Is That Really Fair?

Do you recall how Moses ended? It is a sad story, really. Moses was born in Egypt, taken by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised like a prince. At age 40, he tried to be a help to his people and found himself running for his life in the desert. He spent 40 years as a shepherd, returned to Egypt at the prompting of God, and began to lead the people. For 40 years afterward, he led a stubborn and rebellious people through a harsh wilderness.

And Moses made one mistake. He lost it one time. God told Moses to speak to a rock and bring water out of it. Moses was at the end of his rope. The people were on his nerves. Moses struck the rock instead of speaking. And that was enough for God to say to Moses that he would not be allowed to cross the Jordan into the promised land. One gaff, and Moses dies in the wilderness like the rest.

My question: Is that really fair?

Deuteronomy 32:48-52 – 48 That very day the Lord spoke to Moses, 49 “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. 50 And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51 because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. 52 For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.”

Is God’s judgment on Moses fair here? Or is this a little too harsh?

Can you sense that I’m asking a trick question? Perhaps you can. And perhaps you expect me to follow it up with a defense of the judgment of God on Moses. But here is the actual point: Asking that question is wrong.

Yes, asking if God did something rightly is a wrong question. In order to ask that question, you must set yourself in a position to somehow evaluate the actions, choices, and values of the Lord. You must set yourself up in a position to be able to examine evidence, compare it to a standard, and measure justly. But, dear friend and human being, you cannot do so.

God is the standard of holiness. There is nothing outside of God that measures right and wrong. God is always right by definition. And the moment I try to examine his actions, I must immediately ask myself by what standard I will judge right. I cannot judge by my own measure, as God is greater than me, holy in every way. I cannot measure by another person’s standard, as all are infinitely lesser than the Lord. The only perfect measure of righteousness we have is, get this, God and God’s holy word. God is perfection. Thus, his actions, whether we like or understand them in our limited capacity, are always, absolutely, completely, infinitely perfect.

Do I like Moses’ end? That does not matter. God is holy. God is right. God therefore always judges rightly. And if I am uncomfortable with a judgment of God, I am the one who must come to grips with righteousness, God is already there.

O, and if Moses’ end really bothers you, remember that it is an infinite, a hell-worthy offense, to treat God as anything less than utterly holy. That God would forgive Moses of his sin and save his soul is well beyond fair. God owes Moses nothing more. And I assure you, when Jesus spoke with Moses on the mount of transfiguration, Moses was not complaining.