Study Notes

Deuteronomy 3:23-29


Last Thursday night, we listened as Moses reviewed Israel's battles recently won against the two Amorite kingdoms of See-KHONE and Og. Their land was apportioned out to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh.

Afterwards, Moses encouraged Joshua not to be afraid - that God would fight for them in the land of Canaan, just as He had fought for them against the Amorites. "Wait," you might have thought. "Why is Moses telling Joshua that? Isn't Moses coming into the Promised Land with them?" Tonight, we learn the answer to that question as Moses tells us about the conversation he had with the Lord.

3:23-26 Let Me Cross Over

Moses was pleading with the Lord because God had told him he was not going to be bringing the Israelites into the Promised Land. He wasn't going to be allowed to even cross the Jordan, but would die in the wilderness.

Why? The short answer is that the Lord was angry with Moses. The more comprehensive explanation takes a bit of time, and begins in the book of Exodus, chapter seventeen.

Strike The First Time

The Israelites were in the wilderness, having left the land of Egypt.

Ex. 17:-6 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Seen, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Ref-ee-DEEM, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?" But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, "Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me." Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Kho-RABE; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

The people were grumbling about not having water. Moses asked the Lord what he should do to these complainers. "What should I do to THEM before they stone ME?" But instead of telling Moses to strike them, God told him to strike the rock. Moses did so, water came out, and the people's need for water was satisfied.

Speak The Second Time

Later, in the book of Numbers, a similar situation developed.

Num. 20:2-8 There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, "If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why then have you brought the LORD'S assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink." Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink."

Notice the difference in God's command this time: rather than strike the rock, Moses was simply to speak to it.

The Prophetic Picture

As it turns out, this was a prophetic picture that God desired to paint for the people. Paul explained to the Corinthians that...

1Cor. 10:4 ...all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

The typological picture was that Jesus would be the source of living water that people need. He alone was going to be the One Who could satisfy mankind's spiritual thirst for God and rescue them from death in the wilderness of sin.

He announced this Himself on the eighth day of the Feast of Booths:

John 7:37-38 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"

And, He told the woman at the well, who was working to get water:

John 4:13-14 ..."Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

This well of water springing up to eternal life flows forth from Jesus to satisfy our spiritual thirst. This is what God was foreshadowing in the rock.


Now, in order for the water to flow forth, the rock had to be smitten. In the same way, Jesus Christ had to be stricken, to be killed in order for the water of life to be provided for us. That is why Moses was told to strike the rock the first time.


The second time around, Moses was told to simply speak to the rock for the water to flow. This follows the picture of Jesus, since once He was smitten, He never needed to be struck again. The death He suffered,

Heb. 7:27 ...He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Once smitten, our Rock, Jesus Christ, needs only to be asked to release His living water for us.

Moses Messes It Up

God was painting a beautiful picture, but one problem developed:

Num. 20:9-11 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."

Moses completely defaced the prophetic painting God was presenting. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses struck it. This action is what got him in such serious trouble with the Lord.

Reasons For God's Anger

Moses was told that he would not be allowed to take the people into the Promised Land. Why was the punishment so harsh for such a seemingly small sin? Well, as we examine it, we find that the sin wasn't small at all. In fact, Moses' actions demonstrated at least four major areas of sin.

1) Spoke Rashly

Psalm 106 says that Moses was guilty of speaking rashly:

Psa. 106:32-33 They also provoked Him to wrath at the waters of Meribah, so that it went hard with Moses on their account; Because they were rebellious against His Spirit

He spoke rashly with his lips.

Moses thought that he was demonstrating "righteous indignation." The people were rebellious, so he felt his anger was justified. He spoke out rashly, from anger and wrath.

Take it from me, it is very easy to get annoyed when God's people are rebellious and disobedient. But as the people's spiritual leader, Moses should have responded with patience, as Paul exhorted Timothy:

2Tim. 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Even if they are due for a rebuke or exhortation, spiritual leaders must exercise great patience with instruction.

2) Took Credit For God's Actions

The second obvious sin which Moses committed was that he took credit for God's actions, saying, "shall WE bring forth water?"

If there's something God has made sure we know, it is certainly that He is a jealous God, Who refuses to share the glory with any man. Moses, in his fury, claimed the power to bring forth water from the rock, crediting the miracle to himself.

3) Deviated From The Word

Thirdly, Moses deviated from the Word of God. When told to speak, he struck. Whether you neglect the commands of God, or attempt to change them, it is still a punishable offense. Moses will make clear to us next week that God's position is,

Deut. 4:2 "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

And later,

Deut. 12:32 "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it."

The Bible tells us that,

Prov. 30:5-6 Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.

Moses deviated from the Word of God, and the results were disastrous.

4) Didn't Treat God As Holy

Lastly, Moses did not treat God as holy. God pointed this out to Moses three times (Num. 20:12; 27:14; Deut. 32:51), because it is essential that those who represent God represent Him rightly to His people. As we present God to others, we must present Him as holy. Moses misrepresented the Lord and His holiness.

God's holiness is higher and more prominent than any other attribute He possesses. Remember that the cherubim who surround the throne of God in heaven don't cry out, "Love, love, love," or "mercy, mercy, mercy." Instead...

Rev. 4:8 ...Day and night they do not cease to say, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, who was and who is and who is to come."

God is holy beyond words. The psalmist wrote,

Ps. 99:9 Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill; For holy is the LORD our God.

And so because God is holy, we absolutely must represent Him as holy to others. Those who misrepresent God are in danger of kindling His anger against themselves.

Speak To Me No More Of This Matter

God told Moses he wasn't going in. When Moses tried to broach this subject with the Lord, God said,

Deut. 3:26 ..."Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter."

Negotiations were closed. God wasn't changing His mind. This tells us that the sins of speaking rashly, taking credit for God's actions, deviating from the Word, and failing to treat God as holy are serious transgressions.

3:27-29 Seen From A Distance

Moses was shown a long-distance view of the Promised Land from the top of Mount Pis-GAW, east of the Jordan.

God told him, "This is the land I'd promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them that their descendants would receive it as a gift from me" (Deut. 34:4).

Deut. 34:4-5 ..."I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.

Because of sin, Moses would die before being allowed into the Promised Land. How we must consider our own walks and lives, even as Paul did, saying,

1Cor. 9:23-27 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Moses didn't watch the way he was running, and ended up being disqualified. This is truly a sad ending to a powerful ministry. Moses didn't finish well, and came short of the finish line

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