A Rejected Prayer

Chapter 29

Theme: A Rejected Prayer
Focus on: Moses
Reading Portion(s): Deuteronomy 3:21 to 29, Numbers 20:1 to 13, Deuteronomy 32:48 to 52; 34:1 to 8, Numbers 27:12 to 14, Exodus 17:1 to 7, Psalm 106:32,33.
– Important Background Information
– Helps you find strength in God
What this article teaches you
Paul prayed thrice for his “thorn in his flesh” to be removed. Yet God did not do so. Instead He replied: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). In a similar fashion we find Moses get a “No” answer from God for one of his personal requests.

Even though Moses was a great leader he made one mistake. Instead of obeying God he overstepped God’s command and did what he was not asked to do. So God told him that he did not honor Him before the Israelites. And as a punishment for this he was not allowed to enter the promised land. This was sad because God had chosen him to lead the Israelites to the promised land. So Moses prayed hoping that God would allow him to lead the people there. But God firmly said “No” to his request. Even then a measure of grace was shown him at the end!

It is not an easy task to be a faithful leader of God’s people for leadership is a great responsibility.
Moses was the man that God chose to deliver His people the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. This he did successfully by depending on God. Yet he was not able to lead the people to the promised land because of the unbelief of the Israelites. Therefore God told the people that from among the men twenty years older or more who had seen God’s miraculous signs in Egypt, no one except Caleb and Joshua will enter the promised land.

Moreover God punished the Israelites by making them wander in the desert for forty years. This was symbolic of the forty days they had spent in exploring the promised land. So Moses had to lead the children of Israel all these forty years through the desert.
He had to endure constant grumbling and murmuring against the Lord and against himself during all these years. Yet many times it was his interceding with God that prevented God from totally destroying the people.

Such was his perseverance in prayer. Yet when the time came for him to die he made a very personal request to God. It was rejected outright. We may find it hard to digest that God rejected Moses’ very personal request. But the Bible records this as true. It would profit us a great deal if we try to understand what his request was and why it was rejected.


Moses’ request was very simple. He asked God that he may be allowed to go and see the promised land beyond the Jordan. Moses pleaded with God to allow this request. He was so happy that God had begun to show him His greatness and strength and mighty works. So he naturally wanted God to allow him to have a grand finale to all this by being allowed to go to the promised land.


God’s reply to this prayer was in a very harsh tone. He told Moses, “That is
enough. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.” You may wonder why Moses had to make this request at all. Wasn’t he the one God had chosen to lead the Israelites to the promised land? Then why was he not allowed to do so?

It was certainly true that God chose Moses to lead His people to the promised land. Yet one incident during their stay in the desert turned it all upside down. It is also sad to note that this incident occurred towards the very end of their forty years wandering in the desert. Again it is also sad to note that the wrath of God fell on Moses and Aaron to a great extent because of the Israelites who had triggered the incident.

This was how it occurred. During the last stages of their journey they reached Kadesh in the Desert of Zin. Miriam died there and was buried. At this point of time there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said a lot of harsh and ungrateful words. As always Moses and Aaron went and fell facedown before the Lord. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to them. And the Lord said to Moses to take his staff and speak to the rock before the eyes of the people whom he and Aaron was to gather together. The Lord added that when Moses spoke the rock would pour out its water so that the people and their livestock could drink.

Now comes the part that displeased God so much. It is difficult for us to
understand why such a small act of disobedience received such a great
punishment from God. Moses and Aaron after having gathered the people in front
of the rock spoke in a very bad manner. Moses addressed the people as
“rebels.” God had asked them to speak to the rock but he spoke to the people in a very angry manner using rash words. Moreover he asked the people whether they should bring water out of the rock for them. The way it was said was not a godly manner of doing so. To add to all this Moses lifted his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water came out; but God became angry with them.

Moses was asked by God to strike the rock in an earlier incident similar to this which occurred at Rephidim during the beginning of their journey towards the promised land as soon as they came out of Egypt. But in this incident God had not asked him to do so. He had clearly done what was not commanded.

God therefore told Moses and Aaron that they had not trusted in Him enough to honor Him as holy in the sight of the Israelites. For this reason they were told that they will not lead the Israelite community into the promised land. From this statement it is clear that there was some kind of unbelief involved in the act of Moses. It was this unbelief that made Moses strike the rock instead of speaking to it. Sadly the kind of trust exhibited by Moses here was not enough to honor God in the sight of the Israelites.


This is the peril of leadership. You may not get a second chance to set right a mistake. Here the mistake was great because the act of Moses and Aaron failed to honor God. God wanted Moses to speak to the rock in front of the people. If Moses had calmly done so God would have been honored in the eyes of the Israelites. Such an act might have stopped the constant murmuring of the people against God and Moses.


But sadly Moses failed just here. He had only one mistake during his entire period of leadership. But that mistake could not be set right even through prayer. That was why God rejected Moses’ prayer. His prayer was rejected because dishonoring God before God’s people was something that God could not tolerate because of His holiness.

Moses, when the time had come for his departure, told the people that it was because of them that God became angry with him. By rejecting Moses’ prayer the message God gave to the Israelites was very clear. It told the people that they have to honor God with great reverence because He is a holy God. It was because Moses dishonored God in public that God denied him the honor of leading the people to the promised land. This gave the people the right message that they should honor God at all times.

Even though Moses’ prayer was rejected God showed him mercy. He was allowed to climb Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah and view the promised land. He saw the land from a distance. Even when God rejects our prayer for His own reasons due to our shortcomings; He shows mercy and gives us that vision of hope of a better tomorrow in the land of promise during our sunset moments of life.