Have you ever committed an offense and the consequences weren’t immediate? Are you able to keep your composure while you patiently wait the day of retribution after breaking a law? Have you ever done something wrong and have yet to experience the punishment for your crime? I know I’m not the only person that has experienced this before, and I won’t be the last. You should also know that, from a biblical perspective, you weren’t the first of God’s appointed followers to suffer delayed consequences for breaking his commands. The major difference that will be illustrated is that under the Covenant of Grace, you are still alive. Under the former covenant of Old Testament Law, one follower didn’t make it.
The follower in discussion was Moses. Moses was one of many O.T. patriarchs that a played a major part in God’s plan. He was chosen by God to set the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt; he was used by God to part the red sea (which was ultimately the death of Pharaoh), and he led the Israelites to the Promised Land. Moses, however, was denied passage into the land that he led the Israelites to. Was it because of a secret sin that he was unrepentant over? Not really. He was denied passage because he didn’t follow God’s simple instruction. Moses, and his brother Aaron, received this heavy punishment in the book of Numbers.
“But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust Me to show My holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.”
It would be unfitting of me if I gave you the punishment without giving you a quick synopsis of the backdrop leading up to the scripture above. After the events at the Red Sea, Moses and his brother Aaron were to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land (a trip that should have taken approximately 2 weeks). The problem that Moses didn’t account for was the natural ability of humans to complain about everything. This “ability” proved to be disastrous for the travel plans as the Israelites complained multiple times on the trip, even after God had shown them mercy when He miraculously provided them nourishment, among other things. The punishment for their on-again, off-again faith in God was severe when God changed the trip from 2 weeks into 40 years (an entire generation had to die prior to the Israelites entering the Promised Land). Even after 40 years had passed, the Israelites still had the audacity to complain about anything. In Numbers 20:3-5, the Israelites complained about lack of water to drink and they yet again began to quarrel with Moses and Aaron. As their usual response, Moses and Aaron sought God’s counsel for dealing with the mob, and they received a solution. This time, however, they didn’t follow through on the solution given at verse 7.
” Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, so that a great amount of water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
The punishment they received in verse 12 was due to their failure to heed God’s instruction. The fact that they were denied passage into the Promised Land was severe enough, but that wasn’t the heaviest and final consequence Moses and Aaron had to suffer. Moses was given a front row seat to the final consequence he would soon suffer when saw Aaron die….yes, die.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor on the border of the land of Edom, “Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will not enter the land I have given the Israelites, because you both rebelled against My command at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and his son Eleazar and bring them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. Aaron will be gathered to his people and die there.”So Moses did as the Lord commanded, and they climbed Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. After Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, Aaron died there on top of the mountain.
Talk about a double whammy; Moses was not only denied entrance into the Promised Land after leading the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness, but he also was going to die because of his failure at the waters of Meribah. It didn’t take long before Moses received notification of his fate similar to Aaron.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range and see the land that I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you will also be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was. When the community quarreled in the Wilderness of Zin, both of you rebelled against My command to show My holiness in their sight at the waters.”
Even after received life ending news like that, he showed true godly character when he asked God to appoint a new leader to carry on the mission of entering the Promised Land (Numbers 27:16-17). God does so by selecting Joshua, but the succession doesn’t take place immediately. The story takes a bit of a pause as the next time we return to the pending death sentence of Moses is late in the book of Deuteronomy. At this time, Moses tells the Israelites God’s decision to remove him and promote Joshua as their next leader.
Then Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel,saying, “I am now 120 years old; I can no longer act as your leader. The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross this Jordan.’The Lord your God is the One who will cross ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will drive them out. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, as the Lord has said.
After that, Moses gives Joshua some encouragement that will very crucial to his success as the next leader of the Israelites (Deut. 31:7-8). Before Moses sees his last day on earth he accomplishes two things, the latter commanded by God. First, he gives a hefty and final warning to the Israelites.
When Moses had finished writing down on a scroll every single word of this law, he commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the Lord’s covenant, “Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God so that it may remain there as a witness against you. For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you are rebelling against the Lord now, while I am still alive, how much more will you rebel after I am dead! Assemble all your tribal elders and officers before me so that I may speak these words directly to them and call heaven and earth as witnesses against them. For I know that after my death you will become completely corrupt and turn from the path I have commanded you. Disaster will come to you in the future, because you will do what is evil in the Lord’s sight, infuriating Him with what your hands have made.”
Second, he wrote and recited aloud a song to the Israelites as God commanded. After the song (which takes up the majority of Deuteronomy 32), God gives Moses his final reminder about what awaits him (Deuteronomy 32:48-52). After the song was recited and giving each tribe of Israel his final blessing prior to entering the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 33), we arrive at the death scene of Moses.
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which faces Jericho, and the Lord showed him all the land: Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev, and the region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. The Lord then said to him, “This is the land I promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you will not cross into it.”So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab facing Beth-peor, and no one to this day knows where his grave is.Moses was 120 years old when he died; his eyes were not weak, and his vitality had not left him. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab 30 days.
In the end, we see the gravity of the sins that we commit. Some spiritual leaders speak of a spiritual death for every sin committed, but Moses’s story illustrates a physical death that a follower of God can suffer. What’s remarkable about Moses’s death scene is God still had enough mercy and grace to give Moses a proper burial. Even with that, the results didn’t change. I can’t begin to tell you how much time transpired between Moses being notified that he would die, and the actual day of his death. A day, a week, a month, a year; I can’t begin to speculate (ask your pastor or trusted theologian, they could know). The key thing we must take away from this study is that the wages of sin is death, and how we foot the bill for those sins is decided by God only….and for a follower of God, that should shake you to the depths of your soul.