“They shall never enter my rest” – Yes, this is a solemn declaration that The LORD Almighty makes before Moses regarding the future of the Israelites, the generation that left Egypt with Moses.
7for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, Today, if only you would hear his voice, 8“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, a as you did that day at Massah b in the wilderness,
9where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. 10For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Psalm 95, 7-11)
Though this specific statement appears in Psalm 95, its original source can be found in Deuteronomy 1; please read the verses below.
34When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35“No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, 36except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.” (Deuteronomy 1, 34-36)
As you see in the above verses; the LORD is declaring on oath that the Israelites (including Moses) would not enter the Promised Land or enjoy the rest that He would provide for them there.
But here, you might wonder why the LORD Almighty is making such an irrevocable decision; that too after bringing a whole nation almost close to the Promised land.
Well, the main reason was – the rebellion of the Israelites; rebellion resulting from their distrust of God Almighty. Yes, though the Israelites witnessed innumerable miracles both in Egypt and in the Sinai Desert, they still chose to challenge the infinite power of God Almighty by questioning His ability to meet their needs.
There are several stories in the Holy Scriptures that testify to the rebellious behavior of the Israelites but I will be focusing only on two of them; the ones described in Deuteronomy 1 and Exodus 17.
I think most of you might be familiar with the story of Joseph moving into Egypt and subsequently the whole family of Jacob. Altogether Jacob’s family was just around 70 members when they reached Egypt in order to escape from a famine that was sweeping around in the land of Canaan during the time Joseph ruled Egypt. Anyway, by God’s grace Jacob and his family was able to settle down well in Egypt and as time passed, they multiplied and became large enough to be a nation.
6Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.(Exodus 1, 6-7)
Also, on the way, there arose a Pharaoh who was suspicious of the Israelites and started to persecute them.
8Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9“Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”(Exodus 1, 8-10)
Now, the Israelites who lived a very comfortable life until then, became the victims of oppression and suppression of this new ruler and his officials. As time passed, the intensity of persecution increased to a level that the Israelites could not bear it anymore; they were literally groaning under the heavy burdens placed on them by their Egyptian task masters.
11So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13and worked them ruthlessly.
Fortunately, their groaning and longing for deliverance reached the ears of God Almighty and He decides to deliver them from the hands of their oppressors.
23During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Exodus 2, 23-25)
7The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3, 7-10)
As the above verses say, the LORD Almighty sent Moses and Aaron to Egypt to deliver the Israelites from the slavery of the Pharaoh and bring them into the land He had promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Of course, this was a huge task for Moses; humanly speaking it was impossible for him to ask pharaoh to let Israelites leave Egypt. But the Mighty hand of God Almighty was with Moses and finally he was able to bring them out of Egypt.
Though obstacles were insurmountable, the miracles that God did in the land of Egypt convinced Pharaoh that the mighty hand of God Almighty was with Moses and he must let the Israelites go.
So, Moses leads the Israelites out from Egypt; but on the way they confronted another huge obstacle – The Red Sea – Moses was greatly distressed:
How can a man lead almost a million people and their flock through a mighty sea? It’s an impossible task and to make matters worse; Pharaoh’s army was following the Israelites to attack them from behind.
But, The Mighty hand of God who created the mighty sea parted it and let the Israelites cross over to the other side through dry ground while burying Pharaoh’s army in the depths of the Red Sea.
Actually, parting the Red Sea was the greatest of all the miracles that God Almighty did in Egypt and the Israelites were eye witnesses to it. Also, many of those miracles that God did in Egypt and in the desert of Sinai literally convinced the Israelites that He was with them and they were under His divine care.
Nevertheless, as the Word of God says, the Israelites were very rebellious, distrustful and ungrateful. Despite having experienced so many supernatural miracles; they still did not trust God Almighty with all their heart.
Each time when a new difficulty or problem arose, they started to murmur and grumble against their God. On many occasions they even doubted the Infinite Power of God Almighty; the quarrel that took place at Massah and Merribah was an example for this.
The Rebellion at Massah and Merribah
1The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”
3But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” 4Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7And he called the place Massah a and Meribah b because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”(Exodus 17, 1-7)
As verse 7 says, the Israelites tested the LORD Almighty by saying “Is the LORD Among us or not.”
