50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel."
Moses was denied access to Isreal's promised land, because he followed the command of God, but did not glorify God. When Israel was thirsty and whining that they had nothing to drink, Moses pleaded with the Lord. The Lord told Moses to strike a rock and water would come out. Moses struck the rock, water came out, and that was it. It was this series of events that denied Moses the access to the promised land. After striking the rock Moses in no way glorified the Lord, and I no way did he bless God for providing the flowing water. Though Moses was obedient, God was not ready to honor this work.
Let's contrast this series of events with that of Rahab the harlot, which happened just four chapters later in the bible. Rahab lied when questioned about the two spies who came to spy out the city. She gave them refuge. She was rewarded by the Lord for deception.
Does it seem right that Moses would be punished for and event in which he was obedient to the command, and that Rahab would be rewarded for her deception? Moreover, can these two events both be true and God still be just? These two events are real, and God certianly is just, but how? God desires to be glorified by men. His righteous law and the results of obedience to those laws should bring him glory. However we can obey His laws and glorify ourselves, or glorify no one. In this case we would be more pleasing to God to glorify Him in our disobedience. This is by no means a liscense to transgress God's law, as Paul would say, God forbid. However this is to say that in all things we must glorify God, or else in is meaningless and even punishable.
So what is the application of this. First and foremost we cannot be legalistic. Remember Moses was punished in obedience, and Rahab was rewarded in deception. We must recognize when someone or something is glorifying God, and view it in that light. If a certain action does glorify God though it doesn't fit within the scope of what we see as obedience we must then set aside our views and rejoice that God is glorified. However we must also see when obedience is not glorifying God, take for instance the rich young ruler, his obedience would not be rewarded though he had kept all the commandments from his childhood. The obedience that does not give glory to God is worthless. The roman catholic that does acts of obedience such as feeding the poor, helping the sick and so on will receive only punishment if the attribute any of that obedience to a saint, or Mary or anyone other than the Lord himself. This is not just a dig on Catholicism by any means, to often we glorify our programs, and our pastors, and our authors and everyone else but the Lord. It is only when the Lord is glorified that an action is truely righteous.
Well I hope I was on track with this post. If you have any insights, questions, comments or corrections please leave a comment or send and e-mail. I am sure there are typos, there always are, just fight through them.