When I used to read the passage where God told Moses, ”Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12), I was terribly upset as a young boy.
This Moses had struggled with the stiff-necked Hebrews, who had taunted Moses saying “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have brought us to die in the wilderness?”; “wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.” and many such words of rebellion and unbelief.
But at every point, Moses went back to God, prayed and returned with the word of God and faithfully executed God’s command. Should such a plight await, as a curse, on a Man of God, in the twilight of his life?
Secondly, if Moses had done something which God disapproved of, was this punishment disproportionate?
As a mere mortal it is blasphemous to even attempt the second question – A good reading of the Book of Job would cure anyone who would challenge me on this.
But the primary question involves a most merciful God, not only NOT FORGIVING, but declaring that Moses would not be a part of the celebrations of having led the Hebrews into the Promised Land.
As a believer in the Bible, I am at liberty to share my understanding however imperfect and flawed it might be – which I exercise here-below:
The relationship between God and Moses was unique and with the exception of Jesus, in the flesh, none approximated to even the periphery of the mount where they had their trysts. Moses was even promised by God, that he (Moses) would be god to Pharaoh – a position which was never shared by God except with His son Jesus. It is what Lucifer aspired and fell from his glory. Even when the King Saul performed the functions of a priest, he was not spared, if so, one can imagine what it is to be told by God Himself that Moses would be god to the Pharaoh‼️
God tells Moses, had you not intervened I would have destroyed the Hebrews for their stiff-neckedness and causing grief even to God. Moses could intervene – albeit with Humility and Prayer. Who else could have intervened like Moses from the burning anger of God- none.
Despite such a relationship, he did something which God couldn’t believe that Moses would do.
Was it that important?
Yes, very important.
Here was a God, who meets a man at 80 years and not only guides him, but answers his call – every time.
Therefore in the desert of Zin, when the Hebrews rebelled for water and God had told him to SPEAK TO THE ROCK – probably God wanted to share the power of the Word and exhibit it before the rebellious people and exalt Moses even more in their presence.
But Alas! Even Moses didn’t believe in what God commanded him. Moses instead of imperiously standing before the congregation and speaking the Word to the Rock, on the strength of the command of God, slinks with suspicion and addresses the rebellious crowd and conducts the greatest DRAMA EVER ENACTED BEFORE GOD- Moses strikes the rock and utters:
Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?
11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice:
Look at the words, and look at to whom he addresses it. Moses should have lifted up his hands above and thanked the Father, like Jesus used to, and imperiously commanded the flint to yield water. That would have been in consonance with his past. A past where he had the assurance of God listening to him. But here, Moses, though armed with the promise of God, yet harbouring that it may be foolish to address a flinty rock to yield water, succumbs to “equivocation”. An equivocation which would address both the rebellious Hebrews of human inability to bring water out of a rock – if water didn’t flow; and also satisfy the command of God partially by doing something to the rock‼️ Moses strikes like he used to. But at the Red Sea the command word of God was different, but here God wanted Moses to address an inanimate thing with words and make the inanimate thing yield in obedience.
But Moses thought of being Wise. It was for that piece of wisdom, that Moses couldn’t set his foot in the Promised Land, across the Jordan and had to breathe his last in mount Nebo.
This is not to justify in anyway God’s ways to man, but after having known God, a man of God like Moses has no reason to be seen wise. Jesus when He made clay out of His spittle and anointed the eye of the blind man, how ridiculous would it have been if the blind had not got his sight back. Jesus did what he heard, risking and ignoring what other mortals might think. That was the faith expected of Moses. Moses failed and slipped out of the Promised Land.