Numbers 10 – 23
Moses and the Israelites have left Mt. Sinai and resumed their journey to the land of milk and honey. They see the land, so Moses sends a man from each tribe to scout and report back what they see in terms of area, produce, and the people whether they’re big or small, strong or weak. When they return most of the men are raving about the land but are intimidating by its inhabitants, all but two people Joshua and Caleb. When the people hear the reports from the ten others about what they saw the people began to complain and grumble to Moses and Aaron. After this happens, God becomes furious and declares the no adult from the current generation will see the promised land, and their kids will be old when they see it.
Later on in their journey, the people begin to complain again because they have no water. God commands Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and the water will pour out. When Moses strikes the rock, however, he takes credit for making the water come out. “12 But Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not trusted in me, to regard me as holy [in the sight of] the [Israelites], you will not bring this assembly into the land that I have given to them.”
Moses, the man leading the exodus from Egypt whom God entrusted, will not see the promised land. This is an interesting development because when Miriam and Aaron (Moses’ siblings) complain about Moses, God confronts them saying, “7 Not so with my servant Moses; in all my house he is faithful. 8 I will speak to him mouth to mouth, in clearness, not in riddles; and he will look at the form of Yahweh.” God is very fond of Moses, from saving him from Pharoah’s infanticide to making him the leader of his people.
When Moses strikes the rock to give the Israelites water, he knows that God’s popularity isn’t very high among the people, so he then takes credit for it himself. After this, even though he approached Pharaoh several times, even though he leads God’s people out of Egypt, and also though Moses had been faithful at every turn, God punishes Moses and not allow him into the promised land. The message from this story, God is brutally just, that sounds redundant, but in regards to our modern culture, it isn’t.
God is interested in our faithfulness to Him, and there is not enough good we can do to make up for the bad that we have done. God loved Moses and Moses was faithful to God, and when Moses struck the rock in his name, God punished him all the same. This is not to discourage loyalty to God, quite the contrary, Moses’ crime was being afraid to credit God for a miracle because he feared the people would be upset when he should have remained faithful even then.
Moses’ was not abandoned by God after his sin. He looked after Moses even after his death. Moses punishment was significant because he was entrusted with a large number of responsibilities and for a great reward beyond the promised land. However, like a wise man once said, to whom much is given, much is required.