Barred From the Promised Land

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For nearly forty years, Moses faithfully served God by leading the people of Israel. Through thick and thin (and there was a lot of thin) he dutifully kept to his charge to shepherd the people out of Egypt to the Promise Land. Nevertheless, when he was on the cusp of completing his mission, his dream of rest in the land of milk and honey was quickly erased. The fateful scene is recorded for us in Numbers 20.1-13. These thirteen verses hold three profound truths for us today. Truths that we need to know and more importantly practice so we won’t be barred from the Promise Land of Heaven. Let’s begin by unpacking Numbers 20.1-13.

At the Waters of Meribah:

  • (1a) Israel camped at Kadesh
  • (1b) Miriam died
  • (2-5) The people complained
  • (6-8) Moses goes before God
  • (9-10) God said speak to the rock
  • (10-11) Moses angrily struck the rock
  • (12) God rebuked Moses
  • (13) Summary statement


  • Numbers 20.12; 27.14; Deuteronomy 32.51 – Moses’ sin wasn’t that he struck the rock. In fact, not once is that mentioned as the reason he was barred from the Promised Land. (As we’ll see Aaron was barred from the Promised Land for the same reason as Moses and Aaron didn’t strike the rock.) Rather time and again, God, and Moses’ himself, point to the heart.
  • Mark 7.20-23 – Jesus gets to the heart of what produces sin.
  • James 1.12-15 – James challenges us to see sin as a heart issue.
  • Romans 12.1-2 – Paul calls for us to align our hearts with God, not merely our actions.
  • Hypocrites are those who simply focus on the right actions and not a right heart. At its core, sin is a heart issue. How sad to be barred from the Promised Land because we didn’t align both our heart and our actions with God.


  • Psalm 106.32-33 states that Moses acted out of anger.
  • The meekest of men (Numbers 12.3), yet he, at times, had an issue with anger (Exodus 11.8; 16.20; 32.19; Numbers 16.15).
  • James 1.19-20 and Ephesians 4.36-37 both warn against indulging our anger.
  • How tragic to allow anger to keep us from entering the Promised Land of God.


  • As we’ve noted, both Moses and Aaron are barred from the Promised Land for the same reason. Yet, they were punished differently. Aaron was humiliatingly defrocked (Numbers 20.22-29), while Moses got to live longer, give a farewell speech, and see the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 3.26-27; 34.1-7).
  • Hebrews 12.3-7 – Sin has consequences, yet those consequences may be very different from person to person. Nevertheless, however God may choose to discipline us it us just and it is for our own good.
  • Let’s put our trust in the living God who is rich in mercy and grace. He will do with us what is best for us.

In a fit of reckless anger, Moses hardened his heart, he spoke rashly and he acted recklessly. In a moment he threw it all away. He was barred from entering the Promise Land. What about you and me? We have made a commitment to live our lives for Christ. As we walk this journey of faith are we merely restraining our actions or are we continually reforming our hearts? And what about our anger? Does it control us or have we mastered it? Do we see God as the Holy Sovereign who works His will in all things? We’re all moving toward a day of judgment, when each of us will stand before the God of the universe. Will you be welcomed into your Land of Rest or will you be barred from the Promise Land of Heaven? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.




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