Even the greatest of people fail—all but one

An open Bible being read

There’s one passage in Numbers that, every time I read it—seriously, every time—I am blown away by. In Numbers 13 and 14, we have the account of the scouting of Canaan by the Israelites. They were amazed by what they see. They were also terrified of the land’s inhabitants.

“No, we can’t go there,” the spies said. “We can’t beat them—they’re too big! Let’s go back to Egypt instead.”

But Caleb and Joshua spoke up, condemning this bad report and encouraging the people to take the land God had promised. To trust the Lord to do what he had promised. But to no avail. The people refused to listen, incited the Lord’s anger (again), and were told, “I swear that none of you will enter the land I promised to settle you in, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun” (Numbers 14:30, CSB).

But that’s not the passage I’m talking about. It’s something that happens just a little while later in Numbers 20. There, the people were grumbling once again. They needed water, so God commanded Moses and Aaron to speak to the rock and bring water forth. Instead of speaking, though, Moses struck the rock twice. And to Moses and Aaron, God said, “Because you did not trust me to demonstrate my holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them” (20:12, CSB).

And there it is. The event that blows me away every single time I come to it.

There is much made about Moses, both in and out of Scripture. The mediator between God and his people. The man who communed with God, who spoke with him as people do to one another. The one who carried the Law down from the mountain. But even this great man of God would fail to trust the Lord. He, too, would be barred from entering the Promised Land, like all the others of his generation before him.

What it reminds me of is just how easy it is for even the people we respect the most to fail. To go their own way, abandon their calling, give themselves over to the love of money or status, or otherwise fail to trust the Lord. As great as they may be, or as close to God as they might appear to be, they are still only people. Moses, the mediator, needed a mediator, too.

A mediator who did not simply give the Law, but fulfilled it, too.  Who demonstrated the Father’s holiness with every thought, word, and need. Who humbled himself to the point of death.

He needed Jesus, the only Mediator who will never fail.

That, to me, is always amazing. Human beings, no matter how much more perfect and holy they may seem, cannot do for us what we need. Even the greatest will fail. But Jesus never will.

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

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