"The Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, 'Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel.'" (Deuteronomy 32:48-52)At first glance, God's punishment of Moses seems a bit harsh. For forty years Moses had lead a rebellious and stiff necked people faithfully before the Lord. However, on one occasion, being a single instance, Moses got angry with the people and responded in his anger and in so doing failed to fully execute what God had instructed him to do.
"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.'" (Numbers 20:10-12)One blemish on an otherwise spotless life and Moses is banded from entering the Promised Land. Why was God so sever in His punishment of Moses? For two reasons. First, God had raised up Moses into a place of authority and, because of that responsibility, He expected more of Moses than the rest of the congregation.
"And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." (Luke 12:47-48 NKJV)Because Moses had been given much, much was expected of him. This is why James says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1) Moses' punishment was greater, in part, because he had been given a greater proportion of authority and anointing.
Secondly, his punishment was sever because his sin was not private but public; public sin requiring public punishment. This is why Paul commands concerning elders, "Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear." (1 Timothy 5:20 NKJV) Those who stand before the people have a tremendous influence over the people. Their lifestyle and behavior is an example for others to imitate, either for good or bad. When an elder or any other public person sins, they are to be rebuked openly. Their punishment must be severe enough so that other will not follow in their error but fear lest they too sin in a like manner.
While most of us are not "public people," we still have people watching us to see how we will live; whether our family, neighbors, or co-workers, people are watching and the question is, what will they see? Will they see a life that honors God or one that caters to self? Will they see a life that reflects the holiness of God or one that remains stained by the excesses and sin of the world? Will our lives bring glory and honor to God or only dishonor? Will we be like those whom Paul wrote to saying, "You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For The name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you.'" just as it is written." (Romans 2:23-24) Or like those whom Jesus described, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) The choice is ours.
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