The Sin of Moses

A look at Numbers 10:1-13

Have you ever noticed that troubles come in threes? In this chapter we read of three very sad events:

These three events are the results of unbelief. It is easy to look at the children of Israel and be critical of them. But never forget the words of our Lord when some very religious men wanted to stone a woman to death on account of her sin: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” So, with regard to Moses, then let’s consider:

1. The circumstances surrounding his sin

The place: Kadesh. Kadesh was the exact spot they had been 39 years earlier! Instead of moving forward, because of sin, they had actually moved backward. Recall that 39 years ago, at Kadesh the spies had been sent out to spy out the Promised Land. It was at Kadesh that the people doubted and brought the doom of 40 years of wandering upon the nation. The warning is so clear: Bewared of old sins! Watch out, for the past has been known to sneak up on a believer and cause him to trip. Beware of the barren places in your experience. Barren places can become pits of sin if you lose sight of God.

The condition of the people: Discontented and faultfinding, verses 3-5. The people quarreled and complained against the providence of God. This is always the a source of trouble in the house of God; people complain and murmur against each other and eventually against the pastor.

The humility of Moses, verse 6. Moses fell on his face, not before the people, but before the Lord, and the Lord appeared in all His glory, and a way of deliverance was revealed, verse 8. Moses could not make the water, but in his obedience it would come to him.

2. The nature of his sin.

Moses was told specifically to speak to the rock (verse 8). This was a direct command from the Lord: speak to the rock. But instead of speaking to the rock, Moses struck the rock not once, but twice (verse 11).

Why would Moses go against the expressed Word of God? Perhaps the answer lie in the past. This was not the first time Moses got water from a rock. A similar thing happened years before, in Exodus 17:6, only on that occasion, the Lord commanded Moses to, not speak to the rock, but strike the rock.

There are two lessons I see here. First, Moses is like many of us in that he expected God to act in a certain way based on a past experience. You cannot treat God like this; you cannot put God in a box and expect Him to perform. No, God will what He deems necessary, when He chooses to and in a manner only He knows. It is arrogant in the extreme to presume to know how God will act.

Second, let’s deal with a verse in 1 Corinthians 10:4. Paul indicated that the rock was not mere rock, but a supernatural rock! That rock was Christ Himself. In the purpose of God, He could only be struck once. Christ could only suffer once for all. Further blessings or fresh outpourings of Christ’s fullness come to us by asking, not striking. Moses, the second time, was told to speak to the rock, not strike it, as he did previously.

Here we see an excellent example of how careful God was in creating the types of Christ in the Old Testament that point to the reality of Christ in the New Testament.

In the sin of Moses, there was:

Disobedience. God told Moses to speak, but Moses struck instead. Not only that, but he struck the rock twice, as if to not only be disobedient, but impatient as well. Moses was, I believe, being guided not so much by the Word of God but by his past experience. This is always a danger to believers; this is why we must always seek the Word of God and not dwell on the past for guidance.

Selfish passion. Verse 10 is rather telling. While the Hebrews were indeed rebels, Moses calling them out like that certainly didn’t help the situation. He was provoked and he spoke as he should not have, we are told as much in Psalm 106:33. This proves the old saying, “The best of men are but men at best.”

Presumption. Again, in verse 10 notice carefully the words Moses uses: Must we bring you water out of this rock? It grievs the Lord when we seek our own glory while doing His work.

There are two very important things to be remembered in this sin of Moses:

Moses did not hide his sin. In fact, as the author of Numbers, he could have. But he did not; Moses never hid his sin from the eyes of others.

His failure did not alter the faithfulness of God. Even though Moses did it his own way, water still came from the rock. The unbelief of some does not nullify the faithfulness of God in any way. As believers, every one of us will come short of what we might be, but God is always faithful!

3. The fruit of Moses’ sin.

It dishonored the Lord, verse 12. Lord’s Name is profaned by unbelief and self-glorifying acts of His people.

It kept him out of the promised land, verse 12. One sin may keep God’s richest blessing from you. It may not keep you out heaven, but it you will not receive the best God has for you. I believe this is one reason why so many of the Lord’s people never enter into the fullness of God’s blessing and power in their service for Christ; there is sin in their camp.

It is a solemn warning to us, today. Let us never boast in our abilities; let us never take credit for what God has done. And let us continually seek God’s will in His Word, not in the events of a liftetime ago.


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