Have you ever been penalized for something that you did, and though you deserved it, you felt that punishment was too severe? Have you pleaded your case asking for grace, for mercy, for another punishment? That’s a tough spot to be in. You know you were wrong, and yet you feel the discipline is harsh, but because you were in the wrong, you don’t feel you have a foundation to ask for grace.
As we continue in Deuteronomy 3:21-29, that is the situation we find Moses in. Moses messed up, and God told him that his punishment was that Moses could not enter the Promised Land. Moses has led this fickle people through all kinds of adventures, he has been in such a close relationship with the Lord, and as a result this decision by God feels harsh.
I wonder, Why won’t God give Moses a second chance?
It seems to me that Moses is being vulnerable here in Deuteronomy 3, talking with the people about this situation. How many of us are willing to talk with our kids or employees about the times we messed up? Or is Moses actually being grumpy, considering the fact that he accuses the people, as if it was their fault that he can’t go in to the promised land? I can hear his thoughts: if you people wouldn’t have been so fussy about not having water, I never would have gotten into this mess. I’d still be going to the Promised Land!
We’re going to hear Moses’ refer to this ban in Deuteronomy numerous times. It was a tough one for him to get over. I don’t blame him. After all these years, to not be allowed to enter the Promised Land? That’s rough. So what is God thinking?
Maybe God wants to preserve the purity of the nation at the beginning of a new work. Kind of like the teacher at the beginning of a new school year is tough, but once they have gained respect and classroom control, they ease up. Maybe God just needed to make an example of Moses.
Maybe God is holding a leader to a higher standard. He tells us in the James 3:1 that leaders and teachers are held more accountable because of their influential role. Maybe.
I actually think there is something else going on here. That something else requires us to try to understand the precise nature of Moses’ sin.
What did Moses do wrong?
What was Moses’ sin that caused God to bar Moses from entering the Promised Land? To answer that, we need to turn to Numbers 20 and the story about water from the rock.
My Old Testament professor Dr. Dorsey once told us that people speculate as to the nature of Moses’ sin in this story. Could God really be upset that Moses struck the rock with his staff instead of talking to it? Dr. Dorsey felt that the answer is more likely found in what Moses says to the people in verse 10, “must we bring you water out of this rock?” Perhaps Moses might have been seduced into a power trip, speaking as if he had power to do a miracle. What is clear is that he did not acknowledge God, the only one who actually had the power.
Look at how God responds: “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’.”
We always need to be careful to give God the praise, honor and credit in all we do. No doubt God has blessed us with gifts, talents and abilities. James 1:17 reminds us that God is the source of all good gifts. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says that whatever we do, even basic tasks like eating and drinking, we should do to the glory of God. And back to James in chapter 4 where he warns us about the dangers of pride, and how we need to pursue humility before God.
How to defeat pride
It is easy to let pride creep in. Success breeds it. We get feedback that we’ve done a great job, and we can forget the source of our gifts and abilities. Have you allowed pride to creep in? Are you giving credit where credit is due? Are you pursuing humility? It is possible to become more humble. Recently, I talked about spiritual disciplines, and I believe we can practice humility. Learn more here.
How do you need to give God the praise and glory due him?