They were tired. They were hot and dirty. They hated the desert. They had enough of walking around. They wanted a home and rest. There was no obvious, ready water supply. They did the one thing they have done most often and most heartily. They complained, and they opposed Moses and Aaron. These must be bad leaders. Maybe they aren’t really listening to God or following his directions. Why is following God so difficult? Why does he lead us to wastelands? Why do we have to give up comforts for him? Why does he speak through flawed humans? The questions and complaints could be endless.
But why did Aaron have to die? What did he do wrong? He and Moses both made two grave mistakes. Before too much longer, Moses will also suffer for this. The first was in action. God told them to speak to the rock. As God spoke the universe into existence, he would bring water through their speech. By speaking, no one could say there was a more natural explanation for this miracle. By speaking, the glory goes without question to God. But they also rebelled against God in their speaking. Moses and Aaron took the credit and the glory for themselves, “must we bring you water?” Moses spoke, but Aaron (as usual) is right there with him, in agreement and refusing to correct. Aaron pays now for their sin; Moses too will pay later.