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Discovery Magazine 10/1/2003

Moses Disobeys God

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

After God sent ten plagues upon Egypt, and the Pharaoh finally let God’s people go free, they were on their way to the land that God had promised them, but something terrible happened. Moses chose twelve spies to go to Canaan and come back with a report. Numbers 13 explains that ten of the spies returned and said that there was no way to overcome the Canaanites. Only two spies (Joshua and Caleb) had enough faith in God to believe that He would help them take the land. God thus forced the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for many years while everyone who was over 20 years old (except Caleb and Joshua) died because of their faithlessness.

During those years, the people complained continually. They didn’t have enough water. They didn’t have enough bread. They didn’t have enough meat. On one occasion, they told Moses they were dying of thirst. So, God told Moses: “Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock” (Numbers 20:8).

However, instead of speaking to the rock, Moses struck it with his rod. God still allowed the water to come forth, but Moses had disobeyed God, and God was very angry. He told Moses: “Because you did not believe Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (vs. 12).

Moses paid a high price for disobedience. He had led the people of Israel faithfully through the wilderness for so many years. Moses begged God to let him go into Canaan (read his plea in Deuteronomy 3:23-25), but God’s decision remained unchanged. He eventually instructed Moses to go to the top of Mt. Nebo, where he permitted Moses to look into the Promised Land. Then, the Bible says: “Moses the servant of the Lord died there…according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab…but no one knows his grave to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).

Moses was a great servant of God. But even he was not exempt from the penalties of sin. What a valuable lesson there is for us in this story!

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