“And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And 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 Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, 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 20:2–12).
Moses made a mistake that ultimately made him unable to finish the task to the end, he could not enter the promised land, he could not lead the Israelites to their promised land so God only showed Moses the beauty of the promised land.
Sometimes it hurts more if we can see what God has promised but we can’t have it. In fact, God gave Moses a bonus so he could see the promised land before he died. Perhaps we ask: “Why was Moses’ punishment so severe?” As it turned out, this was not the first time Moses was angry. Before this event, there were several major events in the life of Moses while leading the Israelites.
Here are some of the major events that made Moses bitter.
- Exodus 32:15–20: breaking the tablets containing God’s law written by God’s finger. However, God was not angry and did not punish Moses (Exodus 34:1).
- Numbers 14:11–35: This event made Moses bitter. He was trapped in a secret fault, which is loving the people/ministry more than God.
- Numbers 16:1–33: prophesied that the rebels would be buried alive and the Lord granted it.
- Numbers 20:1: Miriam died.
Whether bad events can shape our lives or hurt us is determined by our choices. Two things that we must remember: Don’t make God angry and don’t upset your leader because unusual things can happen. As leaders, we are required to be examples before the people in various ways, in terms of worship, prayer, giving, discipline, and consistency. Isn’t that a difficult task? It is not an easy task at all and amid that difficult task, we have to be an example. We must be careful and wise.
However, what caused God to punish Moses?
• Unbelief – “And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, 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)
• Disrespecting God’s holiness (Numbers 15:22–25, 30–31)–God punished Moses because Moses despised God’s words and Moses had broken His commandments (when hitting the rock with his rod twice). That is what is meant by disrespecting God’s holiness before His people.
Compare this with the story of Joseph who was thrown into a well and then sold to Egypt by his own brothers, then slandered by Potiphar’s wife, and finally went to prison. We too, as humans, when receiving bad treatment from others, we get bitter, let alone Joseph! He was bullied by his own brothers. How could he not be bitter? However, in Genesis 50:15–21, Joseph gave a different response from ordinary humans. This is what makes Joseph different from Moses:
• Moses fed one nation, but Joseph fed all nations.
• Moses saved one nation, but Joseph saved all nations.
This is what Moses did not understand.
Let us learn from Moses’ experience so that as leaders, we do not misrepresent God and together with the people, we can enter the promised land.
Also Read: The Price of Revival