The Life of Moses – Moses Bitter Disappointment

It has been well said, “The life of fellowship with God cannot be built up in a day”

And this is what we see in the life of Moses.  A man who first decides that he would rather suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.  But making that choice does not immediately build a life of close fellowship with God.

It takes time.  Moses then spent 40 years in the desert having his self-importance – I can get it done attitude drained away.  If you remember the Bible tells us that Moses was mighty in words and deeds in Egypt.  Then came the burning bush where Moses stands before God for the first time.  And there we saw Moses make excuses.  But Moses does go to Egypt, and we saw that his faith still had some growing to do.  At first he would not speak or use the rod.  But after seeing God work over and over again.  After listing to what God said, and sticking it out, and seeing time and again what God said was true.  Seeing time and again that God is faithful; Moses grew.

He grew into a man of Great faith who could at the Red Sea boldly declare, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.

And the growth of Moses did not stop there.  He spent long periods with God and developed a close life of fellowship with God.  He grew into the man who could show great forbearance when the people would complain.  Moses stood firm time and again when the people would rebel. Instead of striking back Moses would fall on his face before God in prayer for the people.  His great strength and meekness was not something Moses manufactured on his own.  It came from a life of close fellowship with God.

Exo 33:9  And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses.

Exo 33:10  And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.

Exo 33:11  And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.

This fellowship had an effect upon Moses’ character.  Not only did his face shine, but his life shone also.  Watch him as he does not take the attacks of the people personally.  Instead he falls on his face to plead for them.

Read about his life after he led the people out of Egypt and you will see his meekness, his gentleness under provocation, and you can watch his zeal for the name and cause of God.

We would love it if the story ended there.  We watch this man grow and grow and grow and then end the story.  But the Word of God tells it like it really is.  It does not spin the story.  It tells it all, the good and the bad.  When men get it right and when they mess up.  The Bible shows that all have fallen short of the glory of God.

The Bible clearly declares that there is only one perfect sinless man and that is Jesus.

Moses sins

Today we are going to look at Moses sin against God and the consequences of that.  We have seen Moses time and again handle hard things the way God wanted.  Rebellion after rebellion, complaint after complaint.  No matter how unfounded, idiotic, or hurtful.  Now the people are going to complain again and this time Moses will not handle it the way God wants.

Why does he have trouble now?  What is different now?  We cannot say 100 percent for sure, but the Bible does shed some light about what was going on in Moses’ life.  Things that can also affect us and put us in a state where it is very easy to make mistakes.  So before we look at the sin itself…

Conditions at the time – The death of his sister

Num 20:1  Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.

Miriam had just died.  Miriam was Moses’ sister.  The one who was used by God to arrange for Moses’ mother to nurse him for Pharaoh’s daughter.  The one who led the women in giving praises to God.  Moses loved his sister.  He immediately prayed for her leprosy to be healed when she spoke against his wife.

And now she is dead.  The death of a close family member is always hard.  O’ do not get me wrong.  It helps a great deal to know that they are saved.  It helps a great deal to know for sure where they are spending their eternity.  But it is still hard.  It still hurts.  You still miss them dearly.  You will still feel the absence of their presence.  There is still a sense of loss.  Something exciting happens and your first instinct is to go share it with them, and then the sinking realization that you cannot.  They are gone.

The first thing we see is that Moses has a very hard thing come into his life.  And notice when it happens.

Num 20:1  Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.

Num 20:2  And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.

Num 20:3  And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!

Miriam is buried in verse 1 and they attack Moses in verse two.  The funeral was scarcely over and they attack.  They buried Miriam in Kadesh, and we see in verse two that there was no water there.  Still talking about Kadesh. They had not even moved on to the next place yet.

Moses is hurting with the loss of his sister and the people do not care.  They attack.

Listen, Satan loves to stir up trouble when you are hurting, when you are down, when the hard things come.  We need to be on our guard all the time, but especially when the hard things come.

A long history of dealing with the people

Look at the rest of the peoples’ attack in verse 4.

Num 20:4  And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?

Num 20:5  And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.

Num 20:6  And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.

This is not the first time that they have attacked Moses.  At times it is like a broken record.  They accuse him of bringing them into the wilderness to die.  They have done this over and over again.  Sometimes in our lives we find the grace to deal with a problem, it comes up again, and we pray and appropriate the grace again.  If we are not careful, this can get to us when it happens over and over again.  But we are to handle it with grace no matter how many times it happens.  Jesus spoke on this.

Luk 17:4  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Luk 17:5  And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

Notice what the apostles said, Increase our faith.  They understood that it can be a hard thing to deal with something over and over again.

