There are certain questions that make us ponder more and dig deeper for answers. These questions keep us awake at night—thinking, reflecting, praying. And last Sunday, I was asked this kind of question. Why was Moses not allowed to enter the promised land?
Despite some recall to something I read about this account, I decided to not answer flippantly and took out my bible. We looked for the verses about Moses and the water from the rock and discussed them. It could have concluded this discussion right there, but there was something about Numbers 20:12 that got to me.
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.”
Stop right there. Whoa. That’s heavy stuff right there. God was clearly not happy with what Moses and Aaron did. The Moses and Aaron. The Moses and Aaron who stood against Pharaoh. The Moses and Aaron who crossed the Red Sea. The Moses and Aaron who led Israel out of Egypt. The Aaron who God appointed as priest. The Moses who spoke with God face to face.
Even as I read from the earlier verses, I can’t help but think why God seemed to be too hard on them. Wasn’t it just about getting water for the squabbling Israelites? Hmmm, there must be something more to this. I don’t think God would react this way to something so trivial. So I read it again, and again, and prayed to God for enlightenment. Read some more, sat down, and allowed things to sink in. After a while, I realized a couple of things that God is teaching me from this part of Moses’ life.
Of pride and presumption
Merriam-Webster defines presumption as “an attitude or belief dictated by probability.” This, I think, is partly why Moses got in trouble. This is not the first time that the people complained about water. In Exodus 17:5, God told Moses to strike the rock using his staff. Moses did as instructed, and water gushed out of the rock. In Numbers 20:1-4, he was facing the same situation and maybe (just maybe), he thought he ought to do the same thing. But this time, God told Moses to take his staff and speak to the rock (Numbers 20:7-8). So did he do it? No, he did not. Instead, Moses struck the rock twice. Maybe he thought that because it worked the first time, this is how he should do it again. Maybe, just like me, he operated more on probability instead of humility.
I remember one of my leaders telling me long ago to never presume on God. I didn’t understand it that time, but it somehow stuck with me. Only years later, during a mission trip, did it make sense. It seemed pretty much like the prior trips I’ve had, and I was expecting to see God move the same way He did before. I was presuming—putting God in a box that this is the way He will do things, that this is the kind of person He will lead me to, that this is how this event will turn out. So when my expectations were unmet, it burst my bubble. But it also led me to a deeper understanding of the danger of presumption. God made me realize that my presumption of Him is an offshoot of my pride: thinking that I can already read God. Left unchecked, this can lead to something much worse. As CS Lewis would caution, “It was through pride that the devil became the devil: pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
Well, it’s definitely to our benefit to take heed of what Mr. Lewis wrote. So what’s our weapon? Humility. It is in humility that we acknowledge who God is and submit to His will. And even though he was referred to as a very humble man (Numbers 12:3), a part of Moses’ life also teaches us that humility is a lifestyle. It is a conscious, every day decision to ask God for the grace to be humble.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” – James 4:6
Need a humility inspiration? Look no further. Exemplifying it at its best is no other than our Lord Jesus Christ…
“…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:6-8
If there was anyone who had the right to presume and be proud, it was Jesus. Yet He chose to humble Himself and die on the cross for our sins—so that we can experience His grace that would inspire us to desire humility.
And this is my prayer: that we will continuously look to God for the grace to keep us grounded… to not presume on Him, but to seek Him and humble ourselves before Him.
Click here for part 2 💕