Moses sat on the edge of the Jordan River directly across from Canaan. He and the grumpy Israelites had been traveling together for 40 years, waiting for this moment in time. They were steps away from the Promised Land. So, Moses prayed to God: “O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.”1
It was a heartfelt righteous prayer prayed by a faithful servant. Moses shared with the Israelites God’s answer: “But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again.’”2
God said No! 😯 Emphatically! Why? This seems so wrong to me. Who more than Moses deserved to go into the Promised Land? What did Moses do that angered God so much that he would take that away? Well . . . 🤔 if we look closely at this scripture and then read the actual event that caused God’s anger, perhaps we can figure out why God told Moses No.
First of all, Moses tells the Israelites “the Lord was angry with me because of you.” No. 😒 I don’t think so. Yes, God was angry with the Israelites for doubting him and testing him and grumbling for 40 years during the journey. But God was angry with Moses because of what Moses did—not because of what the Israelites did. So, the first lesson is we cannot blame our sin (or our punishment) on someone else.
Secondly, here’s the short version of what happened that made God so mad. Near the end of their 40-year trek, they camped at Meribah and couldn’t find water. And the Israelites complained. Again. And questioned Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership. Again. And said they wished they had never left Egypt. Again. And I think Moses rolled his eyes 🙄 and heard blah, blah, blah . . . And who could blame him? So, Moses went to the Lord who gave him specific instructions on how to get water: “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water.”3 What did Moses do? He lost his temper. He yelled at the Israelites and called them rebels! He told them that he and Aaron (not God) would provide them with water. And then he struck the rock with his staff twice. In other words, Moses kinda’ did what God asked him to do. But not really.🙄
God’s response? He provided the water for the Israelites despite their grumbling and despite Moses’ rash reaction. But then told Moses that he had just forfeited his “right” to enter the Promised Land. Here’s what God said: “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”4
Hmm. 🤔 Exactly where did Moses “not believe in” God? By striking the rock (twice), Moses was showing God he did not believe merely speaking to the rock would be enough. Perhaps he thought speaking to a rock would look a little bit crazy. Maybe he remembered when he was in a similar situation where God told him to strike the rock and water gushed out. He might have concluded that God meant to tell him to strike the rock again like before. Or maybe Moses just wasn’t listening carefully . . . heard words like “staff” and “rock” and “water,” and filled in the blanks himself. Or maybe he was just really angry and felt like hitting the rock. Twice! 😠
My imagination envisions God pulling Moses aside and saying sternly, That’s not what I asked you to do! I think Moses assumed it was no big deal—not to listen carefully, not to do exactly as God told him.
He was wrong. 😦 So God told Moses No.
I think when God told Moses he would not be entering the Promised Land, he was saying, You need to learn to listen to me.
So, how’s that going with you? 🙄
And by the way, we’re not finished with this little story. 😬
1Deuteronomy 3:24-25 2Deuteronomy 3:26 3Numbers 20:8 4Numbers 20:12