The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1


Chapter 28—The Sin of Moses

Again the congregation of Israel was brought into the wilderness, to the very place where God proved them soon after their leaving Egypt. The Lord brought them water out of the rock, which had continued to flow until just before they came again to the rock, when the Lord caused that living stream to cease, to prove his people again, to see if they would endure the trial of their faith, or would again murmur against him. 1SP 309.1

When the Hebrews were thirsty, and could find no water, they became impatient, and did not remember the power of God which had, nearly forty years before, brought them water out of the rock. Instead of trusting in God, they complained of Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!” that is, they wished that they had been of that number who had been destroyed by the plague in the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. 1SP 309.2

They angrily inquired, “Why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces; and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock. So thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock; and he said unto them, Hear, now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice; and the water came out abundantly; and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” 1SP 309.3

Here Moses sinned. He became wearied with the continual murmurings of the people against him, and at the commandment of the Lord, took the rod, and, instead of speaking to the rock, as God commanded him, he smote it with the rod twice, after saying, “Must we fetch you water out of this rock?” He here spoke unadvisedly with his lips. He did not say, God will now show you another evidence of his power, and bring you water out of this rock. He did not ascribe the power and glory to God for causing water to again flow from the flinty rock, and therefore did not magnify him before the people. For this failure on the part of Moses, God would not permit him to lead the people to the promised land. 1SP 310.1

This necessity for the manifestation of God's power made the occasion one of great solemnity; and Moses and Aaron should have improved it to make a favorable impression upon the people. But Moses was stirred; and in impatience and anger with the people because of their murmurings, he said, “Hear, now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” In thus speaking, he virtually admitted to murmuring Israel that they were correct in charging him with leading them from Egypt. God had forgiven the people greater transgressions than this error upon the part of Moses; but he could not regard a sin in a leader of his people as in those who were led. He could not excuse the sin of Moses, and permit him to enter the promised land. 1SP 310.2

The Lord here gave his people unmistakable proof that he who had wrought such a wonderful deliverance for them in bringing them from Egyptian bondage, was the mighty Angel, and not Moses, who was going before them in all their travels, and of whom he had said, “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice; provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him.” Moses took glory to himself which belonged to God, and made it necessary for God to do that in his case which should forever satisfy rebellious Israel that it was not Moses who has led them from Egypt, but God himself. The Lord had committed to Moses the burden of leading his people, while the mighty Angel went before them in all their journeyings, and directed all their travels. Because they were so ready to forget that God was leading them by his Angel, and to ascribe to man that which God's power alone could perform, he had proved them, and tested them, to see whether they would obey him. At every trial they failed. Instead of believing in, and acknowledging, God, who had strown their path with evidences of his power, and signal tokens of his care and love, they distrusted him, and ascribed their leaving Egypt to Moses, charging him as the cause of all their disasters. Moses had borne with their stubbornness with remarkable forbearance. At one time they threatened to stone him. 1SP 311.1

The Lord would remove this impression forever from their minds, by forbidding Moses to enter the promised land. The Lord had highly exalted Moses. He had revealed to him his great glory. He had taken him into a sacred nearness with himself upon the mount, and had condescended to talk with him as a man speaketh with a friend. He had communicated to Moses, and through him to the people, his will, his statutes and his laws. His being thus exalted and honored of God made his error of greater magnitude. Moses repented of his sin, and humbled himself greatly before God. He related to all Israel his sorrow for his sin. The result of his sin he did not conceal, but told them that for thus failing to ascribe glory to God, he could not lead them to the promised land. He then asked them, if this error upon his part was so great as to be thus corrected of God, how God would regard their repeated murmurings in charging him (Moses) with the uncommon visitations of God because of their sins. 1SP 312.1

For this single instance, Moses had allowed the impression to be entertained that he had brought them water out of the rock, when he should have magnified the name of the Lord among his people. The Lord would now settle the matter with his people, that Moses was merely a man, following the guidance and direction of a mightier than he, even the Son of God. In this he would leave them without doubt. Where much is given, much is required. Moses had been highly favored with special views of God's majesty. The light and glory of God had been imparted to him in rich abundance. His face had reflected upon the people the glory that the Lord had let shine upon him. All will be judged according to the privileges they have had, and the light and benefits bestowed. 1SP 312.2

The sins of good men, whose general deportment has been worthy of imitation, are peculiarly offensive to God. They cause Satan to triumph, and to taunt the angels of God with the failings of God's chosen instruments, and give the unrighteous occasion to lift themselves up against God. The Lord had himself led Moses in a special manner, and had revealed to him his glory, as to no other upon the earth. He was naturally impatient, but had taken hold firmly of the grace of God, and so humbly implored wisdom from Heaven, that he was strengthened from God, and had overcome his impatience so that he was called of God the meekest man upon the face of the whole earth. 1SP 313.1

Aaron died at Mount Hor; for the Lord had said that he should not enter the promised land; because, with Moses, he had sinned at the time of bringing water from the rock at Meribah. Moses and the sons of Aaron buried him in the mount, that the people might not be tempted to make too great ceremony over his body, and be guilty of the sin of idolatry. 1SP 313.2

The Canaanites made war with Israel, and took some of them prisoners; and the host of the Israelites besought the Lord to go with them to battle against the Canaanites, and deliver them into their hands, and they would utterly destroy their cities, and would be faithful in following God. He heard their prayer, and went out with their armies to battle, and the Israelites overcame their enemies, and utterly destroyed them and their cities. 1SP 314.1