Sunday, June 03, 2012

Mt. Nebo

Deuteronomy 34:1-6 

1 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land--from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, `I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it." 5 And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.

Mt Nebo is 1,000 meter-high mountain at the northern end of he Dead Sea. Presently it is sited in modern Jordan. At it peak, we can see across the Jordan valley to Jericho (City of Palms) and Jerusalem. We can also see the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. On a clear day, the site offers a panoramic view of the land that God has promised to the Israelites. Moses must have very good eyesight to see to the very borders of the Promised land!

The episode of Balak and Balaam (Num 22-24) also takes place around here.

Why was Moses not allowed to enter the Promised Land? At the beginning of the 40 years of wandering, God commanded both Aaron and Moses to strike a rock to being forth water, which they did in the Desert of Sin at the waters of Massah and Meribah (Exod. 17:1-7). About 40 years later, Aaron and Moses are again desperate for water and God commanded them to speak to the rock (Num. 20:8) but instead they struck it and God was displeased.

(Numbers 20: 8-12)

8 "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink."  9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He 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?" 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.12 But 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." 13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.

Moses died in Moabite and was buried in an unknown valley near Mt. Nebo. Aaron died and was buried at Mt. Hor, near Petra. A question often asked here is whether God is unfair to Moses and Aaron by not allowing them to enter the promised land for a single act of disobedience. Moses was told to speak to the rock, not to strike it.  Looking at the text and context of the text gives us some perspectives. Moses called the people he was leading  “rebels” and said “shall we” bring forth the water, implying that it was the work of Moses and Aaron to provide for the people.  It was not.  Rather, it was the Lord who would provide the life giving water.  The incident may be summarised thus. First, Moses disobeyed a direct command from God. God had commanded Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, Moses struck the rock with his staff. Second, Moses took the credit for bringing forth the water. Notice how in verse 10 Moses said, "Must we [referring to Moses and Aaron] bring you water out of this rock?" Moses took credit for the miracle himself, instead of attributing it to God. Third, Moses did this in front of all the Israelites. Such a public example of direct disobedience could not go unpunished. Moses’ punishment was that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12). Speaking to the rock probably might also symbolize the word of God (as given to Moses), where striking the rock represented Moses’ effort.  The life giving water is the result of God’s word, not man’s effort.

This narrative challenges us that no matter how long in ministry and how experienced we are. there is a need to continually guard our hearts so that we are doing all things in and for His Glory and not ours.

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