What if Moses had begged God to enter the Promised Land? That’s a warm thought. Moses actually begged God. “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. But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again”. (Deut. 3: 23-26) But Moses was smart enough to let go. He knew God. (Numbers 12:3) But we seem to be getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s back up a little.
God commissioned Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt on Mount Sinai, the very same mountain the legislative milestone – the Ten Commandments was given. At the time of the commission, the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 430 years. The Pharaohs were brutally oppressive and that was partly because they needed cheap labour for those monumental public works that are now tourist attractions. By the time God met Moses he had lost self-confidence. He was married to a tough babe – a tomboy named Zipporah. (Exodus 4:25) Zipporah was a shepherdess. He was living a sedate life at the backside of the desert. This Moses was a far cry from the intemperate young man who murdered an Egyptian in revolutionary zeal. He sensed his calling as a young man but unfortunately imagined himself a Fidel Castro. In his 40s he had hoped to foment an uprising against the brutal regime in Egypt. He had to flee to exile to escape retribution. Now in his 80s, he had no taste for revolution whatsoever. And matters weren’t helped by the fact God didn’t present a military plan. The only weapon of note was a shepherd’s staff and it belonged to Moses not God. What Moses didn’t realize was that staff was now a staff of office, requisitioned for government use by the Great Shepherd of Israel, the Great Liberator and Commander in Chief, Jesus the Christ. (Psalm 80:1) It represented the authority of Jehovah.
Well, we all know the story. Ten plagues after and the Egyptian economy was decimated, ruined. The annihilation of the army was a diluvial event away. Moses conquered a world power with a shepherd’s staff. He led the Israelites out of Egypt with that same shepherd’s crook. Only this wasn’t an easy bunch to lead. Slavery had done irreparable damage to their psyche. All they could think of was food. Food represented survival. They would frustrate and exasperate God at every turn. Thousands of years after and God still had painful recollections of them. They were like toothache. He was so angry with them he swore they’ll never enter the Promised Land. He wasted them in the desert. At some point God had to rain down angel loaf to keep them quiet but even that point was lost on them. (Exodus 16) They were always talking about their luxurious lifestyle in Egypt, how they voyeured on sea food: “We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” (Numbers 11:5) Really?!
Two particular incidents stood out for God. They’re the Meribah and Massah Water Crises. Four hundred years after God warned the descendants of those guys, “Don’t harden your heart as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness. For there your ancestors tested me and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did.” (Psalm 95:8-9) In fact, there were three major water incidents but Meribah and Massah rank tops. There was the bitter water issue at Marah, apart from Meribah and Massah. The two incidents were actually at Meribah Massah and Merribah Kadesh. Meribah is a commemorative name. It means “arguing.” The first place, Meribah Massah was originally known as Rephidim. There was no water at Rephidim and as usual the people began to level accusation of genocide against Moses. They WERE going to stone him to death so he ran to God, asking what to do. God told him to take the clan leaders to Mount Sinai and there strike the rock. Well, water gushed out as Moses struck the rock and Moses named the place Meribah Masah. Massah means “test.”
Then came the second Meribah crisis. Moses prefixed Meribah to the original name, Kadesh hence Meribah Kadesh. (Numbers 20) It was this water crisis that cost Moses’ entry into the Promised Land. The incident happened March or April circa 1407BC, towards the end of the journey through the wilderness. As usual the people mutinied when they ran out of water. Only they didn’t know God was testing their faith in him. (Psalm 81: 7) The drought was artificial scarcity. These blokes let rip on Moses, said all sorts – Why would he bring them to a place with “no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:5) Before we analyse what got Moses into trouble, let’s look at the progression of the crisis.
Sensing serious danger Moses and Aaron quickly ran into the church building to consult with God. God gave them this instruction: “You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.” (Numbers 20:7-8) “So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come gather at the rock. “’Listen you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.” (Numbers 20:9-11) But Moses spoke in anger. He “spoke recklessly with his lips,” “spoke rashly.” (Psalm 106:32-33) God considered that temperamental display most disrespectful of his personage. The whole thing was right in front of God. Just imagine being President of a country, and a minister of state displays crude temperament berating the citizens right there in your presence. It’s disrespectful of the office of the President. “You didn’t honour my holy presence,” God said. (Deuteronomy 32:53 MSG) And for that Moses was barred from the Promised Land. That’s a lesson in leadership. You can’t be in leadership and be temperamental. Especially if you’re leading God’s congregation. Agreed those guys were exasperating, but God holds leadership to higher standard. A pastor cannot display temperament in God’s presence. It’s highly disrespectful of God. Funny thing was Moses was annoyed for the sake of God. God took judicial notice of the fact but still held Moses to leadership standard. “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:20)
However, here’s what nobody knew, or could have known. The whole journey through the wilderness foreshadowed that which was to come. It is a typification of our spiritual journey. “All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters in a BAPTISM LIKE OURS, as Moses led them from enslaving death to SALVATION life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4 MSG) But the rock (Christ) had already been struck at Meribah Masah. He CANNOT be struck again at Meribah Kadesh. Christ is not struck twice, or Christ would need to be re-crucified again and again, like with the regime of sacrifice in the Old Testament. It would mean his blood could not permanently take care of sin. The sacrifices in the Old Testament were never able to provide perfect cleansing. They actually heightened awareness of sin and guilt. (Hebrews 10:1-3) When Moses struck the rock twice therefore, he was pointing to the regime of sacrifices under the Law and not to Christ. And it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. (Hebrews 10:4) Only the blood of Christ can. “For by the one offering he has perfected forever and completely cleansed those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)
Moses was instructed to speak to the rock because after the striking of Jesus unto crucifixion at Meribah Massah comes the word of faith that leads to salvation at Meribah Kadesh. “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that is the word of faith we preach… For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.” (Romans 10:8-10)
Moses didn’t argue or beg God about his punishment because he had a matter-of-factly relationship with God. This was a guy God called to come and die! God called him to look at the Promised Land from Mount Abarim, then he tells him to die on the mountain! (Deuteronomy 32:51-52) Just like that! And God buried him himself. (Deuteronomy 34:6)
But God is a God of mercy. “The Lord will repay each man for his righteousness and faithfulness.” (1 Samuel 26:23) Moses did visit the Promised Land after his death. Both he and Elijah came to have a conference with Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 17:1-9) What a joy that tourist visit must have been!
If you’ll like to give your life to Jesus, please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.
© #Illuminare Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.orgYou can’t be in leadership and be temperamental. Click To Tweet It is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Only the blood of Christ can. Click To Tweet