The Mistakes Of Moses

by Keith Macnaughtan

Many years ago an infidel lecturer delivered a series of addresses on THE MISTAKES OF MOSES. No doubt what he said would have been very interesting, specially in view of the fact that today so much more light has been cast on the sacred Scriptures by the discoveries of archaeology. These have exploded again and again the cherished arguments of infidelity and agnosticism.

Moses made no mistakes in his ministry of the giving of the Law to the people of Israel. Indeed, if there is one thing more interesting than hearing that unbelieving lecturer speaking on the mistakes of Moses, it would be to hear Moses speak on the mistakes of the infidel!

No Mistake in The Law Moses Gave

Moses as the Law-giver, the great go-between who spoke for God, made no mistakes. Yet, because he was only a man with all human fallibility, he did, indeed, show human weaknesses. Of these the Bible speaks with all frankness, as, indeed, it does with the errors of all its greatest men.

"Don't Ask Me to Do This!"

Moses made his first mistake when God called him to return to Egypt to deliver His people Israel. "Come now, therefore, and I will send you unto Pharaoh, that you may bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt."

Forty years before, Moses had thought to attempt this very thing (Exodus 2:12-15). But, now that God had called him, he demurred, hesitated and tried to excuse himself! Amazing as it seems, he raised no fewer than five objections to God's call. He protested first: "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?"

The Lord quietly and kindly answered that objection.

But Moses said: "When I am come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them: 'The God of your fathers has sent me unto you' and they shall say unto me 'What is his name?' what shall I say unto them?"

God then revealed His great Name to Moses: "I AM THAT I AM . . . Thus shall you say unto the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me unto you'."

But Moses said: "They will not beieve me" . God then gave him power to work a miracle. His rod became a serpent until he took it by the tail, when it changed back into a rod again. He put his hand into his bosom and it became leprous, but when he put it back again, the leprosy disappeared.

In spite of these things, Moses still objected, pleading first his lack of eloquence. But God said: "Who has made man's mouth? . . . Now therefore go and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak."

Moses now said, in effect, "Send someone else; I don't want to go". "And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses." He who should have raised not even one objection when God called him to go to Pharaoh now came close to saying "I won't" to Almighty God!

Oh, what a sad mistake! Yet God would not allow His will to be over-ridden; Aaron, Moses' brother, would speak to the people for Moses; " . . . and he shall be your spokesman unto the people . . . he shall be to you instead of a mouth, and you shall be to him in God's stead."

A Forgetful Mistake

Moses' second mistake followed soon after. He sought and obtained permission from his father-in-law Jethro to "return unto my brethren that are in Egypt and see whether they are yet alive." So, seating his wife and sons on an ass, he set out again for Egypt.

But God, Who had called him to go, now met him and sought to slay him! How could this be? Moses had been neglectful of the very foundation sign of Israel's covenant relation to Jehovah. As he was about to deliver Israel he must circumcise his son, because without this sign an Israelite was cut off from the covenant.

God's seeking to slay him was an abrupt and unmistakable indication that Moses' neglect stood in the way of his fulfilling his God-given task.

The First Attempt – More Trouble for Israel

At last Moses stood before Pharaoh. Previously he and Aaron had spoken to the elders of Israel and had shown them the signs. The people believed, no doubt supposing that they would be immediately delivered from their bondage.

But now, when Pharaoh was confronted by Moses and Aaron, he was unmoved. Rather, he heartlessly increased the severity of the bondage under which Israel suffered. Moses, mistakenly again, complained to the Lord: "Lord, why have You dealt ill with this people? Why is it that You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your Name, he has dealt ill with this people, neither have You delivered Your people at all."

And when he again spoke to the people. " . . . they hearkened not unto Moses for impatience of spirit and for cruel bondage." Poor Moses! Yet he had to learn of patience, as do we.

After this the contest with Pharaoh really began. Nor did it finish until the armies of Egypt were engulfed by the Red Sea and Israel began its journey toward the Land of Promise.

A Sad and Serious Mistake

But Moses made still one further mistake of which the Scriptures tell us. This mistake was so serious that it cost him the privilege of taking the people over Jordan into the good land God had promised them.

We read that earlier (Exodus 17) as the people journeyed and there was no water, Moses, instructed by God to do so, stood on a rock in Horeb and smote it with his rod. An abundance of water flowed from the rock to supply the needs of that great multitude.

So again, years later (Numbers 20:10,11), a similar state of affairs prevailed. Once again there was no water. Once again the people complained. Once again God instructed Moses to take his rod. Now, however, he was but to speak to the rock and water would flow from it.

But we read: "And Moses . . . said unto them: 'Hear now, you rebels; are we to bring forth water out of this rock?' And Moses lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly . . . "

Oh, what a tragic mistake Moses made! Not only did he exalt himself: "Are WE to bring you forth water out of this rock?" but he called the people "you rebels" . And, alas, he marred so sadly the type of the water flowing from the smitten rock.

For Israel's Messiah, who was pre-figured by the rock, was to be smitten but once for our offences. " . . . all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Messiah." (I Corinthians 10:1-4)

The beautiful type of Messiah's death was utterly marred by Moses' act in smiting the rock twice. "And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron, 'Because you believed Me not, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.'"

Never could he forget what that one mistake cost him, for at a later stage, when he took his farewell of the people, he sadly alluded to the incident. " . . . also the Lord has said unto me 'You shall not go over this Jordan.'" (Deuteronomy 31:2)

God did indeed permit him to view the Land, yet forbade him to enter it. "And the Lord spoke unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, 'Get you up into this mountain Abiram, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: and die in the mount . . . because you trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh . . . because you sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. Yet you shall see the land before; but you shall not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel." (Deuteronomy 32:48-52)

Did God deal too harshly with Moses over this one fault? We must remember unto whom much is given, of him shall the more be required. No man had received more honour than Moses; his 'mistake' therefore was the more serious because of his special relationship with the Lord.

Moses, a man liable to faults and failures as any man, provides an example for us that we might not fall into the same ways that bring on us the punishment that inevitably follows. Only One was ever "separate from sinners" though he was 'tempted in all points like we are" . His name is Yeshua HaMashiach.