The promised land was the goal, but it wasn’t the end game. It was worth dedicating a life for but, ultimately, it wasn’t what life was all about. I need to remind myself of that this morning as I consider Moses coming up short of stepping foot into the land. That even in failure there is glory.
It hit me this morning as I was reading in Numbers 26 and 27. A new generation is being counted. “Not one person on this list had been among those listed in the previous registration taken by Moses and Aaron in the wilderness of Sinai” (26:64 NLT). And while the desert is scattered with the graves of an entire generation who had refused to enter the land out of fear, a few particularly notable “crash-and-burns” are mentioned.
Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, are called out. They “contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the LORD and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah” (26:9-10). Then I came across the mention of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, who “died when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD” (26:61). Yeah, they got what they deserved. Who were they to think they could challenge the LORD’s authority or play loose with the LORD’s commandments?
But then I read this in Numbers 27:
The LORD said to Moses, “Go up into this mountain of Abarim and see the land that I have given to the people of Israel. When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, because you rebelled against My word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold Me as holy at the waters before their eyes.”
(Numbers 27:12-14 ESV)
Dathan, Abiram, Korah, . . . Nadab, Abihau, . . . Moses. When counting those who would be entering the promised land, these are called out in particular as those who wouldn’t step foot in the land because of their failure. Doesn’t seem right to me that Moses’ name is found in that list of names. But it is a reminder of the holy nature of our God. And of the good news that even when coming up short of the goal, there is grace. And in that grace, even in failure there is glory.
Moses blew it. No question. God said, “Speak to the rock” and the servant of God, deferring to his sin nature, disobeyed, striking the rock . . . not once but twice. And, in so doing, crossed the line . . . rather, was told he would not cross the line–that he would not be permitted to bring God’s people into the land God had given them (Num. 20:2-12).
How sad. A lifetime of being prepared for a work commissioned of God. Decades spent in the wilderness leading a grumbling hoard to a place of blessing they really didn’t deserve. Having known a relationship with God unlike any other man as he had spoke to God “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). And then to come up short. To not make it into the land because of a momentary transgression. To not reach the goal because of stupid frustration and anger. But even in failure there is glory.
For, how did God treat Moses? Not in the same manner He did toward the rebellious sons of Eliab who were swallowed by the earth. Nor like His reaction to the foolish and arrogant boys belonging to Aaron who were consumed by the flames. Instead, despite Moses failure of not upholding God as holy before the people and the associated consequence, God would still be glorified through Moses. It wouldn’t be in God leading Moses into the promised land, but His glory would be known in the manner in which He would bring His faithful follower home.
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land . . . , And the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and He buried him . . . no one knows the place of his burial to this day.
(Deuteronomy 34:1-6 ESV)
And while Moses didn’t hear, “Well done, good and perfect servant,” I’m pretty sure he heard His LORD and God say something like, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
God’s provision, to be tendered millennia later on a cross, was sufficient to pay the price for His servant’s failure. God’s goodness, manifest through Jesus, the Son of God, would be known even in Moses’ shortcomings, as God personally escorted Moses through the valley of the shadow of death and into the glorious light of His presence.
Moses’ failure. God’s glory. All because of the nature of a holy, and loving, and gracious, and good, and glorious King. And all because of His finished work on the cross.
Too much to think that even in my trip ups and slip ups, He can be exalted. I don’t think it’s too much to think. Through His great provision and by His abundant grace, even in failure there is glory.
His glory. That’s the end game. Beyond reaching the goal, that’s what life is all about . . . His glory!