And we see Moses in verse 6 do the same thing he has always done.  Go and fall on his face and pray for them.  That is not different.  What is different is not the praying, but what happens after the praying.

After Moses gets up he walks out and sins.  There is an issue of the heart going on here.  You will see it if you watch exactly what Moses says when he strikes the rock.

Moses strikes the rock

Num 20:7  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

Num 20:8  Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

Num 20:9  And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.

Num 20:10  And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

Moses says Hear now, ye rebels.  He calls them rebels.  He does not use the word rebelling.  Anyone can have a momentary lapse in judgment and rebel against something.  Rebels are different.  Rebels rebel all the time.  It is who they are.  Calling them rebels is bringing up the past.  Moses is not just considering their current rebellion, he is also considering all their past.

Previously Moses would pray for the people and get up and leave all the hurt at the altar and just go out and love the people anyway.  Fight for them anyway.  Want what is best for them anyway.  This time he prays, gets up, and picks up all that past and carries it.

This is always a bad and dangerous thing to do.  We need to pray for the grace to leave the matter with God.

Why is striking the rock sin

Num 20:11  And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

Some might not understand why what Moses did was so bad.  The people still got the water they needed.  So what is the big deal?

God was teaching something very important by using a picture.  An illustration.  The New Testament tells us what the Rock stood for.

1Co 10:1  Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

1Co 10:2  And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

1Co 10:3  And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

1Co 10:4  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

The first time Moses had to strike the rock.  It was the only way that the life giving water was going to be available.  Jesus had to go to the cross and be smitten for us for the life giving water of salvation to be available to us.  But Jesus only had to go to the cross once.  Never to be smitten again.  After Jesus rose again all men have to do to receive the life giving water of salvation is simply to ask for it.

That is what God wanted to be pictured.  Moses messed up the picture by smiting the rock the second time.

Any obedience is sin

Another reason striking the rock was sin is simply because it was being disobedient to God’s command.  Whenever we disobey there is an element of having lack of faith.  And whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

The consequences of Moses’ sin

There are always consequences of sin.  Nothing escapes the eye of God.  A man will reap what he sows.  Even great men of God like Moses must live under this rule.  30 years of good service to God does not get you a free pass.  God is just and there are consequences.

  1. Could not go into the land

Num 20:12  And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Num 20:13  This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.

Because of Moses’ sin he would not be allowed to go into the land.  He would not be able to set his feet upon it.  The land was and all its blessings was what Moses looked forward to for decades.  The desire to finish the job and see his people blessed was not going to be fulfilled.

  1. Could not be undone

Moses is used for many more things after his sin.  The sin is in Num. chapter 20, Numbers has 36 chapters and then all the preaching Moses did in the book of Deu.  And Moses was faithful thru all of it.  But all of those good things that Moses did afterward did not remove the consequences.

The difference between forgiveness and consequences

God still used Moses

The Fiery serpents are yet to come.  The whoredom with the daughters of Moab is yet to come.  So is the numbering of the people, the daughters of Zelophehad, the war with the Midianites.  And many other things as well and much teaching of the Word of God.

God still loved Moses

Moses found forgiveness.  Moses was still used greatly by God.  Moses still spent many hours of close fellowship with God.  God still talked to Moses face to face.

God did something for Moses that he has not done for anyone else. Ever

Num_27:12  And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.

Deu 34:5  So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.

Deu 34:6  And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

God personally showed Moses all the land and then God buried Moses.  Moses is the only one that God did this for.  God still loved Moses and blessed Moses in other ways, and did things for Moses that He did not do for anyone else.

And yet the consequence of Moses’ sin never went away

And we see this same principal in action in the world today.  People can sin, and find forgiveness, and have close fellowship with God and even be used by Him.  But still have the consequences left over.

Say a man goes on a business trip.  He is currently having some issues in his marriage, and after a long day of meetings he goes to dinner with a co-worker.  The next thing he knows, he wakes up with her in his hotel room.  He did not want it to happen, he did not plan on it happening.  But that does not matter it is still sin.

Can he find forgiveness with God?

Can he have close fellowship with God restored?

Can he find forgiveness with his wife?   Maybe.  But things there will never be quite the same.

Will the sexually transmitted disease just go away?  No

Will the unwanted pregnancy just go away?  No

If you take a close look at life, you will see this principal at work from breaking the law to treating others wrong.

This has to do with God’s inescapable law, a man will reap what he sows.


No one arrives.  We all can have bad days.  But that does not do away with the law of consequences.  We all need to be on our guard every day.

Can you give one reason why God might leave the consequences in this life?

So we learn, so we will not be quite so easy to return to sin.  To teach of His Holiness and justice.

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