Following Directions

by Janet Holm McHenry

I had a fun unit I did with my students when I was teaching them to write technical language. First, I created relevance for the unit by bringing in appliance and auto instruction manuals. Then I stood in front of the class with peanut butter, jelly, bread, a bread board, a knife, and a plate.

“Tell me how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” 

An eager student would raise his hand. “First, put the peanut butter on the bread.” So I’d pick up the jar of peanut butter and set it on top of the loaf of bread. I was following his directions exactly, right? 

The student—and the class—quickly got the importance of being specific with directions and giving and following them exactly.

Moses started out that way. When God told him to strike the rock at Rephidim to produce water, he did just that. And water flowed out (Exodus 17:1-7). But perhaps his hearing wasn’t so good after forty years of wandering in the desert. The people were still rebellious, and he was an old man, weary of leading. “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me,” he said (Numbers 11:14 NIV).

Later, when the people again complained about lack of water, Moses and Aaron went to the Tent of Meeting, fell facedown, and found God’s glory again to guide them. “‘Take the staff,’ the Lord God said, ‘and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. SPEAK [emphasis added] to that rock before their eyes, and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink’” (Numbers 20:8 NIV). 

For whatever reason, Moses raised his arm and STRUCK the rock twice, instead of speaking to it. While Moses did not follow the Lord’s instructions, the Lord gushed water out of that rock. God is merciful, isn’t He? But Moses would pay a price for not following God’s specific directions. He would never see the Promised Land. Joshua would lead the younger generation there instead. 

It seems a harsh punishment. Moses had been faithful. He had previously followed the Lord’s instructions. He had stood before Pharaoh over and over, risking his life to ask that the king allow the Israelites to leave. He had used his staff to part the Red Sea waters and to bring about water for the thirsty people. He had dealt with the people’s unending complaints and led them through the desert. Hey, I’ve taken kids on walking tours; it’s not easy leading even just a couple dozen! 

Water. We need just enough. Not too much or we suffer flooding or icy slick roads or snow past our windows. Not enough and we suffer thirst and possible death. Moses faithfully led the people through waters and to waters so they could experience the rich abundance of watered pasture for their flocks and themselves.

Perhaps he was dry–his will all used up. Perhaps he was too old. Perhaps he was too weary. Perhaps he was just not the right man to lead millions of people into already inhabited lands of people who would not be happy about being displaced. Following directions exactly would have been the most important job requirement for leading those thirsty hordes. 

I struggle some days with listening and following. I’m weary. I’m aging. I just want to get there, you know? That Promised Land . . . whatever that looks like here on earth. And then other days I take an honest look at my life and give thanks for God’s graceful, life-nourishing Spirit rain that has faithfully quenched my thirst all these years. And I give thanks because . . . I’m already there.

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descent like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deuteronomy 32:2 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Janet McHenry has been called the Prayerwalking Lady, because she has been prayerwalking her small town for more than 22 years. The author of 24 books, including the bestselling PrayerWalk, she is the creator of the online masterclass Prayer School, which can be found through her website. She and her rancher husband Craig live in the Sierra Valley in northern California, where they raised their four children.

Join the conversation: What supplies refreshment for you when you are in a dry and thirsty place?


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