What happened to… Moses?

This is a part of a quirky “what happened to…” series

  1. What happened to Josiah?
  2. What happened to Goliath’s kids?
  3. What happened to Zacchaeus?
  4. What happened to Moses?
  5. What happened to the Sons of Sceva?
  6. What happened to Peter?
  7. What happened to Jehu?

And now for the main attraction…

Moses was walking with God and he was very faithful to the people. And yet… God did decide to remove Moses from the scene when he (Moses) was 120 years young and still strong and full of energy. Take a look:

and die on the mountain which you ascend – Deut 32:50

God decided Moses must die, after walking 40 years, after trusting God all that time… and yet it was before entering into the promised land. Why? Have you ever wondered what happened to cause this?

The answer will either cause you to fear God as a performance driven autocrat who snaps for small infractions, or help you to understand God’s heart for us and His mission to be with His people.

Exploring the reason

So… which one is it? Well… first, what does God say the reason is?

Because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah-kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin

and because you did not set Me apart as holy in the midst of the Israelites. – Deut 32:51

This is interesting to me. Many people seem to teach that God is performance driven – even though we hope He isn’t… because we’re all so limited and messed up!

That kind of performance teaching says the reason Moses had to go was because he hit a rock instead of speaking to it. God said:

Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to give forth its water – Numbers 20:8

And Moses lifted up his hand and with his rod he smote the rock twiceNumbers 20:11

The teaching goes that Moses was meant to TELL to the rock and he HIT it twice. For those teachers, this is supposedly a big mistake – but big enough to die for? I mean come on.

Besides being illogical and petty, that way of interpreting the scriptures ignores v9 where it says that Moses took the rod as God commanded:

So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as He commanded himNumbers 20:9

The bible says He did what God commanded. Hmmm… so that’s not it. Hitting the rock could not be the reason.

Phew! I’m very very likely to do far more than hit rocks when I shouldn’t have. I’m human! I’m fallen. I’m stupid. I’m absolutely GOING to make mistakes. Definitely. Plan on it. We all will. Only robots don’t make mistakes. Read the bible to see God using a bunch of humans who do all the wrong things all the time.

Who was Moses?

Right away we see that he is highly favored. There has never been one like Moses…

And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to faceDeut. 34:10

With him I speak mouth to mouth [directly], clearly and not in dark speeches;

and he beholds the form of the Lord…. – Num 12:8

And He (God!) buried him in the valley of the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor, but no man knows where his tomb is to this day. – Deut 34:6

That’s pretty favored! God let Moses see the promised land, God even buried Moses… that doesn’t sound like Moses had fallen from grace at all. Do you agree? Then what could the reason be? What happened?

So why did God take Moses out so suddenly?

Ok, back to the question… which one is it? Is God a performance-based God? Must we all DO and ACHIEVE perfectly? OR ELSE!! Does He stare down from Heaven and watch for the slightest mistake?

Or is there another reason. Something more in line with the character of Jesus, something more compassionate and loving? Something that is all of those things, but still serious enough that Moses had to be removed.

Let’s go back to what God said the reason is – but this time emphasize a different part of His words and see if that makes more sense…

Because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah-kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin

and because you did not set Me apart as holy in the midst of the Israelites. – Deut 32:51

Ok… so if we look at it this way, then Moses did something in the midst of the Israelites that caused the problem for God. It’s something to do with God and the Israelites, something that had it happened outside of the midst (the presence, the view) of the Israelites, it would have been ok… but it happened where they could see or hear it, so it’s a big problem now.

What did Moses do in the midst of the Israelites?

Let’s look again at Moses’ words:

And Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation before the rock and Moses said to them, Hear now, you rebels; must we bring you water out of this rock? – Num 20:10

Did you see it? Can you see how Moses did something that could be a problem for God and His Israelite people?

Who did Moses say would bring water from the rock? He said that he and Aaron would do it. Wow. That would have a disastrous impact on the people, because they would try and follow Moses. Remember, they already tried to get Aaron to make new gods:

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. – Exodus 32:1

So they are prone to getting distracted from God. Now if they listen to what Moses said, do you not think it is reasonable that they will decide that he (Moses) is the one doing the wonders and not God? This is not a small problem! His one poor choice of words is in fact a huge problem.

