Please note that the underlined words are links to scriptures. Be sure to click on them for additional context.
At this point in the series, I hope that you appreciate the essence of rightly dividing the Word of Truth. My intention has been to bring light to the things that were written for a believer’s learning, specifically the faults in our stars that end up being repeated in christendom.
In a way, our lack of learning has hurt the Church. The recent exodus of people from Christianity is disheartening, but in talking to some exiles, a pattern starts to emerge which surfaces the fact that most of them were never in love with God. They had been held hostage in Christianity through antiquated teachings that revolved around the wrath, anger and punishment of God — the God who sent plagues on the Egyptians, punished the Israelites in the desert for forty years and commanded the slaying of entire populations without remorse. To be fair, if I were seeking for a religious commitment, and ran across someone preaching the aforementioned views, I would reject the invitation to that religion. This is essentially what is happening — people are rejecting God based on the flaws of some heavy hitters in the Old Testament, not knowing that those mistakes were not of God, but of man.
In this episode, we start to close the loop of Moses’ mistakes by examining the issue of the spies documented in Numbers 13. By examining the scriptures, we shall see how Moses’ proclivity to please man prevented the Israelites from inheriting God’s promises, and how this one mistake practically ensured that even he, the progenitor of the Old Covenant could not make it into the promised land. This follows from the previous episode, where we discussed how he vailed the Jews from seeing Jesus.
The Craftiness of Moses
There are scriptures in the Bible that are better studied “backwards”. 2 Corinthians 4:1–2–3:7 is one of them. Recall that the previous episode dwelt on 2 Corinthians 3:7ff, which provides the contextual backdrop for 2 Corinthians 4:1–2. If you remove the chapters and the verses, chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians is a continuous thought of chapter 3. Given that the main thrust of chapter 3 is Moses and his ministry of condemnation, in Chapter 4, Paul continues to unmask Moses as a cunning and crafty minister who beguiled the Israelites, failed to manifest the truth and ended up blinding them. If we take it that Moses is the subject of 2 Corinthians 3, then the following verse is about him:
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.2 Corinthians 4:1–2
There are about three instances in the Bible where the words cunning and crafty are used in reference to someone — this particular one, the warning about false teachers in the book of Ephesians and when the serpent beguiled Eve in Genesis. For Paul to use the same language towards a purportedly great man in the Old Testament is revealing, and should force the reader to pause and reconsider Moses’ integrity. You may not agree with what I am positing, or you might think I am on a mission to whitewash the Bible by blaming Moses for the violence in Bible in order to make God look good, however, you still need to explain 2 Corinthians 3:7–4:2? Either you ignore it by invoking some contextual contraptions or you will be forced to contend with what it’s saying.
As Paul teaches, the ministry of the New Testament believer is founded on the mercy we have received from God, which divorces it from the the curse and wrath of the cruel, the foundational framework of the Old Testament. People who fail to grasp this mercy are lost, and because they are lost, the Gospel is hidden from them:
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.2 Corinthians 4:3
It is possible for the Gospel to be hidden from someone or a group of people — as it is certainly hid from a great number of Jews, not of their own volition but because of the Vail, which can only be removed when they turn to Christ. With the Vail removed, they begin to understand the promise that Moses hid from them. Let’s explore the events that led to Moses’ catastrophic mistake.
Be wary of that which pleases you
The promise God made to the Israelites was that He would free them from the bondage of Egypt, usher them to the Promised Land to freely serve Him. However, that promise was initially delayed by forty years when Moses fled to the desert after murdering the Egyptian, and then for another forty years because they sent spies to scout the Promised Land, who came back with a bad report that disheartened them from proceeding to possess their possessions.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.Numbers 13:1–2
This account gives the impression that God explicitly asked Moses to send spies to stake out the Promised Land, and since it comes before the account in Deuteronomy, it is the one most Christians are familiar with. And you would be forgiven if that is all you read and subsequently concluded thus. However, to rightly understand what transpired, it is important to study the scriptures, specifically the first chapter of Deuteronomy. In it, Moses gives an account of the events that led to the Israelites abandoning their procession towards the Promised Land:
And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God doth give unto us. Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.Deuteronomy 1:20–21
It is not clear why the two accounts are dramatically different, especially given that they were written by the same man. At this point in their journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites had arrived at Kadesh-Barnea, and were poised to enter the Promised Land. They had thus far adhered to the commandment of God, and the next task was to go up and possess it.
