Building a People of God with Unusual Characters: Moses, Part VI: You Can See It, You Can’t Go In

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

Moses Is An Unusual Character

Get Ready to Go to Canaan

Numbers 13:1–2 CSB
1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 “Send men to scout out the land of Canaan I am giving to the Israelites. Send one man who is a leader among them from each of their ancestral tribes.”
Numbers 13:26–28 CSB
26 The men went back to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They brought back a report for them and the whole community, and they showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They reported to Moses, “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit. 28 However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there.

Trust God Or Fear People

Numbers 13:30 CSB
30 Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!”
Numbers 13:31–33 CSB
31 But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!” 32 So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: “The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size. 33 We even saw the Nephilim there—the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim! To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.”
Numbers 14:1 CSB
1 Then the whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night.
Numbers 14:2–3 CSB
2 All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to die by the sword? Our wives and children will become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
Numbers 14:4–5 CSB
4 So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole assembly of the Israelite community.
Numbers 14:6–9 CSB
6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite community, “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. 9 Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!”
Numbers 14:10 CSB
10 While the whole community threatened to stone them, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the tent of meeting.

God Speaks to Moses

And this is God’s turn to complain.
Numbers 14:11–12 CSB
11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people despise me? How long will they not trust in me despite all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with a plague and destroy them. Then I will make you into a greater and mightier nation than they are.”
Numbers 14:13–16 CSB
13 But Moses replied to the Lord, “The Egyptians will hear about it, for by your strength you brought up this people from them. 14 They will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, Lord, are among these people, how you, Lord, are seen face to face, how your cloud stands over them, and how you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you kill this people with a single blow, the nations that have heard of your fame will declare, 16 ‘Since the Lord wasn’t able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them, he has slaughtered them in the wilderness.’
Numbers 14:17–19 CSB
17 “So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as you have spoken: 18 The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation. 19 Please pardon the iniquity of this people, in keeping with the greatness of your faithful love, just as you have forgiven them from Egypt until now.”
Numbers 14:20–24 CSB
20 The Lord responded, “I have pardoned them as you requested. 21 Yet as I live and as the whole earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested me these ten times and did not obey me, 23 will ever see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have despised me will see it. 24 But since my servant Caleb has a different spirit and has remained loyal to me, I will bring him into the land where he has gone, and his descendants will inherit it.

Complaints and Consequences

Numbers 14:26–29 CSB
26 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long must I endure this evil community that keeps complaining about me? I have heard the Israelites’ complaints that they make against me. 28 Tell them: As I live—this is the Lord’s declaration—I will do to you exactly as I heard you say. 29 Your corpses will fall in this wilderness—all of you who were registered in the census, the entire number of you twenty years old or more—because you have complained about me.
Numbers 14:30–31 CSB
30 I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 I will bring your children whom you said would become plunder into the land you rejected, and they will enjoy it.

Moses Retells the Lord’s Purpose

Deuteronomy 1:30–33 CSB
30 The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw him do for you in Egypt. 31 And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place. 32 But in spite of this you did not trust the Lord your God, 33 who went before you on the journey to seek out a place for you to camp. He went in the fire by night and in the cloud by day to guide you on the road you were to travel.
Deuteronomy 1:34–36 CSB
34 “When the Lord heard your words, he grew angry and swore an oath: 35 ‘None of these men in this evil generation will see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, 36 except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land on which he has set foot, because he remained loyal to the Lord.’
Deuteronomy 1:37–39 CSB
37 “The Lord was angry with me also because of you and said, ‘You will not enter there either. 38 Joshua son of Nun, who attends you, will enter it. Encourage him, for he will enable Israel to inherit it. 39 Your children, who you said would be plunder, your sons who don’t yet know good from evil, will enter there. I will give them the land, and they will take possession of it.

What Happened at Meribah?

Israel Returned to Kadesh—after 37 Years
The name of the place is called Holy; or the place of holiness. The Israelites had been a nation of nomad shepherds as the old guard that saw Yahweh’s miracles slowly died out over these years.
Numbers 20:1–2 CSB
1 The entire Israelite community entered the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and they settled in Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there. 2 There was no water for the community, so they assembled against Moses and Aaron.
Miriam died there
The place was now dry. It was now almost time for the Israelites to mover out. Miriam’s death is one of the signs that the 40 years was up; for she was one of the older generations that would not see the land of promise.
But unlike when they were at Kadesh before, the springs were now dry.
Israel Complained—Again
Numbers 20:3–5 CSB
3 The people quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord. 4 Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? 5 Why have you led us up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It’s not a place of grain, figs, vines, and pomegranates, and there is no water to drink!”
Moses and Aaron Went to Hear God
Numbers 20:6 CSB
6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting. They fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them.
God Gave Moses A Solution
Numbers 20:7–9 CSB
7 The Lord spoke to Moses, 8 “Take the staff and assemble the community. You and your brother Aaron are to speak to the rock while they watch, and it will yield its water. You will bring out water for them from the rock and provide drink for the community and their livestock.” 9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence just as he had commanded him.
The staff that Yahweh told Moses to take with him was the same staff that God told him to throw down at the burning bush; the same one that was used in front of Pharaoh, which turned into a snake and devoured the “snakes” from the magicians of Egypt; the same staff that Moses held at the dividing of the Red Sea. This was the same staff that later had Aaron’s name carved on it and then budded and bloomed and bore almonds overnight when it was set before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant with the staffs of the other tribes of Israel to prove God had chosen Moses and Aaron as his spokesmen.
God told Moses to take the staff and get the people together. Take them to the rock there, at the oasis of Kadesh where the springs must have dried up: Then Moses and Aaron were to speak to the rock in the sight of the people so the water would flow.
And Moses took the staff and went to do as God said.
But something must have happened on the way to gather the people there. Because things didn’t go exactly the way that God had commanded.

Moses and Aaron At the Rock

Numbers 20:10–11 CSB
10 Moses and Aaron summoned the assembly in front of the rock, and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?” 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, so that abundant water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
It sounds OK to start. Moses and Aaron got the people together at the rock.
But then Moses turns on the people, just like they had turned on him so many times, and like the complaint that Moses had made to God in earlier chapters, Moses felt that he had carried Israel on his own back through all the ups and downs of the past 40 years.
He was tired, and it wouldn’t have taken much to get him really angry. And something must have irritated his tired nerves—as the nomads were called to settle and prepare for the battle-march into the lands of Canaan.
“Listen you rebels!” Uh-oh. Not so much the “people of Israel” as a pack of renegades.
“Must we bring water out of this rock for you?” Uh, Moses…wait a minute… who does the water-giving? God told them to speak to the rock in the presences of the Israelites.
Instead, like he was working magic instead of proving Yahweh God’s work for his people, Moses hit the rock. Nothing. I have no idea what he might have muttered under his breath, but then Moses hit the rock a second time.
And God made the water flow in great abundance.
BUT. . .

Yahweh Chastised His Prophet and Priest

Numbers 20:12–13 CSB
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me to demonstrate my holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.” 13 These are the Waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord, and he demonstrated his holiness to them.
So this is the story as it is recorded in the timeline of events in Numbers—and it reads differently than how the event is remembered by Moses when he shared the summary of the Law in Deuteronomy that we looked at a few minutes ago.
In Deuteronomy 1:37 Moses said “The Lord was angry with me also because of you and said, ‘You will not enter there either.”
Because of you, Moses said, I don’t get to go to Canaan.

What Went Wrong at the Rock?

Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more