The story of Moses’ death is one that troubles us. Moses was the leader of the community of faith. He led his people from Egypt and all through the journey he kept his faith. Now he has arrived at the Promised Land and God shows him the land as far as he can see, but Moses is not allowed to enter.
It seems unfair. We know Moses wasn’t perfect, but this seems a harsh punishment for a man who had done so much for his people and kept the faith. Scholars are perplexed by the event and no one knows for sure why God kept Moses from entering into the Promised Land. Sometimes the ways of God are just simply beyond our ability to comprehend.
So, rather than speculate as to why God forbade Moses to enter let us concentrate on what we do know. First of all, Moses died a peaceful death. He still had his sight and his personal vigor. He was 120 years old at the time of his death. He had come a long way, overcoming many obstacles. But, now his job is finished. He was commissioned to lead the people to the Promised Land and that is exactly what he did.
Perhaps life is not about reaching a destination. Maybe it is not the goal that is important but the journey that takes us there. The journey, after all, is that daily walk with God where we encounter all kinds of problems. Maybe what God wants from us is for us to realize that God is with us with each step.
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On this Sunday, fifteen years ago, you voted to have me come as your pastor. But, three more months would pass before I would begin my ministry here. Another six months passed before we could find a house that met our needs. And what about all those meetings and interviews beforehand? You had a search committee that had to screen pastor profiles. They traveled to other places and listened to ministers preach. There were phone calls, details to be worked out and unfinished business at my previous church. There were other steps too that preceded my arrival in Sidney: ordination, seminary, and four prior pastorates.
In Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul there is a story written by Karen Beth Luckett. Joey is reading the morning paper when his grandfather comes into the kitchen. They greet each other and the grandfather asks Joey what is happening in the world. Joey replies, “There’s a ball game between Doraville Middle School and my school today. Would you like to Go?” Joey felt bad for his grandfather since he couldn’t read. He didn’t have the opportunity to go to school when he was a teenager because he worked on the family farm. “I would have liked to have gone to school, but there wasn’t much time,” he said.
One day the grandfather asked Joey to go to the grocery store with him. He couldn’t read the labels on products or the signs over the aisles. He looked at the pictures on the cans and boxes to determine what to buy. But he became frustrated when there were no pictures. He handed Joey the grocery list and stomped out of the store. Joey felt bad. He wanted to help his grandfather, but he didn’t know where to begin.
The next day was Sunday, and Joey and his grandfather walked to church. On their way home they stopped by the library so Joey could look at some books. While in the library, Joey saw a sign that read, “Do you know someone who doesn’t read? We can help.” Joey showed the sign to his grandfather and read it to him. “Someone can teach you to read. It says so right here,” Joey explained. Joey encouraged his grandfather to enroll in the course. It was difficult for grandpa to learn to read, so Joey volunteered to be his tutor. They studied together and grandpa worked hard on his lessons. Months later, grandpa read a family letter to Joey. Joey burst into tears. He was proud that his grandfather had learned to read.
Age does not have to be a barrier to learning. Moses provided leadership until the very end. Every life goal we have has many steps. We sometimes forget that the journey is more important than the final destination. Moses was an instrument of God. The story, however is not about Moses, it was about the community of faith. And what made Moses great wasn’t the fact that he was perfect, but that he persevered.
Secondly, the story of Moses is a story about perseverance. Moses kept going forward even when the odds were against him. Moses remained faithful even though there were times when he wanted to quit.
Currently we are in the midst of the baseball playoffs. Last Monday evening I happened to turn on the tube and catch the last inning of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros’ game. It was the top of the ninth inning and St. Louis was at bat. Houston was leading the game, 4-2. There were two outs and the batter had two strikes. One more strike would make the final out, and Houston would win the championship. The crowd was going crazy, because they knew that in a few minutes they would be celebrating. But the batter didn’t quit. He sneaked a ground ball past the third basemen and made it to first base. The next batter walked. Now there were two men on, but still two outs. The crowd got quieter as Pojul came to the plate, the leading home run hitter in the league. On the second pitch he hit a home run over the left field wall. St.Louis now led 5-4. Houston was in shock at their last-inning loss.
History and our lives can change with a single swing. For those who hang in there and keep trying, life changes at every turn. That game didn’t determine the championship, but it certainly had to be one of the greatest moments in baseball history. That can be said for any day of our life. One step, one single effort to keep moving forward can make a world of difference.
Third, God was with Moses every step of the way. It was the assurance of God’s presence that kept Moses going. Jesus proclaimed that “the kingdom of God is in our midst.” While we usually think of heaven as some far away place, Jesus reminds us that it can also be this very moment in time.
Moses never walked in the Promised Land but at least he got to see it. On the other hand, perhaps he experienced it every time the Israelites overcame another obstacle. I believe he realized it every time he felt assured of the presence of God. No, he didn’t enter the Promised Land, therefore his mission was incomplete. Or was it? Following Moses, another leader, Joshua, would be the one to enter the Promised Land with the people. The baton was passed from Moses to Joshua. Faithful leadership of the people would continue. Would the problems end there? No, there would still be challenges from then on. But, as in the past, God would be with them.
Moses had to be willing to let go of his dream of living in the Promised Land and be willing to pass it on to someone else. He wasn’t called to be successful; he was called to be faithful. And we are called to be faithful too. God isn’t interested in how successful we are. God wants us only to be faithful. Like Moses, we will face many obstacles too. And just as God was with Moses every step of the way, God is also with us.