For every believer, it is imperative to grasp the notion that God has already preordained and laid out all that is necessary or desired. Through the power of the Cross, each believer has been bestowed with the entirety of what is needed for a life of piety and excellence, a direct consequence of the Abba Father’s blessings, consisting of all the spiritual blessings found in heavenly realms, mediated through Christ Jesus. However, for these promises to manifest in the temporal realm, it is the responsibility of the believer to take hold of them. God will not acquire these promises on behalf of the faithful. It is essential to acknowledge that God has triumphed over all our adversaries, including poverty, disease, famine, ignorance, violence, infertility, sin, satanic forces, discouragement, and cancer — but the onus falls upon the believer to take hold of these blessings.
Note that the latter part of Deuteronomy 1:21 encourages them not to fear, nor be discouraged. The astute among you will recall that this is the same encouragement God gave to Joshua after the forty year sojourn in the desert, when he was appointed to lead them into the Promised Land. Fear and discouragement are the primary devices that satan employs to prevent believers from possessing the blessings that the Lord has provided. Lest we forget, God prepares for us a table in the presence of our enemies — however, He will not force you to eat the bread on the table. If He forced you, you will forget your saviour and how much it cost to secure your soul, since the sacrament of breaking bread is made in remembrance of the Cross.
So what was the response of the Israelites to this promise? Did they march forwards into the promised land and possess it? No, their response is not dissimilar to what many Christians do:
And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, we will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.Deuteronomy 1:22
Upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the initiative to send spies into the land of Canaan originated from the hearts of individuals lacking in fortitude, who were fearful of entrusting their faith in the Lord. While on the surface, their request may have seemed reasonable. They could have reasoned that since they were travelling with children, women, animals, and other possessions, it was prudent to search for the most expedient route to the Promised Land, perhaps to avoid mountainous terrain, swamps, or any other obstacles that may have complicated their journey into Canaan. However, it is apparent that their underlying motivations were not rooted in practical considerations, but rather in a lack of faith and a tendency towards apprehension.
Perhaps if the technology of GPS was functioning then, this unbelief could have been averted, but alas, that technology didn’t exist. Or did it? Recall that they were led by a cloud by day, and a fire by night — their GPS was synced to the time of the earth, with a dark mode theme coming on at night. The problem is their carnal thinking, and a carnal minded man cannot inherit the things of God. To ask those questions is to presume that God has not thought of them — it is to infer that God would lead someone to an inheritance fraught with danger, forgetting that every good and perfect gift comes from Abba Father, who knows the plans He has for us, not to harm us, but to bring us to an expected end. The correct response was to give thanks and march forward, which is essentially what they did forty years later when Joshua led them in praise for seven days, proceeding to march over the dead bodies of their enemies into the Promised Land.
The rejoinder would be that the request came from the Israelites, and Moses is innocent in all this? He is not since he records it as a commandment from God in Numbers 13, which is not true since he acquiesced to the request of worried men in his own camp:
And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe.Deuteronomy 1:23
How many times have we heard men say God has told me? As a minister, I have encountered various people in different walks of life who start discussions with I heard the voice of the Lord, then proceed to speak something contrary to the Word. I have also listened to ministers claim that God sent me to this and that person with a word, and yet the content of said word contradicts the New Covenant we have in Christ. As the Bible warns, we should beware of dogs, they tend to bark without cause.
There is a way that is pleasing to man but the end thereof is death. What pleased Moses caused untold destruction in its aftermath. This seemingly simple pragmatic action that appeared wise in Moses’ conceits led to the death of all the men, except Joshua and Caleb, that had accompanied him from Egypt, including him and Aaron, and added a forty year sojourn in the desert.
