Since I opened Pandora's box and started the sin discussion, let's finish the week out on it. Today's story comes from Moses, who is a guy we tend to have a pretty high opinion of.
When we talk about Moses' weaknesses, we talk about his insecurity. He wasn't sure about himself when God chose him to be the prophet to a nation. We talk about maybe his temper. After forty days on the mountain, he took God's handiwork and smashed it against the ground. In fact, he often seems so exasperated. He's always calling the people of Israel a wicked people. A faithless people. A burdensome people.
But what we rarely talk about with Moses is a scene from later in his life, and this one's only in the book of Deuteronomy. It's in there twice, actually, and in short order. It's the scene where Moses...passes the buck.
Back in the recounting of the Exodus, the Bible tells a story about the people's rebellion. There's no water to drink in this conflabbed desert. Did the Lord bring us out here just to die? (A common complaint they have, by the way.) And God tells Moses to gather the people in front of a rock, strike the rock with his staff, and demonstrate the power of the Lord.
And it goes...almost...according to plan. Except Moses changes the script. He gathers the people, raises his staff, and says, Do I have to bring water from this rock for you? He forgets to mention that it's the Lord, not himself, speaking. So now, the people think the water is coming from Moses, not God. It is for this bold speech that God declares that Moses will never enter the Promised Land. He has not shown the people God's glory, but his own.
Fast forward to Deuteronomy, where Moses is recounting the entire Exodus experience and God encounter for the people on the banks of the Jordan, on the edge of the Promised Land. In chapter 1 and again in chapter 3, Moses declares, It is because of you sinful people that I am not allowed to go with you. It is because of your sin in rebellion at the rock that I will die just a stone's throw away from Canaan.
Uhm, not quite, Moses. It's because of your sin that you're about to die. No one else's.
It's the that woman scene all over again. If that nation You've given me, Lord, hadn't rebelled, then neither would I have done so. If that nation hadn't been so demanding, I wouldn't have had to put my foot down so firmly. If those people hadn't been screaming for water, we wouldn't be in this mess. And he tells the people just the same. If you people hadn't made me, I wouldn't have sinned.
Come off it, Moses.
You see, but I think it's what we all do. It's so hard to own up to our sin. We have so many excuses, so many stories about how our sin came to be, about why we had to do things the way we did them, about how we got into this mess. It's so easy to look at someone else and say, well, you sinned and now we're all screwed. But no one else makes you sin.
You sin because you're a sinner. I sin because I'm a sinner. We sin because we're all sinners.
Welcome to the Fall.
Even when it's pointed out to us that maybe it's our sin that got us here, it's so easy to shrug our shoulders and say, my sin...your sin....somebody sinned. Does it really matter who? Yes, it does matter who. Particularly when you're making a scene about it. Particularly when you're dragging God into it. Particularly when you're looking to place blame. The blame for your sin falls on your shoulders. Period.
And I think, easy as it is to be like Moses here, we need to do a better job of taking responsibility for ourselves. It's refreshing when someone owns his own decisions. It's refreshing to hear someone honestly say, you know what...I screwed up. I disobeyed the Lord. I chose a different way. I decided that I thought I knew best, and you know? My best didn't turn out.
It gives us the chance in the same breath to also say, but God is turning out my best. Look! There is the Promised Land, just a stone's throw away. Look! There is Jordan. We did it. ...He did it. We're here. We made it. Look! There is Canaan. Can you smell the milk and honey?
It still stings to stand on that mountain. To have to say, look! There it is. ...but I can't join you. It's hard to say, how beautiful is the Promise! ...but this is as far as I go. It's agonizing to say, there is your home! ...but here is the bed I have made for myself, and now I must lie in it.
It's hard. But you know what happens when we do? When we take responsibility for our own sin and stop passing the buck? Even as we grieve how close we've come and how far we must stay away, we get to look at the people God has given us for this season - the same people Moses was so quick to blame - and we get to say...now go get it.
Go get the Promised Land. It's beautiful. Go cross the Jordan. It's incredible. Go take Canaan. It's yours! Go feast on milk and honey. It's delicious. Go! For the Lord your God is going ahead of you, and He has prepared this place for you.
Then we stand on the mountain and watch. We watch a people poised to take hold of everything God has given them. Yes, it stings that we're not going, too, but there's something about seeing them ready, something about seeing them excited, something about seeing them take those first bold steps into the raging river that reminds us, even as our sin-struck bodies are fading away, that God is, indeed, good.
After all, He even brings water from rocks.