There are two specific incidences in the Old Testament that cause tears to run down my face every time that I read them. I suppose this is because I have come to love Moses, the one who is the subject of the verses recorded. God’s Holiness The first cause of these tears occurs during the reading of Deuteronomy 3:23-26 (KJV): “And I besought the LORD at that time, saying, ‘O LORD God, Thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness, and Thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to Thy works, and according to Thy might? I pray Thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.’ But the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, ‘Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.’” Here Moses, the dear servant of the Lord, who was so close to the Promised Land and had shepherded the flock of God for 40 years, sometimes standing between them and His wrath (Num. 14:11-20), was told once again that He could not enter into the Promised Land. Why? The Lord gave His reason in Numbers 27:14: “For ye rebelled against My commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify Me at the water before their eyes.”
A detailed description of this incident is provided in Numbers 20:2-13. Moses had been instructed to speak to the rock in the presence of the children of Israel that it might bring forth water for the people and their animals. Previously, in Exodus 17:5-6, he had smitten the rock in Horeb and water had come from it. Now he had been instructed to speak to it. But Moses was angry with the Israelites and in his wrath he shouted, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch You water out of this rock?” Then he lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice and the water came out abundantly.
In this action – and I must speak carefully in the light of Romans 14:4: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?” – this meekest of men rebelled (Num. 12:3; 27:14) in several ways: He spoke against the people of God; he claimed that he was giving them water; and instead of speaking to the rock he smote it twice.
To our thinking, this may not have appeared all that bad. But in God’s estimation, it was rebellion against His commandment and a failure to glorify the Lord before the Israelites. How, you ask?
Moses called the people “rebels.” While this may have been true in a practical way, it was not his place to insult “the apple of His eye” (Dt. 32:10). He also said, “Must we fetch you water out of this rock” when the provision of water was not his doing, but only God’s. Finally, Moses struck the rock when he should have spoken to it. The significance of this action is brought before us in 1 Corinthians 10:4. “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” In type (a foreshadowing picture) the rock should have been smitten only once (Ex. 17:6) because its antitype is the important fact that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).
This one rash action by Moses prevented him from entering the Promised Land. God is holy and in His governmental ways He must act accordingly. After all, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).
The second instance that brings tears to my eyes is a continuation in the history of this dear servant: “And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar. And the LORD said unto him, ‘This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.’ So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day” (Dt. 34:1-6).
God’s holiness is wonderfully and perfectly balanced by His love. Moses might be barred from crossing over Jordan, but he saw the whole extent of “that good land” – including that “goodly mountain” (Dt. 3:25). And then the Lord buried His beloved servant with whom He could speak face to face “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Ex. 33:11). To be buried by the hand of God – what a precious, intimate touch.
Most of the Lord’s well-read servants know these facts well. They are not merely historical accounts of events years ago; they have been recorded for our learning. As one who ministers the Word, I am warned and warmed by God’s dealings with His servant Moses.
• I am warned that I must be very careful in what I say about God’s people as a whole, or as individuals for whom Christ died (Num. 22:12).
• I am warned that I must not claim any glory for accomplishments or activities done in the Lord’s service. The servant must only exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, doing so in all things (Jn. 3:30).
• I am warned to be careful to not dishonor the Lord by exemplifying anything in my actions that may be contrary to the mind of God (Rom. 6:15).
What was the “goodly mountain”? Was it Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham offered up Isaac and upon which Solomon’s Temple was built? Or was it the Mount of Transfiguration? I do not know for certain. But about 1500 years after Moses was laid to rest by the hand of God in the land of Moab, we do see him in the Promised Land, speaking with the One whom he had come to know so well in the wilderness. Moses and Elijah appeared in glory with the Lord Jesus Christ during His transfiguration, speaking “of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:31). Yes! All sins can be forgiven through the death of that One Who gave Himself a ransom for many (Mk.10:45).
• I am warmed by His love and especially by the fact that, in spite of my times of rebellion, sin and dishonoring the One whom I serve, He continues to love me and care for me in practical and intimate ways.
• I am warmed by His grace. In spite of repeated failures, we too may enter into that “goodly mountain” land given to us in His love and grace as He “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Amen.
By Hank Blok
THE PRAYER OF MOSES
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God …
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on Your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let Your work be shown to Your servants, and Your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
— Psalm 90:1-2; 12-17 ESV
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org