Does God punish us today, like when He didn’t allow Moses to enter the Promised Land? That’s a question that came up when we were studying one of the Beatitudes – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. You can maybe see how the question might arise. And how it seems important. After all Moses did to lead God’s people in the Exodus, he didn’t live long enough to set foot in the Promised Land. So what chance do we have?
Before I answer that, let’s back up a bit. Back to the question before the title question. Here’s the part from the class that triggered the first question:
So Moses, who God used to lead His people out from under captivity of Pharaoh, got to see the Promised Land. However, he also never set foot in it. Was that the price he paid for all that stuff we looked at? Not to mention the grumblings, hitting the rock when he wasn’t supposed to, and on and on?
You may also remember that Moses never actually, literally, saw God. [at least not in the Old Testament.]
If we’re punished the same was Moses was, it would be like reaching the end of our lives, and Heaven would be on the other side of that wall in the picture. At least Moses got to see the Promised Land. Although, maybe seeing it and not getting to stay would be even worse than never seeing what we missed?
Why was Moses punished?
We need to look at why Moses was punished. What did he do that was so wrong it kept him from setting foot in the Promised Land? After leading the people for 40 years, what could have been so bad?
Here’s the passage from Numbers.
Nu 20:1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.
Nu 20:2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’S community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 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!”
Nu 20:6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “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.”
Nu 20:9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’S presence, just as he commanded him. 10 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?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
Nu 20:12 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.”
Nu 20:13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.
What’s the big deal? Moses was frustrated with the people. Who wouldn’t be? And God still made the water gush out. How mad could He have been?
What Moses really did – in his heart.
Here’s the big deal. Why God punished Moses the way He did.
God tells Moses that he (Moses) didn’t trust God enough to do it the way God told him to do it. That’s one issue.
Moses does have frustration with the people. That’s been the case throughout the journey. But it comes center stage here. That’s the second issue.
Put those two together. Moses’ lack of trust + his frustration leads him to do it “his way” and not God’s.
Other than verse 12, we have no way to know about the lack of trust. It certainly appears to be only from frustration and anger that Moses strikes the rock twice. He doesn’t speak, as he was told to do. And he even takes it further than what was done the first time, striking the rock twice instead of once. Anger. That’s what we see – probably because that’s what we would have done and felt.
But with verse 12, it goes deeper. God points out something that Moses didn’t seem to acknowledge previously, and something that we probably don’t acknowledge to ourselves. Our frustration when we’re following the Lord can come from a lack of trust. A lack that’s felt so deeply within ourselves that we probably don’t even notice or think about it. We convince ourselves that we have great faith. And yet – is it as great as we think it is?
I did an article about eight years ago titled, The problem of FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. There are times when fear, uncertainty and doubt can grow our faith. But there can also be times when it goes too far. It can cloud our faith. Let’s see what happens then.
When fear, uncertainty and doubt go too far
It’s more than ironic that Moses said:
Ex 14:13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
And yet he failed to stand firm himself.
And as we’re reminded by Paul in the New Testament:
Eph 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Eph 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Ultimately, if we’re not relying on God, there are only two other possibilities. One is we’re relying on Satan – which of course, if we’re truly following Jesus, we aren’t doing that and neither was Moses.
But the other possibility is one we choose all too often. It’s relying on ourselves. That lack of trust in God is what takes us to the point where, whether we realize it or not, we’re relying on the person in the mirror. While not directly relying on Satan, the temptation to think maybe God can’t handle it leads us to do other things. When that happens, we’re doing something because we think we can do it and God can’t. We put ourselves above God when we do that.
It’s a long process to get to. There’s something my wife uses in her field called “playing the movie out”. It’s looking at current situations, conditions, Etc. and playing them out to find the possible conclusions. In doing that, we maybe can alter the conclusion by being aware of more things around us.
When we study the Bible, we can’t alter the past, but if we play out the movie, we can often find out more about what’s going on. Of course, we need to be really careful – don’t put in things that aren’t there. Don’t make conclusions that aren’t supported by Scripture. Through the process we can also learn more about ourselves – where we maybe can change the conclusion if it helps us to stay on the narrow path. Realizing the ”hidden” motivation – like succumbing to temptation that ultimately puts us over God – is just one example.
If we reach the point where we really are thinking and acting like we’re above God – believing we’re above God and acting on that belief – we’re doing the very thing Satan tried to do. The thing that led to his fall.
Isa 14:12 How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
Isa 14:13 You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
Isa 14:14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
Isa 14:15 But you are brought down to the grave,
to the depths of the pit.
Not good stuff, is it? So imagine Moses, who’s supposed to be God’s representative leading the Israelites from slavery, putting himself above God. Not good at all. Actions that kept Moses from stepping foot in the land flowing with milk and honey – the Promised Land.
