Poor Moses. What a crying shame! Putting up with that muttering, mutinous mob for forty years, even standing in the gap for them when God threatened to destroy them all—and now God forbids him the Promised Land — when others could go in! Even after his pleading (Deut 3:23-26)!
It seems so unfair. Why such a harsh edict, for such a faithful man?
The answer lies in…
Moses was old and hurting and weary. Moses was still mourning his sister’s death (Num 20:1). Moses had dealt with the people’s unruliness for decades. And here they were again, clamoring for water, griping, grumbling, and coming against him (Num 20:2-5).
So Moses appealed to God again (Num 20:6). And God said, “Speak to the rock” (Num 20:8). But Moses, pressed and stressed and weighed down and worn out, lost it, and struck the rock instead, crying, “Must we bring water out of this rock?”
What was so terrible about that?
Numbers 20:12 says Moses, in so behaving, did not believe or hallow God.
God’s hard “penalty” shows how important His symbols are. The rock represented our Rock, Christ (1 Cor 10:4). Moses had already struck rock once, and the relief gushing out then mirrored the living water in Christ, who would be killed, then resurrect, and ascend to the Father, opening the way to our Promised Land of eternal life.
“Once for all” Christ’s sacrifice would happen, not on repeated occasions, like the sacrifice of bulls and goats (Heb 10:11-12,14).
The picture was perfect till Moses struck this second time (and claimed “we” brought forth the water). For him now to enter the Promised Land would confuse the picture even more.
Moses begs God to let him go with the others, but God says no. He lets him view the land from Mount Pisgah’s height (Deut 3:27), but how can He violate the Christ-promise imagery?
Some of the cryptical Levitical laws the children of Israel needed to obey with no understanding why. Yet it was vital that they do it all as prescribed, partly because so much of it pre-figured the coming Messiah.
We long for understanding of every command God gives. We’d like to know why we should follow an instruction before deciding to obey it. And that’s often wise, with commandments of man. But here is a command from God, requiring the obedience of faith—in the spirit of Deuteronomy 29:29.
God must be hallowed, and so Numbers 20:13 says He was, despite Moses’ momentary lapse. How? By His denial of Moses’ entry into the Promised Land–and by Moses’ contrite spirit. In Moses’ Last Song (Deut 32), look how often he mentions “the Rock”–and what he says about Him (Deut 32:4,13,15,18,30,31)!
What’s more, as my husband once showed me, Moses did get to the Promised Land after all, later (Lk 9:28-31). Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration not only saw the Promised Land, but also the Promised One, Whose death and resurrection Holy Week soon celebrates. Hallelujah to the just but merciful God! May His name always be hallowed!