A bit of fun to illustrate

Ok, let me do something a bit fun. I’ll create a hypothetical conversation between God and Moses to show you what I think happened.

Moses (to the people): Hear now, you rebels; must we bring you water out of this rock?

(time passes)

God (to Moses that evening in the tent of meeting): You have to go Moses.
Moses (to God): What did I do Lord?
God: You said YOU’D bring water from the rock. You said “shall WE” bring water.
Oh. Did I? I didn’t mean to. I’m truly sorry Lord God. Can I tell them tomorrow that I said the wrong thing and it offended You Lord. I truly don’t want to offend You Lord.
God: It’s not a major problem for Me Moses, I can forgive, but the people will now divide into two groups, the ones who follow and trust Me and the ones who heard you say that you’re the one who is providing for them.
Mose: Oh! Yes! That is a big mistake. They are already so prone to replacing You by building golden calfs as gods. In fact, this is a disaster!!
God: Yes it is.
Moses: I’m so sorry Lord! What can You do to fix this, they absolutely must have their trust in You Lord God!
God: I’ll have to be seen to take you out. They need to know I’m mightier than you, that I’m in charge, I’m the provider.
Moses: Oh. I see… yes… I guess so. When does this happen Lord?
God: You have to go right away. They cannot be confused about Me. I will have to hide your burial place too, otherwise some of them will come and worship you as the one who was able to provide water for them. They cannot be confused about this at all, I’m trying to make this stiff-necked people into a mighty nation. If they deviate from Me, there will be still more trouble. It can’t happen.
Moses: Yeah. I guess. But?! No… of course… You’re right Lord. Aaargh… just one wrong word! All that walking in the hot desert! 40 years!! And I don’t get to go in! I just can’t believe it!
God: It’s not for nothing Moses, you’ve done a tremendous service to the people and to Me – I will honor you greatly, no one will ever be like you again. Thousands of years from now they’ll be blogging about you. In fact I plan to use you again in a few thousand years time. Of all my servants, only two will get this honor – and you’re one of them. Peace be to you Moses!
Moses: (Sighs) Thanks Lord God. (Sighs) Any chance I can at least have a look at the milk and honey land they are going into? I’d also like to give them a blessing and prophesy to them about their future. They really need some stern warnings and guidance, I’m really worried about these people!
God: Yes. That’s fine Moses. We need to announce this right away, they have already begun to talk and argue amongst themselves.

PLEASE NOTE: In writing this, I have tried to maintain a sense of respect from Moses to God, while showing Moses natural emotions as he realized the implications of what he had said.

What future event?

The future event at which Moses would be used was (in my fictitious story) is the transfiguration of Jesus…

And as He was praying, the appearance of His countenance became altered (different), and His raiment became dazzling white [flashing with the brilliance of lightning]. And behold, two men were conversing with Him–Moses and ElijahLuke 9:29-30

Only two people got to attend that, Moses and Elijah. Just think about why He chose them?!


When I first heard the performance teaching that God is a hard task-master and that He could unexpectedly snap if you hit a rock, I was shocked. Could God really be so hard? So petty? Am I in daily danger of Him snapping? Really? Jesus wasn’t like that at all.

I’m not willing to accept any teaching that causes God to be mean, nasty or petty. As I investigate I always find a human tragedy, some human limitation that caused the change in His behaviour.

My God is generous, willing, able and tolerant for many generations… before giving warnings… and then… finally… taking action to discipline. He doesn’t snap over tiny things like hitting a rock. Not my Father in Heaven. Not yours either.
I prayed about this, asking Him to show me the truth and His heart – and I found this interpretation that is so obvious and yet not. To see this, we first have to taste and see that His character is good.

So I draw a few conclusions from all of this:

  • God knows we’re humans and we make mistakes – everyone He ever worked with did worse things
  • Some mistakes have small implications
  • Some mistakes can be apologized for to Him
  • Some mistakes are big and can’t be undone because they distract people from God and from His leadership
  • But even if you make one of the big mistakes that affect the relationship with God and His people, He is still loving, still caring and still merciful

So we can rest easy, as David wrote:

For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust. – Psalm 103:14

He knows what you’re able to do. He knows what you can’t do. He loves you (and uses you) as you are.

