In the twentieth chapter of Numbers we find the children of Israel resting in the Wilderness while on their way to the promised land. The record tells us the people murmured against Moses and Aaron because "there was no water for the congregation" (Num. 20:2). "And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: 'If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!'" (Num. 20:4). Moses and Aaron "went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces" (Num. 20:6).
As these two great men of God prayed, the Lord spoke to Moses and said, "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly 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" (Num. 20:8).
Moses took the rod as God had commanded, and said to the people, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" (Num. 20:10). By his choice of words Moses gave honor to himself and not to the Lord. To top things off, Moses "smote the rock twice" with his rod.
After the waters "came out abundantly," God said unto Moses, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them" (Num. 20:12).
Please notice what happened. God gave a simple command: "speak to the rock." Moses disobeyed by striking the rock and God considered that a lack of faith. What did God mean when He told Moses "you did not believe Me"? In the Bible, the faith that counts is the faith that obeys! When we disobey the commands of God it means that we have a lack of faith in God's word.
In John 3:36 we read, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (NASB). This passage makes disobedience the antithesis of faith. Baptist preachers have accused me of denying "salvation by faith." This is not true. I preach that men are saved by obedient faith. The only time in all the Bible we see the phrase "faith only" it is preceded by the words "not by." "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (Jas. 2:24).
John's gospel tells us how Christ "came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:11,12). Those who believe in Christ have the right to become the children of God! Sometimes men reject this right, like the rulers who believed in Christ but would not confess Him (John 12:42,43). The Ethiopian nobleman was told he could be baptized if he believed in Christ with all his heart. He made the noble confession, saying, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37).
The gospel of Christ is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). It is this gospel which "has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith" (Rom. 16:26).