The Not So Promised Land

Fantastic dreamy sunrise on top of rocky mountain with view into misty valley.Mountain view.Foggy mountain.Dreamy forrest. Sunrise clouds. Forest hill.Autumn mist.Misty peaks.Foggy landscape. Rock top

Deuteronomy 32, Psalm 119: 121-144, Isaiah 59, Matthew 7

Hello friends! It’s Monday again. What a beautiful weekend we had! I hope you had some time with your family and friends and most of all I hope you spent some time worshiping God this weekend. I did and it renewed my soul! We have so many great scriptures to consider today. I just love Matthew 7:24 Build Your House on a Rock! I read that one over and over and was excited to apply that timeless message to our daily life. I made lots of notes about building foundations and came up with a few paragraphs of good stuff to raise our spirits today. But…then I changed my mind. Of course, Matthew 7 has so many pearls of wisdom including: judgment of others, the golden rule and false prophets. I decided instead to take a little risk. If you are a frequent flyer here at Bible Journal you know that I’m a new Christian. Often, when I’m writing my weekly post, I come across a scripture I’ve never read in my life. It’s usually really exciting for me and I get all fired up about the message I’ve uncovered. This week something different happened. I read something at the end of Deuteronomy that broke my heart. Something that has been bothering me all week. Here it is:

“That very day the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:48-52

 Are you kidding me? I am so upset about this. Moses, the only person who has ever spoken to God face to face, Israel’s greatest prophet is not allowed to enter the Promised Land? I can’t even take it. The guy that brought us the Ten Commandments and persevered for years through trial after trial has to climb to the top of a mountain and just die there while looking directly at the treasure he fought so hard for? Spoiler alert…In Deuteronomy 34, he obeys God and does exactly that. 120 year old Moses sidles up this Mount Nebo where the Lord shows him the whole land from one end to the other. Then God says to him:

“This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to your offspring. I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” Deuteronomy 34:4

 So then Moses just lays down, or I don’t know maybe he’s still standing up but he dies. What does this mean for me? I can’t shake the feeling that I’m nowhere near Moses-ness in my journey to heaven. When it’s my time, is God going to send me to the top of the mountain and say, “here’s all the great stuff I promised for your kids and their kids and all your friends…you weren’t 100% faithful on earth so this is your punishment” Yikes. I did a little research into just exactly what Moses did wrong, so that I could definitely avoid this transgression myself. All study bibles pointed me to Numbers 20:10.

“Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 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 10-12

 What now? Ok so more research revealed that God told Moses and Aaron in Numbers 20:8 that they should speak to the rock and water would flow out for the people but instead Moses and Aaron told the stressed out thirsty people that they were going to bring water from the rock and then they hit it with the staff not once but two times instead of speaking to it like God had commanded them. So by striking the rock and taking credit for the miracle, Moses disobeyed God’s direct command and dishonored God in the presence of his people. The punishment was grave and irreversible. I must admit it makes me a little worried. It seems like a real human thing to do in such desperate circumstances. I can see how Moses just wanted the people to trust him and that it probably felt great when they were all praising him for the miracle of water. How often to I take credit for something I don’t really deserve? It feels good to be the one that swoops in and saves the day. I’ve really been wrestling with this one. It’s just not the way I wanted Moses’ story to end. I want him to run on his 120 year old legs and lay down in his promised land. It’s just not a photo finish. It leaves me wondering if it was impossible for a guy like Moses to be fully obedient to God, is it even worth trying for a sin filled person like me?

I was encouraged by the commentary in my NIV today. It says:

“No matter how good we are, or how much we’ve done for God, we sometimes disobey him. The result of our disobedience is that we will be disciplined. God disciplined Moses severely, but still called him his friend. When you experience the sting of God’s discipline, respond as Moses did. Don’t turn away in anger, embarrassment, or resentment. Instead, turn toward God with love, openness, and a desire to do better.”

Isn’t that just great advice? That’s exactly what Moses did, he was open and accepting, he wasn’t at all resentful. He climbed up that mountain, looked out on the Promised Land and then surrendered to his heavenly Father. It doesn’t say in my Bible if he went to heaven or not. So, here comes the risk in my post today. If you are still reading, I hope you’ll leave me a comment below. I’d like to know how you feel about this part of the Moses story? I hope you’ll share your wisdom and experience with me. How does this story make you a better Christian, what can we learn from it and how can we understand what God wants from us? Also, I couldn’t find any later references to whether or not Moses gets to spend eternity with God, even though he was disobedient on earth. I’d like to know, so please share!

  • Brad Arnold

    Jillian, thank you for your honesty, and vulnerability in this post. Courageous in fact. I think the real message of Moses was summed up in Mike’s message yesterday. It was not about the promised land, it was about the “Finish”. The sovereignty of God is an absolute mystery. In the history of the Israelites, Moses was one leg of the race, and he was given to hand off the baton to Joshua to carry it into the promised land.

    Another thing to keep in mind, this was not God’s first go around with Moses pride. Moses struggled with it, as he came down the mountain with his shekinah glory fading as well. I think the way I have wrestled through the same feeling that you have on the magnitude of God’s consequence to Moses, is to look at Moses’ overall contribution to the scriptures. He is responsible for the Torah, The Law. If there is anyone to make an example of for obedience, it is him. He finds out at the end of Numbers that he cannot go into the promised land, and then he delivers the passionate message of obedience to the law in the beginning of Deuteronomy. In fact the entire book of Deuteronomy takes on a different perspective when you think about the willingness for Moses to accept his consequence.

    When I think about Matthew 17, and the Mount of Transfiguration, God demonstrates where Moses “ranks” of the Saints in heaven, as it is only he and Elijah, with Jesus. I absolutely love your posts, so keep being courageous to wrestle through with the Lord. This is where transformation happens!

  • Jillian McGriff

    Brad, thank you so much for taking the time to respond! Your words are so helpful to me and I hope to others that struggle as I do to understand the complexity of Moses’ relationship with God and apply that to our own! Thanking God for your wisdom today!