I am so very thankful that He looks on our heart. What was on Moses heart? Moses was trying to serve God, doing as he was commanded… he just made a mistake… unfortunately a very crucial one that could not be undone.

He knows our frame. Relax and rest. Trust Him. Grow into love for Him. Honor Him with how you live your life, your choices.

the Lord is with you while you are with Him.

If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you … – 2 Chron 15:2

God is a good God and there is no other.


14 responses to “What happened to… Moses?

  1. thanks mark, looking and putting emphasis on another part, “in the sight of israel”. helped me. one observation, i have heard other teachers also say that moses messed up gods picture of salvation. jesus is the rock, god had moses strike the rock already once. jesus was crucified once for all ,moses striking the rock again meant that there could be more than one salvation plan.

  2. This is to Tom. I sense a lot of anger coming from you and yet you do not know what you are talking about. Why do you even log on to sites such as these if you clearly do not believe. I pray God reaches you before you realise all those ‘Jesus freaks’ were

  3. Thank you for clarifying that. I was trying to figure out why God was mad at Moses and I could not figure it out. It’s the little things that matter to God. It may not seem like a big deal to us what Moses did, but it did to God. Thank you.

  4. And there is the thing of unbelief. Tom does not want to, can not accept the possibility of Mark’s interpretation. He is alltogether willfully blind to anything but his own interpretation of cruelty he ascribes to The Lord that he might seek to hold up some case against The Lord. Tom magnifies the deeds of a man in busting “his tail for God and ‘his people'”, and heaps scorn upon The Lord who it was that delivered them in the first place.

    What can we say to him? How can seed grow upon a heart of stone? Hearing such persons whose eyes are held shut, whose ears are folded closed, whose hearts are stone is a thing of great sorrow. In that they refuse to see, or refuse to hear, what can one do but pray that the spirit give them a new heart?

    Please pray for Tom.

  5. Your article is bs. Moses busted his tail for God and ‘his people’. His leadership was impeccable and you’re spliting symantic hairs to try and find some sort of fault with Moses to make God look good. We want…no…need to see God as good, compassionate etc because to see him as he is…unfair, petty, in control but not willing to help, largely dispassionate toward the suffering of people who try to make noble efforts of integrity in this horrible world scares the heck out of us. God (if there is one…maybe that’s another thing we do…we construct him because we really want to believe someone really powerful exists that actually cares about us personally). This is a myth. God does not care about honor. does not care if we have integrity or not…we end up with the same consequences anyway. he makes no effort to honor right decision making. We suffer because that’s what life is. If there is a God and this story is true then I want nothing to do with a god that treats one of his servants like he did with Moses. If I, “being evil” know how to give ‘good gifts’ and be fair then what the heck is up with God ??? I would not have treated Moses this way. God screwed him over

  6. I think the reaso God was upset with moses is not just for the incident but the incident had set a very bad condition. First hit is like the 1st adam God lost in the Garden of Eden. THe second hit gave the condition to strike at Jesus when he came as the second adam. So God knew will if Jesus was killed the providence had to wait for many years for the final perfection of Humankind and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. So it was a mistake considering this tremendous situation that it gave a condition for his son to suffer and God had to wittness all this. Consequently Moses lost the priviledge of entering the promiss land.

  7. Hello Mark,

    During my research to write a paper for class on “Moses Look Back and I can across your material on Moses.

    I just read your material on “What happen to Moses” and it was great. I have never read or heard anyone tell it like you and your hypothetical was excellent I agree with Diana.

    Thanks you for allow us to understand that we are “human” and God knows we will make mistakes.

    I love God so very much and he allow me to understand him more through his children like you Mark. Thanks you again and God Bless you.

  8. I have a great prayer for today, that I’ve never prayed before. God knows what I can do, he knows what I can’t do. Lord I pray that you use me for my strengths, and forgive me for my weaknesses. Amen

    Thank you for your input and comments

  9. Mark, that is written EXCELLENTLY! It justifies and glorifies God more than anything I’ve ever read on this topic before.
    Incidentally, Exodus 17.6 says:
    Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.
    So it’s very clear that the flaw of Moses lay in not honouring God, as you’ve pointed out even from the Numbers text.

    I LOVED the hypothetical conversation between God and Moses! lol


  10. Pingback: What happened to… Peter « My life as a Christian·

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