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Does Disbelief Cause Disobedience to God?

God doesn’t see our disobedience as a mistake or momentary lapse in judgment. He sees disbelief in him.

Christianity.com Contributing Writer
Updated Apr 12, 2024
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Does Disbelief Cause Disobedience to God?

One of the most popular stories of all time for religious and non-religious people is the story of how God used Moses and his humble shepherd’s staff to work miracles and lead his people (the Israelites) out of slavery in Egypt. The thought that God would use one man to rescue an entire nation is such an inspiring message. Movies have even been made about Moses’s supposed bravery and leadership.

But while Moses certainly was an important figure in Scripture because of his role as a prophet for God and leader of God’s people, we should be careful not to turn him into the hero of his own story. We can learn great lessons from Moses and what he did, but we should first know some of the real story behind Moses, which we can read in the Book of Exodus, in Chapters 3 and 4.

First, we should know that Moses was reluctant to lead. Because he had been gone from Egypt for so many years, he seemed to have lost the sympathy that he once had for his people and the passion he once had to help. He now had his own family far away from the problem. Not only that but when God told Moses to be his mouthpiece in front of Pharaoh, Moses immediately tried to make excuses for why he was the wrong man to go. He even pleaded with God to send someone else because he did not want to go.

Secondly, Moses did not lead by himself. Although it seems like it was Moses versus the world at times in the story, after Moses finally did go and do what God told him to do, he did not go alone. Instead, God frustratingly appointed Aaron, Moses’s brother, to stand with him and, at times, in front of him. Since Moses gave God other excuses that he was unable to speak well, God appointed Aaron to be Moses’s mouthpiece basically. So God would speak to Moses, Moses would speak to Aaron, and Aaron would speak for God. If that sounds silly or redundant, that’s because it was!

Thirdly, Moses was given the right tools to lead. And if you have ever done any kind of project, you know that having the right tools makes all the difference! In this instance, the “tool” that Moses was given was a staff or rod. In fact, it was the same staff that Moses had been using to guide his sheep, yet God turned it (something natural) into something supernatural. According to Scripture in Exodus 4:1-4:

“Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—“

The staff or rod eventually signified not only Moses’s role for Israel but also God’s power to work on behalf of his people. This staff in Moses’s hand would eventually be used to perform several miracles that led to the final release of the Israelites from slavery.

Fourthly, the real story behind Moses was that he was a sinful man. Not only was he known for letting his temper get out of control, he was known for sinning in his anger. Case in point, he murdered an Egyptian man in Exodus 3 because he was upset with how he was treating an Israelite. This is actually what caused Moses to flee for fear of his life and leave Egypt.

Then, the even bigger story is what we read happened much later in Numbers 20. The congregation of Israel that Moses was leading had no water because they had been journeying through a desert wilderness. God saw their thirst and heard their cries, so he told Moses that if he would just “speak” to a certain rock, water would pour out for the people and their livestock to drink. This would be yet another display of God’s power and goodness to his people - God would cause the water that he made to pour out from the rock that he made for the people that he made. All he wanted Moses to do was to speak to it and be a vessel or catalyst for God’s provision and blessing.

But what did Moses do? He got angry and took that same staff that God had given him and blessed and hit the rock instead - not once but twice.

We might not think that was a big deal. It’s just a staff, right? It’s just a rock, right? The water gushed out of the rock anyway for the people to drink, right? Didn’t everything work out in the end?

No, it didn’t.

What was a good story took a very sad turn at this point. Moses’s act of insubordination and disobedience resulted in God keeping him from entering the promised land. He would later die on a nearby mountain after only being able to catch a glimpse of the blessing that he missed out on. The example of disobedience and disrespect that he set influenced an entire generation of people who also died off without being able to enter the promised land because of their faithlessness and disobedience.

But here is what I found intriguing. When God talked to Moses about striking the rock instead of simply speaking to it, he did not first talk about his action of disobedience. Instead, he said: “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel…” (Number 20:12, ESV).

God said Moses did not “believe” in him.

This is the same word that Scripture says in Genesis 15:6 about Abraham when he “believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness.” We see the same word in Exodus 4 when the people “believed,” and it resulted in them bowing their heads and worshiping God.

The NLT uses the word “trust” here because the Hebrew word means to “support,” “confirm,” to be “faithful,” to be “certain,” and to “trust.”

Now get this - the Hebrew verb is “aman.” It is identical in meaning to the Hebrew adverb אָמֵן - which is where we get our word “amen”)! This is the idea behind us even today saying the word “amen “when we hear something that we agree with. when we say “amen,” we are confirming it, we are saying “so be it,” and we are essentially saying “yes… I BELIEVE.”

God essentially wanted Moses to speak “amen” to the rock, but instead, he used his God-given staff to strike it and display a lack of belief in God.

Before we judge Moses harshly for his lack of belief in God and disobedience to God at that moment when his emotions ran high, may you and I see ourselves in the mirror of this story? In what areas of our lives are we not able to say “amen” to God? What has he told us to do, who has he told us to talk to, and where has he told us to go that we have not yet said “amen” back to him about?

God doesn’t see our disobedience as a mistake or momentary lapse in judgment. He sees disbelief in him. We do not trust God’s word enough to follow it or his power enough to rely on it.

The good news is that later, God raised Joshua as his new prophet and a whole new generation of people who were willing to believe and obey him, and they were able to enter the promised land. So, God never forgot his people. He never left them nor forsook them.

Friend, God has not forgotten about you. Maybe your whole life to this point has been characterized by a lack of belief, but if today you choose to serve the Lord, he will respond to your faith by saving you and making you his own. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “…behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

And if you are a child of God who has some disbelief in your life that has resulted in disobedience, then you can be certain that God still hasn’t left you or forsook you.

Make today your “amen” or “אָמֵן” day before the Lord!

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Fizkes


Robert Hampshire is a pastor, teacher, writer, and leader. He has been married to Rebecca since 2008 and has three children, Brooklyn, Bryson, and Abram. Robert attended North Greenville University in South Carolina for his undergraduate and Liberty University in Virginia for his Masters. He has served in a variety of roles as a worship pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, church planter, and now Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Cheraw First Baptist Church in South Carolina. He furthers his ministry through his blog site, Faithful Thinking, and his YouTube channel. His life goal is to serve God and His Church by reaching the lost with the gospel, making devoted disciples, equipping and empowering others to go further in their faith and calling, and leading a culture of multiplication for the glory of God. Find out more about him here.

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