(Actual view of the Promised land from Mt. Nebo)
While reading through Deuteronomy, I came upon the repetition of how Moses was not able to enter the Promised land. I recalled vaguely that he had done something that displeased God, but for the life of me did not really understand the direct significance (seeing as Moses is completely mild compared to the rest of the Israelites.) Moses states “And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘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.” (ESV Bible, Deuteronomy 3: 23-25) After reading this, I really felt sorry for Moses. He had worked so hard. He dealt with Pharaoh, the plagues, moving the Israelites out of Egypt, then he dealt with all the griping and complaining of the Israelites afterward! I felt that he of all people should have been able to spend at least some time in the promised land. It made me wonder, what could Moses have really done that was just so terribly offensive?
The answer to this unfortunate state is from a previous chapter in the bible whose detail was seemingly so small I had looked over it. ” In Numbers 20:8, the Lord told Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” Numbers 20:9-11 records Moses’ response: “So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as He commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” Numbers 20:12 gives us the Lord’s response, “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/Moses-promised-land.html) So I had figured out why Moses was not able to lead the Israelites into the promised land, but I was still somewhat dissatisfied with the answer. Granted, Moses DID disobey God, after he had clearly taken care of him so far up to this point, but why did God have to get that angry at him for something as small as striking a rock, instead of speaking to it? Clearly, the Israelites had done things that were so much worse (i.e. forging a golden calf) and Moses had lead all of them out of Egypt. Did he really deserve that harsh of a punishment?
I found myself feeling a little put out by such dramatics from Yahweh, but then I read closer into the text again and realized that I had read the words, but failed to completely understand them. “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. This [is] the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them. (Numbers 20:9-13.) A quick look at this record still doesn’t seem to tell us why this was so serious. Moses lost his temper and said some things that he shouldn’t have said. Is that so bad? Haven’t we all done similar things? Will God come down hard on us if we lose our tempers? But Moses had a very special responsibility before God. Moses was a prophet. It is our failure to recognize the seriousness of the responsibility that belongs to a prophet that keeps us from seeing how serious what Moses did was.” (http://userwww.service.emory.edu/~cmadd01/mosessin.html) Suddenly, when I looked at the whole issue through this perspective, it made much more sense. Moses was completely hand picked by God, and for him to show that type of behavior, as a prophet, must have been extremely offensive to God.
I had also noticed that Moses and Aaron both seemed to take credit for the miracle. They asked something along the lines of “Do we have to get the water from this stone for you?” When I thought about that, I realized that was probably just adding salt to the wound that they had already created. Moses and Aaron both knew that these abilities to work miracles only came from God. The whole reason why they were even leaders of the Israelites in the first place was because of him. Obviously, they had taken that fact for granted.
While I still feel that the whole situation was, as a whole, depressing. It is a real theme of the Bible, and of life in general that sometimes what seems ridiculously unfair, is actually for the greater good. In the case of Moses, it makes sense that he was not allowed to go to the promised land. On one hand, it was time for the new generation of Israel to take its place. On the other hand, since he had aged so much, he definitely could not have enjoyed it as much as he once could have. After all, God did give Moses a very scenic view point from Mt. Nebo. Once again, this is illustrating the theme of the importance of obedience and following the laws that were given to the Israelites by God.