It’s Never Over ’til its Over!
I stood before the leaders of tens, hundreds, and thousands: the men appointed to share my leadership responsibilities over the Israelites. Joshua, my successor, stood at my side. I was discussing the various aspects of my leadership as I prepared my successors to assume their responsibility, when there came the inevitable question from the group before me. “Do you have any regrets, Moses? Did you ever do anything wrong?”
My face, hardened by years of exposure to the sun and wind, began to flush! How I hated the memories that this question evoked! How I wished that I did not have to answer the way that I did. At first I was silent, then I cleared my throat and began, but the words would not come.
I started again. “Yes, there was such a time. The people had run out of water once again. They had gathered outside our tent and were shouting, demanding that we get water for them immediately. Their complaint was the one they commonly used whenever things turned hard in this harsh land: “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness?”
“Aaron and I went to the tabernacle where we fell on our faces before the Lord. The beautiful shekinah of the Lord appeared to us, and He began to speak. “Take the staff…gather the congregation together. Speak to that rock before their eyes, and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock…” (Numbers 20:8)
“We gathered the congregation together before the rock. They continued to shout obscenities at us, and demean our leadership forgetting that God had supplied their every need during their days in this desert. They had forgotten that once before in Horeb, I had struck and broken a brittle rock and released a spring of water from it. (Exodus 17:6)”
“Now I stood before the rock, my face white with anger at this people who never seemed to learn that God was always faithful. Once again I could feel the vibration of the ground caused by the tumbling of the water below the surface. Water was in this place!”
“In my anger and desire to silence the criticism and complaints of the people, I forgot that God had instructed me to SPEAK to the rock, and I came down hard with my staff on the rock not once but twice. The brittle rock shattered and released the spring water that flowed inside: Water, purified by tumbling through underground passageways, came forth clear, clean, and cold. The people filled their clay jars and containers with the water (Numbers 20:2-13).”
“Disaster averted, right? Not quite! This was not the way that God had planned. Speaking to the rock would have resulted in a creative miracle similar to those that occurred when God spoke the world into existence. Regarding the incident, the Lord spoke to me saying, ‘Because you did not believe Me to hallow me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.’” (Numbers 20:12). (I turned to the assembly before me.) Now, you people, who desperately needed a sign from God to believe that He was in your midst, were robbed of that sign by my disobedience, and would need another demonstration of God’s deliverance to help your unbelief. My anger and unbelief had barred me from ever entering the Promised Land. I would never achieve the goal for which I had strived for so long. I repented, of course, and He forgave me. He always does, but the consequences of my sin remained.”
I concluded my monologue: “It was a lesson learned ‘the hard way!’ May you, my successors, learn much from my mistake!”
Epilogue: When it was time for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, the Lord said to Moses, “Go up on Mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the children of Israel. After you have seen it, you will be gathered to your people.” (Numbers 27:12, 13 NIV). Moses died having seen but never having set foot in the Promised Land.
With the Lord, however, it is never over until it is over. Fourteen hundred years later, a resurrected Moses stood with Elijah and the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, on another mountain top, and this time Moses was standing IN the Promised Land! (Matthew 17:3).