Saints have you noticed the depth of distrust in the above words? The Israelites were still having doubt whether the LORD was with them or not; and they held on to this doubt and distrust while still enjoying the daily Manna and living under the shadow of the Heavenly cloud and pillar of fire.
The Israelites, When the need for water arose, did not think about the miraculous power of God that provided them with Manna and Quail earlier. They, just like aliens, started to grumble against Moses and God.
Sadly, their human senses could not comprehend the possibility of finding water in a desert where not even a drop was in sight except hard rocks. Even Moses was not very confident about the possibility of God performing another miracle to provide water from the rock.
Actually, this lack of confidence led him to quarrel with the Israelites and it ultimately resulted in Moses using rash words while arguing with the Elders of the community.
9So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (Numbers 20, 9-11)
As the verses below say trouble came to Moses because of those rash words which made the LORD angry and eventually, He decides not to let Moses set foot on the Promised Land.
12But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20, 12)
Saints, there is a common belief among the mainstream Christians that Moses was forbidden from entering the promised land because he hit the rock instead of speaking to the rock. Actually, this is a misunderstanding.
What displeased God was not hitting the rock but the rash words that came out of his mouth as they profaned the LORD’s name before the Israelites.
(In fact, God had commanded Moses to strike the rock; the evidence for this can be found in Exodus 17.)
5The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7And he called the place Massah a and Meribah b because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”( Exodus 17, 5-7)
Moreover, those rash words that came out of Moses’ mouth could also be the result of his lack of confidence in God Almighty. Otherwise why he would start an argument in the first place; he could have very well told the Israelites:
“Well, if you need water, wait for a while, let me speak to The LORD and surely He will provide you with the water” – there was absolutely no need for a quarrel.
So, Moses too might have had his doubts about the possibility of providing water instantly; but I do not blame him for this.
Just imagine, almost a million people demanding water and you see only huge rocks and burning sand dunes in front of you; it is natural for a human being to grow desperate and get angry; and this was what actually happened to Moses. At that moment even Moses forgot about the miraculous powers of God.
The Rebellion at Kadesh Barnea.
As you know at Massah and Merribah the LORD forgave the rebellion of the Israelites and He still did not forbid that generation from entering the promised land. However, in Deuteronomy 1 the story seems different; let us examine it in detail.
In Deuteronomy 1 we see the Israelites, as per the command of the LORD, set out from Horeb towards the hill country of the Amorites and reaches Kadesh Barnea where the LORD instructs them to go and take possession of the land that He had promised on oath to their ancestors.
However, the Israelites were not willing to obey the voice of the LORD. Instead, they requested Moses to send out spies to collect details about the people and the land. Unfortunately, Moses agrees to their request and sent people to spy on the land; and out of the twelve people sent, ten brought news that really melted the hearts of the Israelites with fear.
26But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. 28Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’” (Deuteronomy 1, 26-28)
Sadly, the Israelites who witnessed all the miracles in Egypt and in the desert of Sinai completely forgot how the LORD Almighty had brought them out of the land of their slavery by destroying their enemies.
Instead of relying on the power of God who parted the Red Sea, they relied on their own wit and will and decides not to go ahead and fight the Amorites.
29Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”
32In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, 33who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.( Deuteronomy 1, 32-33)
Despite repeated assurances and encouragements from Moses, the Israelites still chose not to fight the Amorites. As verse 32 says – they still decided not to trust or rely on the Mighty One of Israel who still went ahead of them in fire by night and in a cloud by day.
And this distrust and disobedience resulted in God Almighty making the irrevocable decision not to let anyone from that evil generation, except Joshua and Caleb, to set foot on the promised land.
He declared on oath to Moses that: “They Shall Never Enter My Rest.”
Yes, God Almighty had planned a complete rest for the Israelites in the promised land which was of course a land flowing with milk and honey. A land that had everything the Israelites needed. In fact, they would not be needed to work 24×7 for those things.
Also, in the Promised Land they won’t be having any task masters over them who never let their hands be free from the baskets. Compared to the life they lived in Egypt, the life in the promised land would be close to a literal rest. They had nothing to worry or fear about.
