Some things cannot go back to the way they used to be. Standing on the other side of Jordan, literally in sight of the Promised Land, Moses recapped his people’s wilderness wanderings and in Deuteronomy 3:23-29 he gets personal as he recounts consequences of his disobedience.
Not a new story
Israel was once again in a place where there was no water. As usual, they complained. As usual, Moses and Aaron turned to God. In response, God told them to get water from a rock. God had answered this way before, only the last time, He had instructed Moses to strike the rock. For this second time, God wanted Moses to speak to the rock. The first miracle of water from the rock symbolized Jesus being smitten for our transgressions. The second miracle of water from the rock was supposed to symbolize our free access to God because of the sacrifice of Christ.
In his anger over Israel’s complaining, instead of speaking to the rock, Moses struck it. In His mercy, God still provided the water as He had before, but there were dire consequences for Moses and Aaron. Both of them knew and understood God’s instructions but disobeyed. Because of their disobedience, both were denied entry into the Promised Land.
Old hurts can still feel raw
When Moses gave this speech, Aaron had already passed away and Moses knew, this close to the Promised Land, that his days were soon at an end. So, he shares with his people a conversation he had with God:
(23) And I besought the LORD at that time, saying,
(24) O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?
(25) I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.
(26) But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.
(27) Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
(28) But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.
(29) So we abode in the valley over against Bethpeor.
Some harsh realities just have to be accepted
Moses was remorseful and repentant over his sin and like any of the rest of us, he pleaded with God to override his sentence. He asked for mercy and permission to enter the Promised Land. God denied his request: “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.” Instead, God instructed Moses to go up to Mount Pisgah and observe the land. I can only imagine Moses’ heartache. After so many years of leading his people and telling them of the land flowing with milk and honey, he could not go in himself; he could only see the land. To his credit, he did not go back and plead with God again. He accepted God’s new normal.
We can still honor God in our new reality
Praise God that His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and that His mercy restores us to fellowship with Him! That does not mean, however, that everything can go back to the way they were or were meant to be. Sin leaves scars. Our rebellious ways can burn bridges between ourselves and loved ones, and between ourselves and opportunities. Some of those bridges can be rebuilt. Some cannot. Even with the bridges that we can rebuild, there’s time lost in the rebuilding that you cannot get back. It is the consequence of sin. Either we can wallow in what could have been, or we can learn from it and rejoice in what God is pleased to bless us with in its place. Moses could not enter the Promised Land, but he did get to see it and he got to influence the generation that would enter that land. He accepted God’s new normal for him and Scripture still remembers him as a great hero of the faith.
Perhaps you’re looking back on your past and seeing some of the failures: the lost opportunities, the broken relationships that just don’t seem to heal. It hurts. Some of that hurt will never go away (in this life), and you can spend the rest of your life wallowing in what could have been, or you can move ahead in the blessings God still has for you by accepting His new normal for you.