“Speak no more unto me of this matter.” What harsh words! Who was the speaker and to whom were the words spoken? Why this strong prohibition?
These were the Lord’s words to Moses at the end of Israel’s forty-year sojourn in the wilderness. Let us look at the text in Deuteronomy: “And I besought the LORD at that time, saying, 24 O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? 25 I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. 26 But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. 27 Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan” (Deut. 3: 23-27).
Just ahead, across the Jordan River, lay the Promised Land. Soon Israel’s weary and arduous journeyings would be over. Obviously, there was great excitement and eager anticipation in the camp of the Israelites as they looked forward to entering the land that the Lord had promised them almost a generation ago – “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3: 8).
o Moses’ plea
Like the Israelites, Moses himself was longing to “go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon” (v. 25). The rich land flowing with milk and honey had always been in his mind and heart. He had been faithfully leading the people for almost forty years. Despite the physical hardships and the constant murmurings of the people, Moses had remained true to his calling. Though his leadership was often challenged and questioned, even by his own siblings, he never wavered. A man of prayer, he interceded for those who rebelled against his authority and pleaded for God’s mercies upon them.
From the day he led the people of God out of Egypt, Moses had nursed the hope of entering the Promised Land. When they came within sight of Canaan, that deep yearning stirred in Moses. He resolved to, once again, ask God for permission to set foot on it. Humbly, Moses pleaded with God for a glimpse of that glorious land of promise: “O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon” (vv. 24-25). “‘Let me go to be a spectator of thy kindness to Israel, to see what I believe concerning the goodness of the land of promise.’ How pathetically does he speak of Canaan, that good land, that goodly mountain!” (Albert Barnes).
Moses’ request seemed a proper and reasonable one. Did he not deserve to enter the glorious land after having faithfully led the people through the wilderness for forty years? He had endured their murmurings and slanderings; he had interceded long and hard on their behalf. How he must have knelt down and pleaded with God to fulfil this deep desire of his heart.
o God’s answer
Moses’ final appeal angered the Lord: “But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me” (v. 26a). God’s answer was a firm and final “No” – “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter” (v. 26b). No doubt God’s reply was firm and terse – in short, “enough is enough”. What had brought about this prohibition? Why was such a faithful aged servant of God refused entry into the Promised Land? For the answer, let us look at Numbers Chapter 20:
o Moses’ sin
The first few verses of Numbers 20 tell us that the people were once again murmuring against Moses and Aaron because they had no water to drink: “2 And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! 4 And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? 5 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” (vv. 2-5).
Turning to the Lord for help, Moses was instructed in verse 8 – “ ... 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”. Did Moses obey God? Yes! He immediately summoned the people together with Aaron. That was commendable. However, in a fit of angry frustration, Moses spoke harshly to the people and disregarded God’s instructions: “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: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also” (vv. 10-11).
God had instructed Moses to speak to the rock, but he disobeyed. Instead, he “... lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice.” Moreover, by the words, “must we” in verse 10, Moses was crediting both Aaron and himself for the supply of water rather than attributing it to God’s providence.
God’s response is found in verse 12: “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”. Though seemingly harsh, it was an answer of wisdom and love. Israel’s murmurings had provoked Moses so that “he spake unadvisedly with his lips” (Ps. 106: 33), and openly dishonoured God before all the people. God would not overlook this public act of rebellion even in His beloved servant who had served Him so devotedly. Unlike the other wilful rebels of the Exodus, Moses would not be cut off, nor would he perish in the wilderness. But God had to publicly chastise His servant by denying him entry into the Promised Land. (… to be continued)