “You jerks! Do I have to squeeze water out of a rock for you constipated Cretans?” He looks at them. Now he is even more ticked off than God is. He whacks the rock with his big stick. Then, for good measure, he whacks it again, and out gushes water as promised. The jerks gulp and pee to their heart’s content. Whoopee for them.

But God is now ticked at Moses. Apparently Moses was supposed to talk to the rock not whack it. Ah, come on. Give the guy a freaking break. He’s been through hell with these dweebs and now God is miffed because Moses adds a little emotional flair to the proceedings? Worse, God tells Moses that his stick shtick will cost him his ticket into the Promised Land. The people get in; Moses gets screwed. Go figure.

The moral of the story? God hates improvisation. Follow stage directions carefully. If he wants you to talk to a rock, talk to the rock for God’s sake. Don’t attempt to alter the script. And, please, put the damn stick away.

Got it? Ixnay the ickstay.


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