Imagine you’re Moses. You’ve just led the people of Israel through the Red Sea (Exodus 14), seen bitter water made sweet (Exodus 15), and seen bread fall from the sky (Exodus 16).
Then in Exodus 17, the people are thirsty, so God tells you to strike a rock and he’ll make water come out of it. You have seen firsthand the miraculous at work.
Many, many years later, things have changed. You’re wandering in circles, people are complaining, and in Numbers 20, they’re thirsty and demanding water. God tells you and your brother Aaron to speak to a rock and he’ll make water come out of it again.
And so you go up to the rock, you strike it, and out comes the water. Just like the first time.
Wait a second. God told you to speak to the rock this time. But you struck it instead. You got the result you wanted but you disobeyed God in the process. Instead of taking a risk and letting God display his glory afresh, you stuck with what you knew would work.
Now imagine you’re a worship leader. You’ve been leading your congregation in worship for a while. You’ve seen hard hearts melt, you’ve seen people experience God, and you’ve even made some progress with your team.
And every once in a while you get to see the miraculous at work. You take a risk, God blesses it, and out of a rock you see water gushing out.
And so you’ve learned a new trick. Like Moses, you know that if you do a certain thing, you’ll get a certain result. But at a high cost. Without even realizing it, you’ve entered into the dangerous territory of manipulation, and what you’re seeing happen might not be the result of God’s power at all.
God responds swiftly to Moses and Aaron after they disobey him by striking the rock instead of speaking to it, and begins by saying, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel…” and then says he won’t allow them to enter into the Promised Land.
“Because you did not believe in me…” Moses and Aaron’s sin was the sin of disbelief. They heard God say to speak to the rock. But the people would think they were idiots if they went up and spoke to the rock and nothing happened. They didn’t believe God was trustworthy.
As worship leaders we can be guilty of this same sin of disbelief. And when we stick with our safe formulas because we know they’ll work, and they’ll satisfy the complaining crowds, we say to God that (a) he isn’t trustworthy, and (b) we’ve got it covered.
God responds with mercy and grace to us in Jesus Christ and says, (a) trust in me, and (b) I’ve got it covered. Yes, striking the rock worked last time. And it was really cool. And maybe he’ll want you to strike it again. But maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll want you to speak to it instead. Have you asked him? Are you listening? It’s a good idea to check with him and then do what he says.