Moses Makes a Mistake!

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).

Moses Looks Back

Image result for free picture of Israelites leaving Egypt

Standing on a small hill, Moses, Aaron, and their sister, Miriam, surveyed the huge congregation of people, flocks, and herds that followed them.  Oxen-drawn carts carried household goods.  Billows of dust swirled skyward above the assemblage.  Far behind them one could just barely make out the massive Gates of Thebes.  They had been walking all day and now that evening had come, the last of the group had left the Land of Egypt.  What lay ahead?

Moses had lived for forty years in the wilderness. He, more than anyone, was familiar with this harsh land.    A scarcity of water, of edible plants, and an abundance of poisonous reptiles, barbs, thorns, and fierce predictors characterized the area.  How was he going to lead this megalopolis through this hostile place?  As Moses prayed to the Lord for a safe arrival in the Promised Land, he was reminded of another time in recent months, when he had faced a challenging situation.

After encountering the Presence of God at the Burning Bush, Moses had reluctantly set out to obey God’s command to free the Israelites.  He had gone to Pharaoh to request that they be allowed to worship in the wilderness.  Pharaoh had angrily dismissed Moses and Aaron from his presence.   Thinking that the Israelites, if they made such a request, must have too much time on their hands, he had decreed that, from this time forward, they must get their own straw to make their bricks.

Moses had declared to the Israelites that he was one of them, sent by God to help them.  The Israelites thought, based on Pharaoh’s reaction, “If this is “help,” we don’t want it!”  While following God’s direction, Moses had been caught between Pharaoh and the Israelites, the proverbial rock and a hard place!
After numerous confrontations with Pharaoh, and many set backs, Moses and the Israelites had finally reached the place where they stood today.  FREE!  No more bricks, no more whips, no more harsh taskmasters!  They were free, free, free!

This backward look into their miraculous deliverance from Pharaoh and Egypt gave Moses the faith and courage to forge ahead into the wilderness:  to face the challenges he knew were ahead.  God had delivered them, and He was faithful.  He would do it again, and again, and again, if needed.

God had done what had seemed impossible:  He had freed his people from Egypt.  And He had used Moses, a shepherd, to do it.