When God took Moses up to the top of the mountain and told him to look over a land that he had anticipated for forty years but could not enter because of his sin, I suspect that he also whispered in his ear, “buddy, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Fast forward to Luke 9 and you will see that through God’s grace, Moses actually got to experience the Promised Land after all, and in a way that the original entrance into Canaan could not compare—not by a long shot!
Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 34:1-4
Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab and climbed Pisgah Peak, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him the whole land, from Gilead as far as Dan; all the land of Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; all the land of Judah, extending to the Mediterranean Sea; the Negev; the Jordan Valley with Jericho—the city of palms—as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.”
I have always felt bad for Moses and, to be honest, a bit miffed at God on this one. I mean, can you name a better, more godly leader in human history than Moses? He was absolutely brilliant in getting two million reluctant Hebrews out of Egypt. He was as patient as the day is long in putting up with their constant, whining, bickering, criticizing and rebelling. He was closer to God than any human being before or after—he spoke with God face to face. He was the most humble man in all the earth. Probably the best summary of his life are contained in the editor’s words (probably Samuel) in Deuteronomy 34:10-11,
There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.
And yet God wouldn’t allow Moses into the Promised Land. For one mistake—he smote the rock from which God brought forth water—instead of speaking to it as the Lord had commanded. In that act of anger and disobedience, God said to Moses, “you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, so you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (You can read the story in Numbers 20:1-13)
Now I am sure there is more to this story than we read in the text. Likewise, I am just as sure that even though I am trying to “dumb down” the degree of sin in Moses disobedience, all sin his offensive to a holy God. And I am quite sure that my feelings about Moses’ punishment have to do with my own fear of punishment, for if Moses got in trouble for such an understandable mistake, I don’t stand a chance. But still, the punishment here seems disproportionate to the sin. Yet God is God and I am not. And he never makes a mistake; his judgments are right and fair, even though we cannot always comprehend.
However—and this is a big one—when God took Moses up to the top of the mountain that day and told him to look over a land that he had anticipated for forty years but could not enter, I suspect that the Lord also whispered in his ear, “buddy, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Here is what I mean: If you fast forward from Deuteronomy 34 to Luke 9, you will see that through God’s grace, Moses actually got to experience the Promised Land after all, and in a way that the original entrance into Canaan could not compare—not by a long shot:
Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his exodus which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31)
Moses, who had taken God’s glory from himself and received the just punishment for it, now appeared in God’s glorious splendor inside the Promised Land. Moreover, he spoke with God the Son about a true and better Exodus, the deliverance for the entire human race from the ultimate bondage of sin and death through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Moses got to experience the Promised Land in far greater fashion than what he was originally denied. Truly, what he saw on Pisgah Peak wasn’t anything to what he saw in Luke 9.
Now how awesome and encouraging is that for you and me! If and when we blow it by failing to trust God or by taking his glory for ourselves, while we will experience the painful consequences that sin always produces, we can, and should, still anticipate God’s grace. No matter how disappointed we may feel as a result of our mistakes, or God’s punishment, the good news is, like Moses, God whispers to our spirit, “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”