What Moses really did – in his heart. And yet …
So what was the point of all that while studying Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God? Well, Moses did eventually see God. We know that, because Luke tells us about Peter and some of the other disciples seeing Jesus, Elijah and Moses on a mountain as part of The Transfiguration of Jesus. So Moses did see God, because in spite of all the issues Moses had – God still viewed his heart as pure.
Will God punish us today, like when He didn’t allow Moses to enter the Promised Land?
So that leads us to the title question. Will God punish us like that? When we reach a point where we take things into our own hands because we don’t trust God to do something, will He punish us?
My initial thought about it was:
I think the short answer is yes, no and possibly. Kind of cryptic – it’s about points in time. But there are a few passages I want to look up. Two things to remember though. Moses was Old Covenant – don’t do this and don’t do that. We are New Covenant – do this. The other is that we saw Moses must be in Heaven and so will we as Christians.
I’ll look up the passages, but I believe it’s more about rewards than punishment for us. Should be able to do it tomorrow.
My thinking was:
Yes – there will be a punishment, of sorts, in this life.
No – it will not keep us from seeing our Promised Land, Heaven – as long as we don’t walk away from God. After all, those Christians who truly try to follow Jesus’ teachings are forgiven. The only exception is quenching the Holy Spirit – which would be like repeatedly refusing to follow God’s prompting through the Holy Spirit.
Possibly, in the next life, because there are rewards in Heaven. Something like this might have an impact on them.
Well, when I was praying about this question, I realized my first answer wasn’t exactly correct. The first reason is because the question should be rephrased. It’s not a question of, will God punish us. It’s a question of, as the third item says, will it impact how God rewards us?
Will God punish us today?
Will God punish us today? That depends. Are we Christian? And no, I don’t mean do we claim to be Christian. I mean are we really truly Christian? You know, the ones that are told to go to the right? Not the ones who expect to go to the right, but are instead told to go to the left?
Mt 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Mt 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
Mt 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Mt 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
Mt 25:44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
Mt 25:45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Mt 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
You see, the last verse lets us know the difference between whether we’re punished or rewarded. So, assuming we’re among the sheep sent to the right, no – God won’t punish us.
God won’t punish us, but what about the rewards?
Here’s the problem. So we realize God won’t punish us. However, when we act like Moses, when we don’t do what God says and even when we occasionally put ourselves above Him, will that affect our rewards?
Honestly, there’s just no way for us to know. But I can point to myself, and say that in spite of some of what’s in my past, I feel very blessed and rewarded already. I don’t encourage disobeying God and going against His wishes, but I can say that because of the stuff in my past, I can relate to problems that others are having now because of my past.
And no, I’m not saying the reward I feel in this life is all there is. This article is about questions that came up in a class looking at The Beatitudes. We saw that in every one of the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel, the rewards Jesus spoke of are complete in Heaven. However, we also saw that even in this life, we have the beginnings of those rewards right now. Yes, every one of them. If you haven’t read the series yet, I encourage you to check it out.
Just think about Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God – the one that brought up this topic about punishment and reward. When we realize that God doesn’t expect our hearts to literally be 100% pure, but will view us as having pure hearts, that opens us up to see more of Him now. To reinforce even the first Beatitude – Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. When we begin to let the Holy Spirit guide us, we become part of the Kingdom of Heaven – even now. And then, as we proceed through the Beatitudes, living them out, we experience each of the associated blessings to a greater degree.
That’s not punishment. That’s reward. Rather than wonder if we could have more rewards, we should instead focus on gratitude for the ones we have, and seeking after greater knowledge of God, a closer relationship, and listening to the Holy Spirit. After all, this life is very temporary. And the ultimate reward is in Heaven.
As Jesus said:
6:25-33 pp — Lk 12:22-31
Mt 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
Mt 6:28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Don’t worry about the rewards either. seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
Conclusion – Will God punish us today?
No – God does not punish those who truly seek to follow Him.
That doesn’t mean a pain-free life. One of the other things we read in the Beatitudes series is this passage:
Jn 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jn 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Jn 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”
Notice that the true follower of Jesus, one branch that bears fruit, is pruned. Not to damage or harm it. Rather, so it can bear even more fruit.
It took me a long time to realize this. Reading the passage is one thing. Understanding it is another. It’s only with the help of the Holy Spirit that we can really begin to understand. And realizing it applied to me – that was a whole other thing. I can only pray that you catch on faster. Pain can be a good thing, if we realize it’s for our benefit. Ultimately, it will lead to rewards, even in this life. As I said, one of them is a closer relationship with God that begins right here on earth.
When we die, Heaven is our goal.
And when we get there, what do you think will be on your mind? How many rewards am I getting? Or gratefulness for just being there?
And maybe one or two other things. Mine would be hearing something along the lines of this verse from Mt 25:21: … ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
I think I’d like a hug as well.
How about you? What do you think you’ll be looking for?