Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Stacy Averette

Moses didn’t get to live in or even step foot into the Promised Land. God let him see it from a distance and then he died. I’ve struggled with that story all my life. It just seems so unfair.

If you ask me he should have enjoyed a few years of retirement in the Promised Land after putting up with hundreds of thousands of grumbling, whining, idol-worshipping ingrates for forty years. I think I have some pretty good ideas about how life should go. And then God hits me upside the head with the truth that makes me glad He’s God and I’m not.

Truth #1: I am the grumbling, whining, idol-worshipping ingrate. (Sometimes)

I’d like to think I would joyfully persevere through the wilderness, grateful to be set free. That I’d faithfully follow and worship my Redeemer without hesitation or distraction. Count me among those who quietly trust His powerful right hand to lead me through floodwaters, provide food from heaven when I’m hungry, sweet water when I thirst, and shoes and clothes that never wear out. Let me lay aside my fear and run toward the Mountain of God, to see his face with my own eyes and hear his voice with my own ears. But I am only fooling myself.

These two years have felt like our own Sinai Desert, have they not? I grumble, whine, and doubt as I eat dirt on the dry, dusty road of life. I’m ashamed to admit how forgetful and ungrateful I am in the wilderness. I forget that I am free, that His hand is still powerful to save and provide. I dream of going back to the way it used to be even though the way it used to be made me grumble and whine, too.

He makes and keeps promises and delivers me out of my sin-bondage to bring me into The Promise but His Word dries up in the rocky soil of stubbornness and gets choked by the thorns of pride and self-sufficiency.

He doesn’t need any help in seeing right through me. (John 2:25) He knows me better than anyone. He loves me more than I’ll ever comprehend. And I am compelled again to believe. To be joyful . . .

In this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6–9

Truth #2: I know why Moses didn’t get mad about not entering the Promised Land. (or I’ve got a pretty good idea!)

So you know the story, right? In Exodus 20, there’s no water in the Desert of Zin and the people gather in opposition and protest. In case you’ve forgotten how rotten the Israelites (and us humans) can be, here are their exact words to Moses:

“If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines, or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:3-5)


Moses and Aaron petition the Lord on behalf of this grumbling bunch and God tells them exactly what to do to provide water: speak to the rock and enough water will pour out for the people and their livestock.

They gather the people together and this is what happens. Moses says, and I quote, “Listen, you rebels . . ” before striking the rock in disobedience. I can totally feel his frustration and I promise you I would have called them something way worse than a rebel! I kind of want to laugh at this point in the story if I didn’t know the ending.

“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.” (Numbers 20:12) What in the world? That seems a little drastic, don’t you think, God?

Aaron and Miriam didn’t get to go into the Promised Land either (or even see it from a distance) which in my not-so-humble opinion was what they both deserved. They’d been undermining Moses from day one and then there was the golden calf incident.

But I digress.


There is no record in the scripture that Moses responded to God’s pronouncement against him. Not a word. Nada. He proceeded to faithfully lead this community to the Promised Land. To–not into. Joshua would have that honor.


Eventually, they make it to the plains of Moab and Moses climbs Mount Nebo. He can see the Promised Land in the distance and God reminds again that He “may not go there”. (Deuteronomy 34:4) Moses dies and is buried in the valley soon after.

Here’s why I think Moses didn’t get mad or protest when God told him twice that he wouldn’t get to enter into the Promised Land:

There wasn’t anything in the Promised Land that Moses didn’t have already.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was The Promised Land to Moses. He had been living in an intimate relationship with God since the day he encountered Him at the burning bush.  Moses talked to God face-to-face as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). He had experienced the glory of God on the mountain. He was more than ready to die and meet his God and His friend face-to-face. There was no room in his heart for anger toward a merciful God.

Truth #3: Jesus is our Promised Land

In the dry, barren, wilderness seasons of life, I grumble and complain and pray for a way of escape. Like the Israelites, I look back to “how good things used to be” and wait ever so impatiently for a better day. But I have lost sight of my own Promised Land in the here and now. Jesus Christ, God with us.

I’m looking forward to crossing over into Heaven one day but my journey on this earth and all the trials and tribulations that go with it can be a little sweeter when I realize that God in Christ lives in me. He walks with me, talks to me, and cares for me. There is no dry, barren wilderness, no trial of life, no fear of death that can separate me from Him.

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:28-29

Friend, there is nothing this world has to offer us that is greater than the power of Christ in us!

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