Was God unfair when He did not allow Moses to cross over the river Jordan into the promised land? Many have wondered what offense did Moses commit that was so egregious that even after confronting the Pharaoh of Egypt, the most powerful man in the world at the time, leading over a million people through the Sinai desert, and caring for them for 40 years all at God's command and under His divine providence, that when he finally reached the very brink of the land of milk and honey, he was denied access by the very God that called him to service. In fact, God lead him to the highest point from which he could see far and wide the whole of the luscious land that God was about to give to His people. There He reminded him of the offense and that he was not to cross over into that land but was instead to die on that very mountain from which he surveyed the promised land. Let's take a look at that fateful offense at Kadesh in the desert of Zin -
Num 20:7-12 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, (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, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. (9) And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. (10) And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, 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. (12) And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, 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.Wow, no wonder he was punished! Anyone who would do that must surely be put to death and completely denied access to anything great and wonderful. It appears to us at first reading that Moses did nothing wrong. God told Moses to get water from the rock and that's just what he did, so where's the offense?
A closer examination reveals an offense that truly was punishable by death but God was actually being merciful in letting Moses live as long as he did. First of all, God told Moses to "speak" to the rock, yet Moses struck the rock with his staff not once, but twice. Why strike the rock, when he was told to speak to it? The answer may lie in an event where Moses had performed this feat previously at God's command.
At Horeb, the children of Israel complained so bitterly to Moses about the need for water that they were at the point of stoning him. (Exo 17:1-7) This is the time where it is said that, "the people did chide with Moses" and "they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not?". Moses was told to strike the rock, which he did as commanded and the rock brought forth water. So by the time Moses got to Kadesh, he had already seen that if he struck a rock with his staff, water would come out of it.
The children of Israel were a stiff-necked lot, disobedient at every turn and intent on returning to their slavery in Egypt if their every need were not immediately provided. One can only imagine what Moses must have felt after being recruited reluctantly, having to deal with this bunch of heathens whining, complaining and accusing him for every inconvenience. So the stage is set for Moses fateful offense.
As usual, the children of Israel were murmuring again against Moses and how he had brought them out into the desert only to die of thirst. Moses and Aaron went to ask the LORD for water and got their instructions as we saw above in Numbers 20. So in time of need he went to the LORD as he should but it was the implementation of His instruction that was his downfall. Notice what Moses said and did, exactly.
Moses "smote" the rock twice instead of "speaking" to it as instructed and he said, "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" God's specific instructions were such that God would be sanctified and glorified by this miracle. Instead, Moses took the glory for himself in response to the vexation by the people and in anger called them "rebels" and struck the rock as he did at Horeb, once, then twice. "See here you heathens what I have to do for you?". So in a moment of anger, rather than obey God's precise instructions in humility so that God could be glorified in the eyes of Israel, Moses demonstrated a lack of faith and exalted himself in God's stead.
Num 20:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, 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.We are not to exalt ourselves -
Matt 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.Only God is worthy of our praise and worship. We are not to worship God as heathens worship their gods but only in the manner God has instructed us. Moses surely knew this as he had witnessed Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, killed by God himself when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.
Man's conflict from the garden of Eden to today has been one of trying to be like God or to worship God on man's own terms. Every struggle you have in this life is a struggle against God, your will against His will for your life. Yield to His will that it may be well with you.
Deut 5:33 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.