17And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’( Exodus 3, 17)
As the verses below say – the Israelites would have been living in houses that they did not build and drinking from the wells that they did not dig.
10When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.( Deuteronomy 6, 10-12)
Unfortunately, the Israelites were rebellious and stiff-necked. despite experiencing so many miracles in the midst of them; they still did not trust in the infinite power and love of God Almighty. Instead, they used each and every crisis in the desert as an opportunity to show their distrust in God Almighty.
Instead of trusting and relying on God to overcome each crisis; they used them as an opportunity to challenge God. Despite enjoying Manna from heaven; they still longed for the carnal pleasures of Egypt
Moreover, the Rebellion of the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea made the LORD angry with Moses too and again, a second time, He forbids Moses from entering the Promised Land, the details of which can be found in the verses below.
37Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. 38But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. (Deuteronomy 1, 37-39)
Saints, please read the above verses carefully; Moses, in his own words, very clearly explaining why he was forbidden from entering the promised land.
Contrary to what many Christians believe; it was not because of striking the Rock, but because of the distrust and disobedience of the Israelites.
Actually, Distrust and Disobedience completely destroyed the relationship between God Almighty and the Israelites.
Saints, here you might wonder why their distrust and disobedience resulted in such a disastrous consequence for the Israelites who came out of Egypt including Moses.
As you know, trust and obedience are two rock solid pillars of our relationship with God Almighty and when they are shaken; our relationship with Him will be damaged and consequently we might also lose what He had promised and prepared for us.
Anyway, though these stories happened a long time ago they still could teach us some very valuable lessons about our Spiritual Journey on Earth.
What Believers in Christ can Learn from the Life of Israelites who left Egypt under the Leadership of Moses?
Saints there is a very close similarity between the Journey of the Israelites from the land of slavery to the land of freedom and our spiritual journey in this world. In fact, the former is the shadow of the latter. One took place in the physical realm while the other takes place in the spiritual realm.
Like the Israelites we too were once the slaves of a Pharaoh whom we call the adversary or Satan. He kept us under his control and put us to hard labor without any rest or relief.
We were in bondage to sin and rebellion. We did many things to fulfill the wishes of our task masters which brought more and more misery into our lives. We were rejected and forsaken with no one to plead our case or fight for our cause.
However, the LORD Almighty heard our cry for mercy and came down to deliver us. He delivered us from the bondage of the Pharaoh through the precious blood of Christ shed on the cross at Calvary. We are already out of Egypt and on our way to the Promised Land; the New Jerusalem. But we need to cross a huge desert before reaching this promised land.
This desert is not Sinai; but it is this world itself. Like the Israelites, we too will face many challenges on our way; some might be to test us and some might be the result of natural causes. Surely, there will be times when we get exhausted and think about going back to Egypt. Also, there will be times when we start to doubt the power of God and the love of God in our lives.
Also, we might face circumstances that can cause fear in our minds and doubt in our hearts. Of course, during this journey, like the Israelites, we too have experienced and witnessed many miracles by the mighty hand of God; nonetheless, we might still have a tendency to doubt the love and faithfulness of God; we too might think about grumbling against God Almighty.
Moreover, like the Israelites we too might try to rely on our own wit and will to overcome the obstacles. But what we need to bear in mind is:
Though our journey of this life is through a desert we still have the God of Israel with us; His eyes are still on us; He is still watching over us and He will carry us ahead until we reach our destination.
On the contrary if we, like the Israelites, start to doubt the love of God and rebel against his Commandments, we may not reach our destination. Instead of repenting and turning away from our rebellious ways, if we continue to distrust and disobey God, we too might fail to enter the promised land.
As I mentioned earlier; trust and obedience are the two main pillars of our relationship with Christ and we need to trust and obey Him unconditionally in order to keep that relationship intact.
Saints, as Christians, our life is a journey through the desert and definitely, we will encounter many obstacles on the way but we should not let those obstacles sow the seeds of distrust and disobedience in our hearts.
The journey is tough but we should rely only God’s power to complete that journey successfully.