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Corporal Punishment

Numbers 20:7-12 (NKJV)
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” 9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

God gave Moses instructions on what to do and what He would then do. Moses did what God said...kinda, close enough...and God did what He said he'd do. And then he disciplined Moses.

As a Christian leader, I've contemplated this passage many times. I keep looking for a deeper meaning to the story that what is obvious to me on the surface. But for all my "mining" this text, I keep coming back to this simple thought: Do exactly as your told. When in this situation in a previous setting, God told Moses to strike the rock. In this story, Moses is told to speak to the rock. In both cases the Lord brought water from the rock for the people. As far as anyone could tell, the method worked. I don't know if this was just a matter of neglect on Moses' part to God's instructions, or if he just got excusably carried away in the moment, or what. All I know is this little gaff cost Moses everything.

I think of different ways in which God's purpose is released in individuals via a leader's influence. One leadership style is to strike. For example, as a parent one option for discipline is to use the momentary sting of a spanking to imprint upon a child's mind the significance of thier transgression. Other times, words of correction or encouragement are sufficient to remedy the situation. Know when to implement these different tools to shape a child's life either releases the life within them, or permanently limits them. Leading people can be similar. Some leaders "spank" their subordinates through creating a high demand/high performance culture, which reshapes one's character and life disciplines (e.g. boot camp in the Armed Forces). Other times, words are the leader's tool that bring out or shape the potential (and occasionally the problems) inherent in the lives of the followers. Encouragement as well as confrontation can be equally effective if employed in the right timing and context. If either is wrong, the results can be devastating.

This story reminds me that even when all the circumstances seem to be the same, when I have access to the same tools, and the end result is the same, I still can't default to what I did the last time. Why, especially when the outcome is the same? Because the consequence for the leader is life changing. Following God's specific instruction is the most important thing I can do.

Lord, help me to lead through obedience, not presumption.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 17, 2010 2:07 PM.

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