For the past two weeks, we have been looking at Moses’ sin in the wilderness of Zin – “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” (Num. 20: 10-11), his final plea – “I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon” (Deut. 3: 25), and God’s firm and terse answer – “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter” (Deut. 3: 26).
In our article last week, we highlighted two lessons we have learnt from the narratives:
1. The best of men have their weaknesses;
2. God judges not as man judges.
What other lessons can we learn?
3. God will not overlook sin even in the best of His servants
Moses was God’s chosen Deliverer from Egyptian bondage. He had served the Lord faithfully in the wilderness for forty years despite constant provocations from a stiff-necked, murmuring multitude.
Moses was also a man who communed much with God. His many prayers are found in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Oftentimes, he interceded for his people when God wanted to wipe them out (Ex. 32: 10-14; 31-34; Num. 14: 19-20; Ps. 106: 23). In Jeremiah 15: 1, his name is mentioned together with the prophet Samuel as an example of the power of intercessory prayer.
When Aaron and Miriam rebelled against the God-ordained authority of their brother Moses, the Lord not only defended His servant but commended him: “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. 8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Num. 12: 7-9). We are told in Exodus 33: 11 that “the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend”.
Moses was one of God’s most honourable servants. Yet the Lord did not spare him when he sinned. Our holy God takes a serious view of sin, even in those who are nearest and dearest to Him.
May this be a lesson especially for those who are in leadership positions in the church. It is a high honour and privilege to serve the Lord, but it carries with it a grave responsibility. When leaders sin, they may cause those who look up to them to stumble in their faith. All it takes is just one sin. Let us be mindful of our words and our ways. Walk circumspectly and uprightly before the Lord Whom we love and serve. May the Lord find us faithful and true to our calling.
4. God’s wrath is tempered with mercy
Though the Lord denied Moses entry into the Promised Land, He graciously gave His beloved servant a mountain-top view of it: “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: 27); “Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession” (Deut. 32: 49). From the summit, Moses had a panoramic view of Canaan which offered him some comfort and satisfaction.
“God did not intend with this sight of Canaan to tantalize him, or upbraid him with his folly in doing that which cut him short of it, nor had it any impression of that kind upon him, but God appointed it and Moses accepted it as a favour, his sight (we have reason to think) being wonderfully strengthened and enlarged to take such a full and distinct view of it as did abundantly gratify his innocent curiosity. This sight of Canaan signified his believing prospect of the better country, that is, the heavenly, which is very comfortable to dying saints” (Matthew Henry).
As a loving Heavenly Father, God will chastise His children (Heb. 12: 5-12). But He often tempers His wrath with mercy (Isa. 54: 8; 60: 10; Hab. 3: 2). Let us be grateful for the Lord’s mercies upon our lives. Because of our sins, we deserve His wrath and condemnation but He has graciously saved us and pardoned us (Ps. 103: 10-14). In like manner, let us learn to show grace and deal mercifully with our fellowmen.