The metaphor of a shepherd is one that is frequently employed in the Bible. The reason for this is that sheep are known for their tendency to follow rather than lead. In most cases, they require the guidance and protection of a shepherd to lead them to their intended destination. Conversely, wolves are known to be independent and self-sufficient hunters who possess the ability to locate their destination without assistance.
The metaphor of a shepherd is not intended to suggest that human beings are completely helpless, like sheep. Rather, it is used to highlight the need for guidance and protection. Just as a shepherd protects and guides his flock, so too does God appoint leaders to watch over and guide His people. It is a way of illustrating the relationship between a loving, caring God and His people, who are in need of His protection and guidance.
Furthermore, the metaphor of a shepherd is significant because it underscores the importance of trust and obedience. Sheep trust their shepherd to lead them to safety and provide for their needs. Similarly, believers are called upon to trust and obey God, knowing that He has their best interests at heart and will guide them to their intended destination. Ultimately, the metaphor of a shepherd is a reminder that we are all in need of guidance and protection, and that God is the ultimate shepherd who lovingly cares for and leads His flock.
As a minister of Christ, it is imperative to know that a lot rides on you. Moses Mukisa, the Lead Pastor of Worship Harvest Ministries, emphasizes that ministers not only need to do what is right, they ought to give the appearance of doing what is right. Moses ought to have stuck to what God had asked him to do, which was to proceed to the Promised Land. Having led the Israelites, he was aware of their fickle faith, and should not have given them another cause to doubt. The shepherd’s primary goal is to lead the sheep to a resting place where they can reap the promises of the Lord:
My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.Jeremiah 50:6
Anything less than trusting the Lord and empathetically revealing His Will leads to unrest and causes the congregants to murmur and scatter to mountains where they encounter all manner of mysteries and confusion. This explains the reactions of Moses and Aaron to the unbelief of the Israelites:
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.Numbers 14:5
Moses and Aaron realized the gravity of their mistake and what part they had played in it. Had Moses obeyed God and asked the Israelites to proceed to possess the land, the story would have ended differently. But because he wanted to please both God and man, he ended up pleasing none. It is interesting that in documenting this sin, Moses does not see the part he played in it, he documents it as a rebellion of the Israelites against God:
Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God: And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the Lord hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.Deuteronomy 1:26–27
It is Moses who exposed them to the doubt that birthed a rebellion. It is true that they murmured, but that is because he failed to emphasize what the Lord told him, which was to edify the Israelites not to fear or be discouraged. Au contraire, he acquiesces to their doubt, and sends spies who came back and sowed fear and doubt in the camp, leading to discouragement and the eventual abandonment of the procession to the Promised Land. The consequence of Moses’ action was that even He would not make it into the Promised Land. It was not for lacking of trying, he later bargained with God to be let into the Promised Land, and the Lord had literally had enough of carnal thinking.
I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon. But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the Lord said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.Deuteronomy 3:25-27 (NKJV)
The Lord’s mercy and patience knows no bounds, thus when the Lord exclaims enough of that!, it indeed is enough. At this point, the promises of the Lord were eighty years in arrears, and Moses was still insisting to lead yet he was responsible for pegging back the fulfillment of the promises of God. It is one thing to forgive Moses, which God did, and it is another to let Moses run interference against the will of God. It is the reason why he had to be removed from the picture, so that they would finally make it into the Promised Land.
As ministers, we ought to be cognizant of the influence we have over those that we lead, and we should graciously lead, knowing that we can be taken in a fault that can hinder the fulfillment of the promises of God in those we are leading. Our focus should be firmly on the Lord, and the Word should be our guide. If anything contradicts that, we should stick to the Word, however pleasing the contradiction might be.
In the next episode, we shall explore the genesis of the Gospel, and see that not only was Jesus crucified before the foundation of the world, the Gospel has been the only consistent message preached throughout the ages, even to the Israelites when the Law was given.