Thursday, December 27, 2018

When the Lord was Angry with Moses

There is an interesting passage in Scripture, in which Moses recounts to the Israelites their wanderings in the wilderness and reminds them three times that the Lord was angry with him because of them. Let's take a look at that and see what the Holy Spirit might want to teach us through it.

Moses said, "Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, 'You shall not enter it, either.'" (Deu 1:37). In this first instance, Moses told them that it was on account of them that the Lord was angry with him and refused to allow him to enter the promised land.

The second time Moses mentioned this to them, he told how he had pleaded with the Lord to change His mind and permit him to enter the promised land to see it first hand.

He said, "I also pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, 'O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours? 'Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.'" (Deu 3:23-25). On so many other occasions, Moses had fasted and prayed for the rebellious Israelites, interceding for them before the Lord, and the Lord had answered his prayers on their behalf. However, that was not to be the case on this occasion when Moses prayed to God for himself.

Moses said, "But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. 'That is enough,' the Lord said. 'Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.'" (Deu 3:26). In this second instance, in which Moses mentioned that God was angry with him, he again placed the blame on them and told how the Lord would not listen to his prayer. It's interesting to note how even for such a great man of God as Moses, there was a time when He wouldn't listen to him or answer his prayer. In fact, the Lord told him that He had enough of that, and He didn't want Moses to ever mention it to Him again. Knowing how much God loved Moses, this response from God shows that it was not God's will for Him that Moses should enter the promised land, and He wasn't going to change His mind about it. There was a reason for that, which we will see later.

In the third instance in which Moses reminded the Israelites about how the Lord was angry with him, he said, "The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance." (Deu 4:21). So now he discloses yet more details, saying that the Lord at that time actually swore to him solemnly that he would not cross the Jordan and enter the land. God was firmly decided on the matter and would not be persuaded to reverse His decision.

The incident which Moses spoke of when the Lord was angry with him was the time when he struck the rock in the wilderness at Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin. It was not the only time the Lord had ever been angry with him. Actually there was another time at the beginning of his ministry when he experienced God's anger toward him. Here is what happened when he was around forty years old and the Lord called him into ministry to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt. Moses argued with God that he was not a good speaker. He reminded the Lord how he had never been eloquent and how he was slow of speech and slow of tongue. Nevertheless he prayed that the Lord would send whomever it was His will to send. "Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, 'What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.'" (Ex 4:14). So we see that the Lord had been angry with him once before, but that incident was not enough for the Lord to permanently bar Moses from the promised land. So what was the difference between that and the other incident at the waters of Meribah?

In the desert at Meribah, the Israelites grumbled because they were thirsty, so God told Moses to speak to the rock and it would bring forth water for the people to drink. However, Moses was angry with the people for their constant grumbling, So instead of speaking to the rock, he disobeyed God and struck the rock in his anger with his staff.

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

"So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, 'Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?' Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank." (Num 20:9-11)

In a separate account of a similar incident in Exodus, it states that God told Moses to strike the rock with his staff and water would come out, but in the account of Numbers, it says God told him to speak to the rock. The Numbers account occurred first during the first month when they were in the Desert of Zin (Num 20:1). The second account in Exodus is not the same incident, but rather it is one that occurred later. In that second incident, God did tell Moses to strike the rock, but the first time God told him to speak to it. The sin that Moses committed in the first incident at Meribah was that he struck the rock twice in his anger, rather than speak to it. In doing so, he did not uphold God as holy in their sight.

"But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Num 20:12). God repeated this once again at the end of Moses' life in both Numbers and Deuteronomy:

In Deuteronomy we read the account of the Lord telling Moses to go up on Mount Nebo and view Canaan, where He tells Moses that he will die there and be gathered to his people just as Aaron was on Mount Hor. He said, "This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold My holiness among the Israelites." (Deut 32:51, NIV).

Likewise Scripture it is recorded thus in Numbers, "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.' (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.)." (Numbers 27:12-14).

Therefore, the sin of Moses was that he disobeyed God and broke faith with Him, because he did not trust Him enough to honor Him as holy before the people.

Some Closing Thoughts
Of course, some people will say that this whole matter of God getting angry was just something that used to happen under the Old Covenant, and that it is relegated to the Scriptures that come before the book of Malachi. However, that is simply not true. This was not just something that happened in the Old Testament, and it is not limited to any particular covenant. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

There are some things that still make God angry. For example, there was the time when Jesus got angry and drove out the money changers from the temple, because His Father's house is called a house of prayer, and they had made it a den of robbers (for more on this, see my thought-provoking article called The Sale of Christian Music and Art -- A Robbers' Den?). In it I cite the modern examples of people merchandising in the house of God, buying and selling things of God that were never meant to be bought or sold, but were freely received and were meant to be freely given. Other current examples include His people dressing immodestly or not keeping Sundays holy

Even in all of these, though God may be angry, He loves the sinner and longs for the backslider to repent and come home. He gets excited when we return to Him.

As a side note, I just want to say that one of the enemy's most common tactics against true believers is to deceive them into believing that God is angry with them. While it is true that God is angry with some people, the fact remains that according to God's Word, if we have repented and asked forgiveness from God for a particular sin, then the Lord has washed and cleansed us from that sin (1 Joh 1:9). So if you feel like God is angry with you and are feeling guilty, first check to see if you have any sin in your life that you have not repented for, and if you do, then repent, ask forgiveness, and amend your ways. But if you know you have confessed your sin to God and repented, then resist the enemy's temptation to put false guilt on you. Walk in the mercy and grace of God and receive His forgiveness.

He is gracious and compassionate, full of mercy, slow to anger and abounding with love (Ps 103:8; 145:8; Jam 5:11). In fact, this is what Moses heard when the Lord passed in front of him the time that Moses asked to see His glory. "And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.'” (Ex 34:6-7).

Indeed there is a price to pay for disobedience. Yet even though he punishes His children and disciplines those He loves (Pro 3:12; Heb 12:6), the fact is that He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (Ps 103:10). In fact, that was the case with Moses, too. While He did not allow Moses to enter the promised land, Moses still entered the promised land up in glory. We know this because the disciples saw him appear in glory on the Mount of Transfiguration with Elijah, talking with Jesus (Mt 17:3; Lk 9:30-31). So he is alive and well. He may not have entered the promised land of Canaan here on earth, but he entered the beautiful, Holy Land in heaven. This shows us that even in judgment, God showed mercy to Moses.

Hopefully this has helped us all to fear God, appreciate His holiness and the need for us to uphold it before others, but hopefully it has also helped us to see God's compassion, grace, and mercy, and His great love for sinners.

Attribution notice: Most Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zondervan, used by permission. Moses Striking Water from the Rock, oil on canvas 1649 by Nicolas Poussin, public domain.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Sin and ConsequenceThe Dangers of DisobedienceSins That Will Keep You From Heaven, The Straight and Narrow Path, and Holy Living in a Perverted World. I also recommend Ask for the Ancient PathsRestored TruthGod Forgives and Forgets, and God's Amazing Plan for Your Life. Some other related articles available on the Home page include:

Law of Love in the New Testament The Law Established Through Faith Costly Grace

Is Obedience Optional? The Cost of Discipleship Obedience by the Spirit
The Law Fulfilled in Us The New Covenant Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?

You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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