Why Was Moses Not Allowed to Enter the Promised Land?

Moses was the man God called to be the deliverer of Israel but was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. But why not? The story gives us some lessons about following God properly.

Contributing Writer
Updated Jul 06, 2023
Why Was Moses Not Allowed to Enter the Promised Land?

It almost seems unfair. Moses was the man God called to be the deliverer of Israel. He confronted Pharoah and successfully led the Israelites out of Egypt. He led a group of stubborn, rebellious Israelites through the wilderness for forty years. All the while dealing with their constant complaining and grumbling. On top of that, they often doubted God and fantasized about returning to Egypt.

After enduring all this and leading them to the doorstep of the land God had promised them, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. I understand why the older generation did not go in. But Moses?

Why was Moses not allowed to enter the Promised Land? As we turn to the book of Numbers, we will see why and find some lessons we can learn from Moses’ encounter with God.

Why Was Moses Not Allowed to Enter the Promised Land?

The incident that preceded Moses not being allowed to enter the Promised Land occurred in Numbers 20. Here is a summary of what happened.

In this chapter, the Israelite community arrives at the Desert of Zin, and after a while, they face a dire situation: no water is available for the community. Their frustration and anger towards Moses and Aaron build up in typical Israelite fashion. As they have done before, they quickly descend into grumbling and complaining mode. They return to their usual refrain: “Why did you bring us to this barren wilderness where there is no water to drink?”

In response, Moses and Aaron sought guidance and intervention before the Lord. It is during this time God gives Moses a very specific instruction.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘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.’” (Numbers 20:7-8)

It is important to note what comes next, the story’s critical moment.

“So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 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?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” (Numbers 20:9-11)

God told Moses to speak to the rock, and Moses struck the rock twice. Based on Moses’ actions, his frustration with these people had reached a boiling point. He had enough. Because of Moses’ disobedience and lack of trust in God, the Lord told him, “You would not lead these people into the promised land.”

The practical reason Moses was not allowed into the Promised Land was his disobedience. However, there was also a deeper symbolism to his actions, of which he was completely unaware. That symbolism would remain hidden for another 1300 years, but once revealed, it helps you understand why God made this decision.

The Importance of the Rock

The reason Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land all had to do with what the rock symbolizes. The rock Moses struck is a type of Christ, something that foreshadows or prophecies His coming. Types of Christ can range from Old Testament people fulfilling Christlike roles to Old Testament objects that communicate attributes that Christ would fulfill. What the type communicated would not become clear until Jesus appeared.

The apostle Paul spells out how this rock foreshadowed Christ in his first letter to the Corinthians.

“They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:3-4)

Let’s put the pieces together. The first rock Moses struck, in Exodus 17, was the first time the Israelites were in a place without water; as you would expect, they complained. God instructed Moses, in this case, to strike the rock, and water flowed when he did. So how does this tie into Jesus? When you understand the rock is a type of Christ, Jesus was struck one time and sacrificed once for all of our salvation.

“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)

Once Jesus was offered as our sacrifice for sin, the rock (Christ) was struck. After he was crucified, there was no need for the rock (Christ) ever to be struck again.

Moses did not know when he struck the second rock in Numbers that the action would be akin to crucifying Christ multiple times. Later generations of Hebrew and Gentile believers would understand the significance. What he did know was that God had commanded him to do one thing, and he did something else.

4 Lessons from Moses Not Entering the Promised Land

Let’s consider that Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land and what lessons we can learn from the story.

1. Partial obedience is not obedience.

We see in the story that Moses took the staff from God’s presence as instructed. Kudos to Moses in that regard. However, that was only partial obedience. He did not follow through. In fact, you can see his frustration with these Israelites because he called them rebels. His anger led him to only partially obey what God commanded. As we can see, partial obedience is no obedience at all.

2. Actions determine whether you trust God or not.

There is an old saying that actions speak louder than words. This is true for Moses and all of us. It is one thing to say you trust God, but just saying it does not make it true. You must back it up with your actions because your faith in God goes beyond just your words. Your faith in God takes what you believe and proves you trust it by the things you do. At this moment, Moses showed he did not believe God could bring water from the rock unless he struck the rock. His action proved he lacked trust.

3. Some decisions come with irreversible consequences.

The challenging part of life is that some decisions have consequences that cannot be changed. God has promised to forgive us when we sin. He never promised always to remove our sins; consequences. There will be times when you cannot escape the results of your choices. This does not mean you cannot find forgiveness because God is faithful to forgive. Moses did not enter the Promised Land, which resulted from his decision, but he still maintained his relationship with God. If you have sinned, your relationship with God is not over. There is forgiveness for you, but there may also be consequences.

4. God provided despite Moses’ disobedience.

This story is also one where we see the mercy of God and how he loved the Israelites. Even though Moses disobeyed, God still provided water because they were thirsty. You must always remember God’s faithfulness to you is not based on your faithfulness to him. If that was the requirement, we would never experience his faithfulness. God remains faithful to you because that is who he is. He has promised never to leave or forsake you, which will always be true, even when you have moments of disobedience.

When you consider this story of Moses in Numbers 20, I am reminded of why it is so important to finish well. While Moses got to see the Promised Land, he never stepped foot in it. Sometimes the choices we make have consequences that cannot be reversed. For this reason, you must be mindful of your decisions, even when you are frustrated or angry. Saying the wrong thing or making the wrong decision can change your life, so learn from Moses and choose wisely. You don’t know what is waiting for you on the other side of a wrong choice.

Jonathan Olsen provides another perspective on Moses being refused entry into the Promised Land in the interview below:

Christianity.com: Why was Moses kept from the Promised Land? - Jonathan Olsen from christianitydotcom2 on GodTube.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/FCerez

Clarence Haynes 1200x1200Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com

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