Introduction: Are you the kind of person who has dreams and goals for your future? Did you have them when you were young, but not anymore? If you had them when you were young, and it did not work out, how did you feel? Imagine that God comes to you with a grand goal, and you agree to help. In fact, you believe that you were born to accomplish this goal. Unfortunately, you make a couple of mistakes and your dream is now in jeopardy. One mistake was when you were fairly young, and another is now when your goal is almost within your grasp. If you have faced the disappointment of dashed dreams, this lesson is for you. Let’s jump into our last study in Deuteronomy and explore how a loving God treats those who make mistakes!
- The First Mistake
- Read Exodus 2:10-12. What do you think went through Moses’ mind when he killed the Egyptian bully?
- Why does verse 12 tell us that Moses looked to see who was looking?
- Note that Moses is the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Does he identify with his royal family or his Hebrew family?
- If you say that he identifies with his Hebrew family, what would you guess is his dream, his goal in life? (To rescue his people from slavery. God has put him in a unique position by giving him the military and leadership training to get the job done.)
- Read Exodus 2:13-14. How does this event affect Moses’ view of fulfilling his destiny? (He undoubtedly thought that the Hebrews would support him. This is a bitter revelation.)
- Read Exodus 2:15. Why isn’t this just part of the privilege of being a member of the royal family? Normal laws don’t apply to you! (This likely shows that Moses is not considered a full member of the royal family.)
- Put yourself in Moses’ place by the well. What is going through your mind? (You have just made the biggest mistake of your life. Your future is shattered.)
- Read Exodus 3:9-10. Forty years have passed since Moses ruined his future. What new opportunity has God just opened up? How would you respond if you were Moses?
- Read Exodus 3:11-12. Why doesn’t Moses jump at the opportunity to finally realize his dream?
- Do you sympathize with Moses’ response?
- Read Exodus 5:1. The verses we have skipped show that Moses is reluctant, at best, but Moses goes forward. Is the dream and goal of his lifetime back on track?
- The Second Mistake
- Read Numbers 20:1-3, and Numbers 20:5. Keep in mind that this is the fortieth year that they have been on this journey. If you sat down with Moses and asked him, “How are things going,” how do you think he would respond? (My sister just died, and the people hate me.)
- Read Numbers 20:6-8. What is God doing about Moses’ problems? (God provides an easy solution.)
- Read Numbers 20:9-10. Do you see a problem with what Moses said to the rebels? (Moses refers to “we” bringing the water. This suggests that they (Moses and Aaron) have the ability to bring water out of a rock.)
- Read Numbers 20:11 and compare Numbers 20:8. Has Moses followed God’s direction? (No. God told him to speak to the rock. Instead, he struck the rock twice with his rod.)
- Do the people know of Moses’ failure? (No. The water came out just as God promised.)
- Read Exodus 17:3 and Exodus 17:5-6. What does God tell Moses to do to obtain water from the rock in this earlier event? (He tells him to strike the rock.)
- What do you think about Moses’ disobedience? (None of the people know about it. On the surface it seems like a technical error – striking instead of speaking. A further point on Moses’ behalf is that in a similar situation he had been instructed by God to strike the rock to obtain water.)
- Read Numbers 20:12. God says that Moses and Aaron “Did not believe in Me.” How can that be true? They came to God for the solution to this most recent problem!
- Look again at the rest of what God says to Moses – the part about not upholding God as holy before the people. How do you understand this when the people do not even know that Moses failed to follow instructions? Indeed, Moses is handling this just the same way God directed him before when the people complained about water.
- Read 1 Corinthians 10:4. What does Paul mean when he says that Jesus is the Rock that provided the water? (God was the power behind the miracle of water coming out of a rock. Just imagine the optics of water coming out of a rock.)
- Look again at the last part of Numbers 20:12. What is the penalty imposed on Moses and Aaron for this sin? (Moses’ dream is dead. He will not see the goal of all of his hard work. He is healthy enough ( Deuteronomy 34:7), but God will not allow it.)
- Do you think Moses asked himself why he was barred from the promised land, but the rebels who were complaining would enter?
- Let’s revisit all these hard questions I’ve been asking about this punishment. How would you make the case for God’s justice? What does Paul’s comment about Jesus being the “Rock” teach us about this situation? (God says the issue is trusting Him enough to uphold God’s holiness. Since the people do not know about God’s precise instructions, that cannot be the issue. Instead, the issue is Moses and Aaron claiming they could fix the problem. The issue is them following their own path to provide the water, by striking the rock. The issue is that Moses struck the rock twice, as if adding additional effort and force would get it done.)
- Does this prove the importance of works – that we must obey to be saved? (Some may look at this as an issue of disobedience. But I think the deeper issue is trusting yourself instead of God. Moses’ failure here is one of faith and trust.)
- The Crisis
- Read Deuteronomy 34:1 and Deuteronomy 34:4. Would you be bitter? Do you think Moses was bitter?
- Is Moses’ life a frustrating failure?
- Why did God show Moses the land? Is God being mean? Does God want Moses to keenly feel the full extent of his loss?
- Read Deuteronomy 34:5-7. Moses dies alone. He is perfectly healthy. His only reason for dying is his second error. Perhaps he died of a broken heart. Is God fair? Do you trust God to do the right thing?
- The Triumph
- Read Jude 1:9 and Matthew 17:1-3. What does God do for Moses? He lets him into the true promised land! God gives Moses the ultimate reward! Moses does not get to explore the earthly symbol for heaven (the promised land), he gets to live in the real thing. He gets to live with God!
- Is God unfair or unjust?
- Let’s talk about this sequence of events for a moment. What would have been a perfect outcome for Moses? (To realize the goal of his life, leading the people into Canaan, and later dying and being taken to heaven.)
- If we skipped over Moses’ sin, and God just said to him, “Hey friend, I’m taking you to heaven instead of Canaan, you will like it a lot better,” would that have been fine with Moses?
- What does this account of Moses teach us about the importance of obedience to God’s commands? (It teaches us the truth that I keep hammering – obedience to God makes your life better. Obedience to God brings glory to God.)
- What does this account of Moses teach us about righteousness by faith alone? (There is no doubt that Moses overall trusted God. Moses failed by slipping on the issue of trusting God. That failure, which was so epic that he was barred from Canaan – the goal of his life – did not bar Moses from the true Promised Land.)
C. Friend, if you, like me, have had some epic failures, the
story of Moses is a huge encouragement. The issue is
trusting God even if you think He has been too harsh. He is
not harsh, He is generous and loving! Will you decide right
now to trust Him?
V. Next week: we begin a new series of studies on the book of
Next week: we begin a new series of studies on the book of Hebrews.