Why did God NOT Allow Moses to Enter the Promised Land, and what can leaders learn from Moses’ failure? #134
[podcast src=”https://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/14366423/height/360/theme/standard/thumbnail/yes/direction/forward/” width=”100%” height=”360″ scrolling=”no” class=”podcast-class” frameborder=”0″ placement=”top” use_download_link=”” download_link_text=”” primary_content_url=”http://chtbl.com/track/C2GDE1/traffic.libsyn.com/biblemystery/BibleReadingPodcast134.mp3″ theme=”standard” custom_color=”#87a93a” libsyn_item_id=”14366423″ /]Hello friends, and happy Monday to you all! As you might recall, I’m preparing for a short road trip this week, and trying to record a few extra episodes before I head out on the road, so the next few episodes might be a little shorter than normal. Have no fear, I should be back to my normal long-winded self by next weekend. Today’s Bible readings are sort of complicated – thank you Robert Murray M’Cheyne – but they are still awesome. I actually had to debate between three different passages for our focus question, so that’s a good sign. We’re reading Numbers 20, Psalms 58 and 59, Isaiah 9-10:4 and James 3. Our focus question comes from the Numbers passage, and it concerns the episode at Meribah that caused God to say that Moses would not be able to go into the promised land. In this episode, we see the truth of James 3:1 (on our reading today) played out: “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment.” Let’s read Numbers 20, and see how Moses gets disqualified, and also read about the death of Aaron.
Heartbreaking passage in many ways. The fact that Moses is barred from entering into the earthly promised land is quite stunning, since this is God’s testimony about Moses:
5 Then the Lord descended in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance to the tent, and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them came forward, 6 he said:
“Listen to what I say:
If there is a prophet among you from the Lord,
I make myself known to him in a vision;
I speak with him in a dream.
7 Not so with my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my household.
8 I speak with him directly,
openly, and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
So why were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
So – why was God so…so what with Moses? Numbers actually does not say God’s reaction, but we do later learn in Deuteronomy that God was indeed angry with Moses. But why? I think that this was a bigger deal than what we see at first. I see two big things that Moses did. First, He disobeyed the direct command of God. Moses was told to speak to rock, but He struck the rock instead. Of this incident, Spurgeon cleverly said:
Certainly Moses erred in smiting the rock, for he was bidden to speak to it. The best of men are men at the best.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 128.
Disobedience is serious, but I wonder if the second thing Moses did was even worse. In vs. 11, this happens:
Moses and Aaron summoned the assembly in front of the rock, and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?”
Is this Moses attempting to take credit for a miracle that originated with God? It is certainly possible, and that would be an egregious sin – and one that is often alive and well in church leaders today. I think that this is the reason that God says this later in Deuteronomy:
51 For both of you broke faith with me among the Israelites at the Waters of Meribath-kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin by failing to treat me as holy in their presence.
Of this second failure, Spurgeon writes:
Angry he certainly was; and when, reverting to a former miracle, the Most High directed him to take the wonder-staff—his rod of many miracles—and at the head of the congregation “speak to the rock,” and it would “give forth its water,” in the heat and agitation of his spirit he failed to implement implicitly the Divine command. Instead of speaking to the rock be spoke to the people, and his harangue was no longer in the language calm and dignified of the lawgiver, but had a certain tone of petulance and egotism. “Hear now, ye rebels; must we—must I and Aaron, not must Jehovah—fetch you water out of this rock?” And instead of simply speaking to it, he raised the rod and dealt it two successive strokes, just as if the rock were sharing the general perversity, and would no more than the people obey its Creator’s bidding. He was angry, and he sinned. He sinned and was severely punished
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 88-110, vol. 4 (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 392.
I think that the major issue here was the petulance and egotism of Moses. This is a temptation to those who would lead God’s people and a deadly danger to give into. Shepherds and leaders of God’s people must constantly point them to Jesus and to the abundant blessings at the right hand of the Father. When leaders/pastors/elders/deacons begin to read their own press clippings – so to speak – when they begin to feel as if they are the one feeding/protecting/taking care of the people, then the eyes of the people can turn from God to the human leaders…and this is dreadful. Hebrews 12 instructs us to keep/fix/focus our eyes on Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith. When that focus shifts from Jesus to a human leader – even an incredibly gifted one – than our gaze is on that which cannot save nor sustain us. Psalms 34:5 notes that those who look to God for rescue are ‘radiant’ and they will never be ashamed. When we look to human leaders for our salvation – instead of to God – then our faces will not be radiant and we will indeed be disappointed. I’ll close with some wise words from Jonathan Edwards:
[Moses] had a great zeal for God, and he could not bear to see the intolerable stiff-neckedness of the people, that they did not acknowledge the work of God, and were not convinced by all his wonders that they had seen. But human passion was mingled with his zeal, Psal. 106:32, 33. “They angered him also at the waters of strife; so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.” Hear now, ye rebels, says he, with bitterness of language.—Secondly, He behaved himself, and spake, with an assuming air. He assumed too much to himself; Hear now, ye rebels, must we fetch water out of this rock? Spiritual pride wrought in Moses at that time. His temptations to it were very great; for he had had great discoveries of God, and had been privileged with intimate and sweet communion with him, and God had made him the instrument of great good to his church. But though he was so humble a person, and, by God’s own testimony, meek above all men upon the face of the whole earth, yet his temptations were too strong for him. Which surely should make our young ministers, that have of late been highly favoured, and have had great success, exceeding careful, and distrustful of themselves. Alas! how far are we from having the strength of holy, meek, aged Moses! The temptation at this day is exceeding great to both those errors that Moses was guilty of. There is great temptation to bitterness and corrupt passion with zeal; for there is so much unreasonable opposition made against this glorious work of God, and so much stiff-neckedness manifested in multitudes of this generation, notwithstanding all the great and wonderful works in which God has passed before them, that it greatly tends to provoke the spirits of such as have the interest of this work at heart, so as to move them to speak unadvisedly with their lips. And there is also great temptation to an assuming behaviour in some persons. When a minister is greatly succeeded from time to time, and so draws the eyes of the multitude upon him, when he sees himself followed, resorted to as an oracle—and people ready to adore him, and as it were to offer sacrifice to him, as it was with Paul and Barnabas at Lystra—it is almost impossible for a man to avoid taking upon him the airs of a master, or some extraordinary person; a man had need to have a great stock of humility, and much divine assistance, to resist the temptation. But the greater our dangers are, the more ought to be our watchfulness, prayerfulness, and diffidence, lest we bring ourselves into mischief
Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 403.