“And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”” Numbers 20:12
God’s lordship and holiness is paramount and his zeal for his glory goes beyond all things, even his fervent love and dedication to his servant Moses. In Numbers 20, Moses makes a mistake that costs him entry into the promised land. It takes up such a short section in the book of Numbers, it is easy to gloss over and miss the significance. Moses, after Jesus, is easily my favorite character in the Bible. And it is hard to read through the Pentateuch and not develop a deep reverence and sympathy for this great man. He put up with an entire nation who most of the time was against him. He was a man betrayed by everyone close to him, who’s closeness with God made him an alien to his own people. But in spite of all of that, time and time again, he proved faithful to God and sought him with passion and humility. Because of this, when God tells him he can’t enter the promised land because he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it, it seems rather unfair. If anybody was in a position to get a mulligan from God, it was Moses. But instead, the very land he longed for, the promise he had been assuring all the people of Israel with was snatched from his grasp. I struggle with this story. I even wrote a song about this story. I struggle with the thought of a God who can’t look at all that Moses did and pardon that one mistake. Reprimand him yes, but make sure the punishment fits the crime. However, in struggling through this story, the powerful truth of God’s zeal for his holiness hit me like a ton of bricks. Earlier God asked Moses to strike a rock and give Israel water, the second time he only asked him to speak to the rock. The first time you must strike the rock to get fountains of living water, the second time you must only call upon it. The lesson intended by God is obvious, and for reasons the Bible doesn’t make clear, Moses disregards God’s command and in the end ruins a beautiful illustration God had spent forty years developing. God cares about his holiness and Moses should know this. After God had spent years talking with Moses, unveiling his nature through the details of the Law, Moses should have known that God cares about the details, and when he disregards those details, he defamed the holiness of God. Moses was still a man dear to his heart, but his own holiness was dearer. We need to pay attention to this story because if Moses isn’t exempt from the discipline of God, none of us are.
Lord Jesus, give us a passion for your holiness and an attention to the details of your word. Let us take your discipline with humility and accept your Lordship in all matters!