The other day while sitting in church I was convinced my mother had entered the room. Yes, she lives hundreds of miles away, but y’all… I heard her! I heard that voice, in that octave, at that cadence that only she was capable of uttering! It was her bellowing that oh-so-familiar warning: “Don’t you ask me that again, [Christy]!!”
Then I snapped out of it and realized it was actually my pastor reading God’s words to Moses in Deuteronomy 3:25-26. God had made it clear that Moses would not enter the Promised Land. But Moses decided to give asking another shot. You know, like when your parent or another authority figure told you no once and you decided to ask again hoping for a possible yet highly improbable change of heart, yeah… that’s what Moses was going for here: “Please, … let me cross the river and see the good land over the Jordan, the lush hills, the Lebanon mountains” (Deut 3:25). By this time God was angry and said, “That is enough, … Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (Deut 3:26). It’s as if God was saying, “Don’t you ask me that again, Moses!!”
“Wow!”—that my mama quoted God more often than I had realized, and “Wow!”—that God told Moses he could not enter the Promised Land. Once we consider the entire story of Moses and how he led the Israelites for so long and through so much, it may be a bit heartbreaking and confusing to read that, after all of the good he’d done, God would punish him in this way.
What happened? Why did God do this?
Here it is: In Numbers chapter 20 we find the new generation of Israelites, 40 years since their ancestor’s exodus from Egypt, thirsty and without water. They resorted to complaining and blaming Moses for their condition.
The Lord spoke to Moses and gave him specific instructions on how to handle this situation. He told Moses to take the rod, speak to the rock in front of the people, and it will yield water. Moses then took the rod, gathered the people, spoke harshly to the people saying “listen now, you rebels …” He then lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice and water came forth.
Do you see what just happened? First of all, God said speak to the rock not strike the rock. Secondly, God said to gather the people, not yell at the people. Lastly, yes, the people were grumbling … again. Yes, this made Moses angry … again. But instead of it being a chance to obey and trust God … again, Moses allowed the stress to get the best of him, and in his anger, he sinned through unbelief and dishonoring God through disobedience.
In response God said, “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.”
Ah man! Don’t take away the Promised Land, Lord! Not from Moses, of all people! How about you strike him with some boils or something? Give him a limp or make that speech impediment worse? But not the Promised Land!!
Well, God had spoken and according to Deuteronomy 3:26, that was it!
Before you wallow in the sadness and confusion I found myself in as I learned about Moses’ story and as I lived through my own “being stripped of the Promised Land” experience, let’s not overlook something beautiful. Before we deem God unfair and too harsh in light of His choice to not allow Moses to enter Jerusalem the same way He did not allow you to have what you just knew He’d promised—all because we, like Moses, messed up that “one time;” we slipped, we got angry and did what any human would do—and as a result, God had decided it’s a no. Before we shake our fists up to God, see this: Even though Moses lost the possession, he did not lose the person! In Deuteronomy, we see that Moses ran to God, he was honest with God, and when God said “no,” Moses accepted that. Deuteronomy 34:5-7 says, “And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He [the Lord] buried him in Moab, …Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.”
God buried Moses himself! This is said of absolutely no one else in the Bible. Also, in Matthew 17:3 we read this: “Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
Moses made it to the Promised Land all right! At this moment, talking to Jesus, Moses was probably like, “who needs to see Jerusalem when you can see Jesus?!”
You may be mad and hurt because of what you do not have, but keep in mind, as you come to cherish the Person more than the possession, that He is a good, good God! And as His children, we will one day be seen “talking with Jesus.”
That is grace on steroids! And I prefer the person of Christ over any Earthly possession any day!