Entering the Promised Land
In the wilderness journey, from the Red Sea to the Promised Land, there were three recorded incidents involving the need for water. God handled each incident differently.
Did Moses ever enter the Promised Land? This is a story about God’s grace and faithfulness.
According to some, Moses never entered the Promised Land. Truth is, he saw God’s face when he entered. Nevertheless, this incident did not occur at the time when God fulfilled His promise to Israel, but rather later, in the New Testament.
Why did Moses not enter the Promised Land? Let us look at how the story unfolds and why Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land with Israel. The root cause lies in his disobedience to an express command from God. The story is recorded in Numbers 20:8-13:
“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.
But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
Bitter water turned Sweet
The first incident took place at “Marah” (Exodus 15:22-26). Israel could not drink the water because it was bitter. As a result, God told him to cut a branch of a particular tree and throw it into the water. In obedience to God, the water became sweet.
In the context of typology, the tree is a type of the cross. Although the cross was a horrible experience, which speaks of pain, suffering and death, yet it produces salvation, healing and deliverance.
Water out of the Rock
The second water incident took place at Rephidim (Exodus 17:1-7). In this instance, the Lord told Moses to smite the Rock, which he did, and again water came out of the Rock for the people to drink.
This incident is a type of the death of Jesus through whom we can enjoy the waters of eternal life. The death of Christ has made eternal life possible.
The Psalmist David wrote, “He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. He brought forth streams also from the rock and caused waters to run down like rivers.” (Psalm 78:15–16).
An Act of Disobedience
The third incident is the one before us. Again, Israel cried for water during the journey to the Promised Land. This time, the Lord told Moses to speak to the Rock.
Perhaps, out of anger and frustration, Moses in disobedience to the express command of God smote the Rock twice, and water came out for Israel to drink. This act of disobedience prevented Moses from entering the Land, which God promised to their ancestors.
A Witness to God’s Grace and Mercy
This act of Moses runs deeper than hitting the Rock. The Lord told him that he had dishonoured Him. He brought God into ridicule in the eyes of Israel. It was the revelation of a lack of trust in the Lord. For this sin, Moses was prevented from entering the Land as a consequence of the sin.
However, God is gracious and merciful. He did allow Moses to enter the Land, and at the same time, he was able to see God face to face. This inspiring event took place on the Mount of Transfiguration.
“After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. (Mark 9:2-8)
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say; they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
God will always be faithful and merciful.
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