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The Penalty of Moses

God would not let Moses go into the promised land. Why?

We use this story to illustrate sowing and reaping. We apply it to someone who lies, steals, or commits adultery. We warn that there are consequences to our actions. That principle is biblical (Gal. 6:7). Moses paid for his sin.

But Moses was not a liar. He was not a thief. He was not an adulterer. So what did he do that was so bad that God would not allow him to enter into Canaan?

“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?’ 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. 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’” (Numbers 20:10-12).

The Israelites complained and rebelled in the desert for 40 years. Sometimes Moses had all he could take. The stress was so unbearable that he even asked God to kill him on one occasion (Num. 11:15). In Numbers 20 the Israelites complained as usual. Moses and Aaron were angry and said something that was out of line. They didn't use profanity or take God’s name in vain like many do today when they are mad. They weren't wrong because they called these people rebels. That was the truth. Moses said they had rebelled from the time they left Egypt until he was about to leave this world (Deut. 31:27-29). He had also been angry with these people before this incident. What made this different?

God said Moses and Aaron did not believe Him. That is a serious charge. We know the generation of Israelites who left Egypt did not enter Canaan because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:19). They died in the wilderness. But Moses and Aaron were not guilty of unbelief like the other Israelites when they came to the border of the promised land the first time. Their life as a whole was one of faith in God.

In this instance, however, they failed to believe Him. They didn't trust Him as they should have. They trusted more in themselves and tried to handle this public situation without acknowledging God. The Lord said they didn’t hallow or sanctify Him in the eyes of the people. They said “Must WE bring water for you out of this rock?” They left God out—the same God who had provided for them every step of the way—and spoke as if the answer to the problem was in themselves. Then Moses disobeyed God. The Lord told him to speak to the rock, but Moses struck it with his rod twice. The fact that he had struck a rock before at God’s command (Exod. 17:6) was no excuse for him to disobey God this time.

Moses made a mistake that is all too human. He lost his temper. It was right for him to be angry, but he went too far with his anger. He was a prophet of God and a meek man but he was a man like the rest of us. The Jews had provoked him many times and this time they pushed him to the edge.The conflict became so personal that he acted more interested in justifying himself than in glorifying God. Others in the Bible succumbed to this temptation. Job was right and his three friends were wrong in what they said about him. But Job became more concerned with proving them wrong and himself right than with glorifying God (Job 40:8). Jonah was right about the Assyrians doing evil to his people. But Jonah’s anger blinded him to the bigger picture. He could only think about one thing: the Assyrians have done us wrong and God should punish them. He was so stuck on this one thought that he couldn’t even see their repentance and God’s forgiveness as a possibility. Like Jonah, we see so little and think we know so much.

The story of Moses and Aaron is part of a principle that applies to many other sins. But let us not forget what the story itself is about. And let us remember that although Moses paid an earthly price for his mistake, he was forgiven and is now at peace in a place much better than any spot on earth.


West End church of Christ bulletin article for July 30, 2023


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